Trying To Be Your Best Self At 22

landmarkmedia / Shutterstock.com
landmarkmedia / Shutterstock.com

Being twenty-two is hard. And not like the Taylor-Swift-I-want-to-dress-up-like-hipsters-and-make-fun-of-my-exes kind of hard, but the real kind of hard. The kind of hard that leaves you alone in your shoebox apartment eating a tub of Häagen-Dazs on a Wednesday night. The kind of hard that gets you thinking about how you got fired from that ice cream shop when you were sixteen for giving out too many free samples (and really, your career path hasn’t improved much since.)

Every time I call my mom and complain about being broke, I can hear her shrug her shoulders over the phone and say to me, “Well, if you can’t make it in New York, you can always become a stewardess, or apply for a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep.” As if working an outdated, faux-feminist job from the seventies is a suitable option. As if I didn’t get a degree from a major university in half the time it took most kids to get through community college. As if I should just give up on my dreams of being a writer and settle for peddling Viagra like Heather Locklear in that one episode of Scrubs, or become Zooey Deschanel’s character in Almost Famous. 

Because the truth is, that picture of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler that went around Facebook and Pinterest a few months ago doesn’t relate to me in the slightest. “They didn’t have things figured out at 22 either.”  What if I do have everything in my life figured out, and that’s the problem? What if I have such specific, unrealistic goals for myself that I’m actually holding myself back?

Let’s look at the facts: I am more concerned that I don’t have a stable career underway than I am about the fact that I’ve gained 20 lbs. since junior year  (see: Häagen-Dazs). It scares me more that I’m not already Sylvia Plath or Téa Obreht than it does that 12 people from my graduating class are already married. (Actually, that is terrifying. Stop getting married. Stop making babies. We are too young.)

I hate that I know exactly what I want to do, and that I haven’t done it yet. I hate that I’m holding myself back by putting too many expectations on myself. And at the same time, I’m secretly frustrated that nobody has wanted to give me a chance yet. I keep telling myself, “You’re twenty-two, you have your whole life ahead of you to establish yourself in the world of gainful employment,” but do I?

Tyra Banks was booking runway shows in Milan when she was fifteen years old; when I was fifteen, I was still getting taken home in the back of Officer Jenkin’s squad car for running away from home with my Tweety Bird sleeping bag. Gwen Stefani was mending broken hearts and revitalizing the ska movement when she was nineteen; at nineteen, I was dating a guy that I didn’t know was gay and memorizing all the Harry Potter books on tape. Lena Dunham was twenty-two when she started writing screenplays and memoirs; I’m literally up to my neck in Sour Patch Kids wrappers and watching all fourteen seasons of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix for the third time since 2011. What the hell is wrong with me?

The problem isn’t that I don’t know what I want. The problem is that I need to start being the best possible version of myself so that I can finally reach self-actualization. I need to stop comparing myself to people that are clearly the anomaly. I need to stop eating ice cream and start networking within my industry. I need to go out after work, even if I’m really, really tired, and pound the pavement until I find something that I can try to be the best at. I need to find someone willing to take a chance on a twenty-two year-old nobody.

But let’s be real. Right now, this Rocky Road is too delicious. Maybe just for a minute I should crank up the T-Swift and try to relax.

After all, I’m only twenty-two. TC Mark

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