No one warned me that the world as you know it starts to flip on its axis once you hit your late-20s, but it’s really been messing with my head. I entered the pandemic a 25-year-old with a lot to figure out and, seemingly, nothing but time to do so; I’m “exiting it” (fingers crossed) a 27-year-old with a lot to figure out… amidst a sea of peers who are engaged and married and pregnant and moving into homes that they own. What the f*!&, y’all? When was the meeting where you decided this is life now, and why the heck wasn’t I invited? As my best friend put it while we were navigating the gift registry for our pregnant(!) friend and her husband(!!)’s upcoming baby(!!!) shower: “I don’t know what to buy for a baby. I am a baby.”
[It’s apropos to pause and grant you the visual that I’m typing this from the floor of my living room on a Wednesday afternoon, shoveling handfuls of popcorn into my mouth between sentences. I popped it myself. I added nutritional yeast. I’m trying my best. Lay off.]
It hit me hard this summer, the reality that the final pages of my “youth” ended somewhere in the last 18 months before I even got the chance to say goodbye. Now, I’m speeding rapidly toward the next chapter – one where time and energy will, by and large, be driven by “grown-up stuff.” It’s hard not to feel (and I know I’m far from alone in this) a bit resentful of what was lost and overwhelmed by what we’ve been left with. I mean, it was just last year that my childhood girlfriends and I were planning a trip across the country for a music festival. Now, while the festival’s been rescheduled, our time off has already been claimed almost a year in advance by wedding weekends and visits with family and vacations with significant others.
So, what next? How do I keep living on my own timeline, at my own pace, without social media peer pressure pushing me to “keep up.” And how, as life continues to progress, can we all remember to stay present and grateful and free-flowing – not mourning past versions of ourselves, but rather looking forward to what each new phase of life brings with it? This is a challenge I’ve faced all my life and something I’ve only recently started to tackle for the sake of my mental health and the betterment of my relationships with my friends, family, and self.
I think part of the struggle, for me, is the anxiety around not knowing what’s to come and when, and knowing that there’s quite a lot beyond my control. Shifting the narrative is going to have to somehow start with enjoying each moment of the ride at least as much as the destination, choosing to honor the place that I’m in and the person I am right now because really – I know – there is so, so, so much to be grateful for. In actions, this looks like (not an exhaustive list by any means):
- Saying no when I know saying yes will stretch me too thin.
- Affirming that I am putting in the work that needs to be done for what is meant for me to find me.
- Granting myself the same grace and empathy I give to others.
- Limiting my screen time.
- Turning off the like count when I post on Instagram.
- Pouring myself into work that incites passion and serves purpose.
- Giving at least as much energy to the things I’ve gotten “figured out” and “right” that I do to the pieces of my life I’ve labeled “failures” or “lagging.”
- Not waiting for those “Hallmark moments” to celebrate my life and who’s in it.
Most importantly, as cliche as it may be, I know it’s time for me to “trust the process” and treat each chapter and whatever comes with it is as sacred. We can only be right here for right now. No one really knows what they’re doing or what will come of it – and not knowing is part of what keeps life fun.