Tag Archives: twenty-something

Take it from a twenty-something: You have to get it wrong in order to get it right

being lost in the right direction

If I could sum up my experience as a twenty-something thus far simply and honestly: 80% getting it wrong, 20% getting it right, with a healthy side dose of anxiety, excitement and confusion.

Getting it “wrong” has been a huge part of my life process as I try to figure out who I am, what I like, what I don’t like one bit and what I want to do (and not do) with my life.

My wrongs have been plentiful thus far. Case in point: Career. After an intensive 3 years in art school where I studied photography, I exited college and took the first job I found. Not in art or remotely close, although maybe folding clothes could be artistic if we’re really stretching it. I took that retail job as a means to eventually jump ship to an entry-level position in corporate (retail) America and landed there a few months later.

That job could not have been more wrong for me. Sure, I was good at it and made friends and got free clothes and also had one important thing needed for success in your 20s: a PAYCHECK. Yet I was never happy at that job and always complaining about it. It was boring and stressful at the same time. Yet it was comfortable territory and I was getting paid, so I stayed.

Another example: Relationships. Another big part of your 20s, which I think is important for anyone, is to truly explore your options. Date a lot of people–often a lot of wrong people—and find what you need and want in a relationship as well as what you don’t.

I thought I was dating someone when I wasn’t (more than once), was treated poorly and treated others poorly, almost moved in with someone I shouldn’t have (and didn’t), reconnected with exes who eventually reminded me why they were exes, and made poor judgment calls that hurt people more than once. But, I also had some good relationships in which I learned trust, communication, reasonable differences, common core values and respect are the pillars of a great relationship and the type of relationship I wanted to find.

And because I could keep listing examples all day long, it’s also worth mentioning MONEY. Ugh. I started working in retail at 16 and don’t think I saved a penny of ANY paycheck I saw until I was 23, and that may even be putting it nicely. I didn’t pay attention to money at all and thus it flowed freely into and right back out of my life. I had a lot of credit card debt, didn’t understand my 401k benefits at work (never asked, then later cashed it out when I left to move to FL), lived paycheck to paycheck with no cushion, used student loan checks unwisely, bought a bunch of crap I didn’t need, I think you get the picture.

I realize a lot of the choices or things I have done may seem “wrong” on the surface. I’ve definitely let guilt overwhelm me and felt the pressure of being wrong. But as the common saying goes, hindsight really is 20/20 and I see now that the path to the right stuff is often paved with the wrong.

Yes, my first job out of college was kind of a bust. It wasn’t related to my college major but it did pay my bills. It enabled me to actually pay my own rent without having to ask my parents for help. I also learned a LOT from that first job. It taught me about handling stress. I learned how to juggle tons of tasks at once while still meeting everyone’s deadlines. I got a taste of what it’s like to manage others, and also learned that the work environment of corporate America probably wasn’t the best fit for me.

And relationships? I dated a lot of wrong people and eventually was able to figure out what matters most to me in a partner. All qualities my current boyfriend possesses. I’m thankful for those times I spent exploring my options and figuring out what mattered to me, and I’m also thankful for the time I spent being single and loving myself. I may have felt lonely at the time, or heartbroken, but all of those experiences prepped me for a stellar relationship I’m thankful for every day.

Money has been the most recent undertaking for me, and while the more I learn about it the less I seem to understand, I have made waves in improving my finances. In an odd way, I’m thankful for experiencing that paycheck-paycheck life and the stress of debt, because now I know what it feels like both to have debt and be free from it. I know the secure feeling that comes from having a little extra saved up for the inevitable “rainy day” or, more accurately, the trifecta of horrible unexpected expenses that all seem to happen at once. Not understanding certain money concepts led to a desire to understand them and make smarter choices.

Every job, relationship, experience, choice and outcome has something to offer. At the very least, you can learn from what you’ve done wrong and appreciate it for teaching you what exactly the wrong thing is.

You will not have the perfect job the second you graduate, you will probably not find Mr. (or Mrs.) right on your first try and you’ll stumble and fall a lot, especially in the first few years as a twenty-something. But it’s not a mark of failure or poor judgement on your part. It’s just a reminder that getting it right takes work.

You may be wrong today, but somewhere in the future, you’re getting it right.

My Closet, the Giver of Life Lessons

enhanced-buzz-26652-1412872622-8(image credit – because unfortunately that beautiful closet is not mine. #goals)

Getting rid of just about everything in my closet was a byproduct of my quarter life crisis. Apparently, when you’re questioning who you are, your closet also takes the opportunity to reassess itself.

I didn’t have the answers and unfortunately, neither did my closet.

The only problem with getting rid of basically all of your clothes is the whole filling it back up with stuff you love part. And when you’re deep in the process of aggressively paying off debt (think “gazelle intensity”) shopping kind of falls by the wayside. So I found myself with a depressingly empty closet, and no budget to immediately add new things.

Alas, there are lessons to be learned in every experience, and while my closet wasn’t able to tell me which direction to take with my life, it definitely had a thing or two to teach me in the process.

First, it’s okay to live with holes (both of the wardrobe hole and physical hole variety).
There have been times in my life where I’ve felt something was missing. Whether it was lack of passion in my work, or feeling lonely during the times John and I were dating long distance, or losing a friend and feeling that void big time. But the most important thing to remember is that those feelings and voids are temporary. There are always new jobs to explore, solutions to relationship roadblocks, and new friends you haven’t met yet. Living with a hole can give you clarity on what actually needs filling back up in your closet and in your life, and makes your future decisions all the wiser.

You can follow the trends and wear yourself out trying to keep up, or you can just do what the hell you like.
As much as I love fashion and it’s ever-changing nature, what I love more is the process of defining what feels like me and is true to me alone. That’s what makes getting dressed fun. And this is exactly why FOMO (fear of missing out) and comparing yourself/your life to those people you are friends with on Facebook from high school but never talk to (guilty) are both activities that don’t deserve your mental energy. Same goes for comparing your closet to that of a fashion blogger with an endless supply of “c/o” items coming in each month.

If you look at someone else’s life and try to follow in their footsteps or emulate their style, you’ll be entering the endless game of catching up. But if you just learn to be happy with what you have now, you’ll feel more full than ever. Do and wear what makes you happy and forget the rest. Like Amy Poehler says: “Good for her! Not for me.” Take that simple, fantastic advice to heart and appreciate others while still loving what you’re working with.

Sometimes, you just have to let go.
The most painful part of my closet purge was getting rid of some of my shoes. Whether they were winter boots no longer practical for my Florida lifestyle, or pumps attached to fond memories of my life at 21, letting go of the past and of things that no longer fit your life is hard. Know what’s harder? Letting go of people. Letting go of regret. Letting go of guilt. But when you do let go, it’s amazing how much better you feel. Letting go is hard, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to move forward.

At some point, everything will feel wrong and look wrong and make you feel so blah.

Just like your wardrobe crisis, you’ll also have your fair share of life crises. When I felt like I didn’t know who I was or where I wanted to go I looked to my closet and saw much of the same. I saw things that no longer felt like me, and everything I added was a reflection of my blah upon blah mood. But this is part of life, and it’s also part of figuring out your style. Sometimes you have to feel and experience all of the wrong stuff in order to get to the right stuff.

You can always start over, and it’s not impossible.
A lot of the times, you already have most of the things that you need to reinvent the wheel both in your closet, and in your life. Getting rid of basically ALL of my clothes made me realize there were some true gems to be unearthed. Those gems became the building blocks of my wardrobe rebuild, but I found I was happy with only those items and didn’t feel a great urgency in adding new items. If you’re feeling unsettled in life, take a moment to weed out all of the negative stuff and think about all of the great things you have going for you already. Roof over your head? Sunshine? A loving and respectful partner? Cookies? I bet you feel better already.

Figuring it out requires confidence and a willingness to experiment.
Remember when you were completely fearless with fashion? For me, that time was mostly in high school where I went through different personas rapidly until I settled somewhere in the middle that felt the most “me.” But some of that confidence and experimentation seems to dwindle as we age, and we find ourselves playing it safe more and more.

The last big life change I made was at 23 when I moved from PA to FL to move in with John. It was scary and exciting but so worth it! I was confident in my decision, and it paid off. Now, at 26, I feel another big life shift coming on and for a long time, I let fear get in my way. But fear sucks. Let go of the fear, make a change, and don’t be afraid to experiment along the way. You won’t get it right the first time, or maybe even the fifth time, but you’ll get there.

I still don’t have the answers, and despite how many times I’ve asked my closet it doesn’t seem to have them either, but that’s okay. Whether you’re cleaning up your closet or cleaning up your life, remember that the pain is part of the process. And there are lessons to be learned in even the worst of situations, as long as you’re willing to pay attention.

What to do When Your Quarter Life Crisis is in Full Swing

Source: Buzzfeed (Image)

Ugh – the inevitable quarter life crisis. I got through the beginning of my 25th year with no inkling of a crisis and assumed (wrongly) that I was in the clear. Before I knew it, my life became a blur of constantly questioning myself, crazy anxiety and a big loss of confidence in myself.

While I’m still coming out on the other side of my “crisis” and still have my fair share of anxiety ridden days, I also appreciate this time of my life for what it is: a lesson and motivator for me to continue growing and move onto the next chapter.

The bad news? You’re definitely going to go through your quarter life crisis. There’s no escaping it. You are a quarter of the way through your life, and that fact alone pretty much guarantees that you’ll end up reflecting on your life on SOME level in the near future.

The good news? You aren’t alone. Even if your friends don’t show it, they’re probably going through the exact same struggles you are. Everyone reevaluates their life at some point and here are just a few ways you can get through it:

Breathe.
We take breathing for granted because it’s automatic. We don’t have to consciously tell ourselves to breathe, and therefore don’t pay attention. But when you stop, count your breaths and really focus, you naturally slow down and give your brain something else to focus on besides the black cloud of doom you’ve created for yourself. Just stop and breathe when it all feels like too much.

Know what you like to do, and do it.
I truly believe that one of the biggest reasons my quarter life crisis arrived was due to the fact that I was ignoring my creative side. I convinced myself that photography and arts weren’t worth creating if I couldn’t or didn’t make money doing it, or that I was a failure because I’m not a full time photographer like I always expected I would be by this time in my life. It was an excuse to quit and take the easy route, but when you’re passionate about something and DON’T do it, you will feel unfulfilled. So, carve out some time each day, week, or month to do something that makes you feel really happy. Get more of that stuff in your life! It’s hard to feel sad and doubt yourself when you’re spending a lot of time doing things that make you happy.

Push yourself to try something new.
I’ve talked a lot about comfort zones and how it’s hard for me to get out of mine. I love control and having a good idea of the outcome of different situations, but my best memories are always the ones in which I felt pretty anxious/excited/scared beforehand and exhilarated after. Trying a new activity you aren’t used to is such a good confidence builder, and consistently trying new things may lead you on a path you never expected.

Talk to someone, or a lot of someones.
I think a lot of the time, we already know deep down what new direction we desire to take in life or which changes we’re ready to make. But we need validation, or someone else’s confidence in us in order to see it clearly. Having a face to face meeting with someone and just laying it all on the table is scary, but so worth it. If you can, reach out to someone you admire or a mentor. I reached out to a friend from my zumba class and it was such a big step forward. It helps if you talk to someone who doesn’t know you inside and out as they can look at your situation more objectively, but you should also talk to your mom, your relatives, your SO, your friends or whoever will listen.

Set a goal for yourself.
For me, that goal was paying the rest of my student loan off within a year. I made a plan and put a lot of focus on achieving that goal. The reward was greater than being debt free – I’ve also gained a lot of confidence in myself that can translate into other areas of my life where I need that confidence. Set a goal for yourself and throw your efforts into achieving it.

Remember where you are relative to the rest of your life.
People talk up this decade of your life in the same way everyone said “enjoy college while it lasts, those are the best years of your life!” So, when you’re halfway through the other supposed best years of your life, it can be easy to forget that you have a great lifetime ahead of you. Sure, you need to lay some groundwork for yourself in your 20s, but there is no rulebook stating that you must have your whole life perfectly mapped out and planned before your 30th birthday. Your life and hobbies and interests can change at anytime, so extensive planning can be counterproductive.

Remember that we are all winging this.
Why do we all put so much pressure on ourselves to figure everything out right here right now? It’s an impossible goal and you’ll never meet it. Neither will I. We are all in this together. We’re all confused, we all question our choices, and we all want to find meaning in the things that we do day in and day out. But there comes a certain point in which you’ve just got to let go and fly by the seat of your pants sometimes, just like everybody else.

And finally, let go of the need for perfection.
There is a lot of appeal in the idea that you can wait to start something until everything is just so. But the problem with this idea is that everything will never be “just so” because perfect isn’t attainable. Once you reach your “perfect” I can guarantee you’ll find something else in need of adjustment. Chasing perfection is nothing more than procrastination. Trust yourself and your plans now, and let your heart lead you too.

Like getting your wisdom teeth out, your quarter life crisis is practically a guarantee. But in the end, you’ll know you’re better for it, and eventually time will fade the pain, confusion and anxiety. Cheers to getting unstuck, and moving onto new things. You got this.

Student Loan Debt, Changes & Simple Rules for Balance as a twenty-something

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A little over a week ago, I paid the final balance on my student loan. It’s a goal I’ve really only talked about in passing (except for those closer to me) and something I’ve been working on pretty hard for the past 14 months or so, and now…it’s gone.

I’m extremely proud of myself for this accomplishment, yet again find myself at a crossroads. Deciding to pay off my debt led to many other changes – like intentionally choosing to slow down my life and make more time for things I enjoy, the ability to save more money for things I actually want to do (like travel and get home for the holidays) and even led to me getting rid of most of my clothing and cleaning out a bunch of old junk I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Getting rid of debt was just the catalyst for getting rid of all the other junk taking up space in my life.

Yet paying off this debt also led to a lot of other feelings surfacing. Mainly about the direction of my life, and figuring out my passions – which means embracing my more creative side instead of trying to suppress it. The burden of debt has been lifted, but the pressure to figure out what’s next is slowly creeping in.

This has been a constant struggle for me in my twenties: over-thinking just about everything and trying too hard to grow up too fast.

For some reason, I assume everyone is on the fast track to success, that nobody else had to go through these hardships and periods of uncertainty and that maybe I’m just not passionate about anything. But deep down, I know that’s a load of BS. I know what I’m passionate about: creating things, helping others and pushing outside of my comfort zone. I just have to work on summoning up the courage to own those things, and remember that taking TIME to get there doesn’t mean I won’t succeed.

As I sat around with John and 2 close friends last night talking about life, laughing and drinking until 1am, all that over thinking took a back seat for a while. I remembered I’m still young – 26 – and need to allow myself the gift of enjoying that every once in a while. Sans worry and doom and gloom about what I’m doing with my life.

So much of my twenties have felt like this power struggle: should I be wild, crazy and not have a care in the world about what could happen tomorrow, or should I be constantly planning for my future making waves in my career and living more intentionally with the time I have? It’s easy to get caught up in a more adult line of thinking – especially when you’re going through a period of change like I am right now – but it’s equally as important to shut your mind up and be young every once in awhile.

From my experience, the key is always balance. Balance between being that wild crazy twenty something and her smart, forward thinking counterpart as often as possible.

So, for all of the times I inevitably get lost along the way and need a map to get back to balance city, here’s one way (or twelve) I plan on finding it:

1. Remember to be young. You are still young – have fun, stay out until 2am, talk about crazy things with your friends and have 1 too many cocktails and laugh a lot. Loosen up.
2. Be okay with change. Change is good.
3. Own your money and tell it where to go. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but save a chunk, set some financial goals that excite you, and enjoy the rest.
4. Do something that you love. Stop worrying so much about whether that thing is or can be your career. Just do it and have fun and make time for it in your life on a consistent basis.
5. Embrace the uncertainty instead of fighting back.
6. Try new things as often as you can. Especially things that scare you (working on it…)
7. Own who you are, and strive to be her everyday.
8. Binge watch Netflix. I am so over people saying this is a waste of time.
9. Take five minutes to write down how you spend your time, and then ask yourself if you really want to devote so much time to each thing or not. Then refer to #2 and act accordingly.
10. I think having the extra cocktail is worth mentioning again.
11. Go on vacation and spend money on whatever you want to spend it on. I could have paid off my debt 1 month sooner by not going to Belize, but that vacation holds some of the best memories of my life. I am so glad I did this while I was young, and took the chance when it presented itself.
12. Let go. I constantly have to remind myself that I am 26 and still have a good 3/4 of my life to go. I do not know it all, I do not need to know it all, and I do not have to have everything in the world figured out.

Cheers to balance. (Going to go grab that cocktail I mentioned.)

On embracing uncertainty

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever been overwhelmed by feelings of uncertainty (mainly related to the future), questioned what you want to do with your life and then thrown yourself into an anxious frenzy which may or may not to lead to mass consumptions of wine, frequent heart-to-hearts with your mom and the sudden desire for an exotic vacation in which you can just go LIVE YOUR LIFE (read: spend your days on a beach, drink, have no worries, lay in the sun, get a tan, did I already mention cocktails?)

Welcome to your 20s.

I’ve been overwhelmed, I still question what I want to do with my life (kind of everyday), and am getting better about the whole anxiety thing. No comment on the wine, mom talks, or vacations…

For lack of a better analogy, life this past year has been a roller coaster. My boyfriend recently changed his career and that has provided its challenges for him, for me and for us. Having him make that big change in his life caused me to turn inward and look at my own career. In a big way, I’ve closed out the creative side of myself in hopes that my fear of following that passion and avoiding it all together would make it go away. (It didn’t.) I also asked myself (and my mom) a lot of questions – what do I really like doing? What makes me happy? Can I apply that to my job? Instead of being constructive about this process though, I was really hard on myself.

It has only been recently (are you surprised this revelation occurred during a heart-to-heart with my mom?) that I’ve decided being this hard on myself is nothing but a great recipe for making me feel absolutely terrible, and that maybe embracing the uncertainty of it all is the way to go.

This feeling was only reinforced with these powerfully simple yet so true words that magically appeared in my inbox at just the right time:

“If you’re in your 20s or even 30s, you might feel a lot of uncertainty all the time — you aren’t sure what your life purpose is, or your uncertain about what path you should take in life.

This is normal.”

I’m sure you’re intrigued, so go read the fantastic article on zen habits that prompted this whole blog post today.

Obsessing over whether or not you are doing the right thing or following the right road does nothing except keep you exactly where you’re at – which is stuck, anxious and worried. What’s even more important to know is that regardless of what your peers are posting on social media or telling you about at parties, inside we all feel this lost, hopeless, what the hell am I doing with my life feeling from time to time. As Leo Babauta states, it’s normal, and of course we don’t want to all show that side – it makes us look vulnerable and like we don’t have our ducks in a row. But we all feel it, especially in our 20s. It’s easy to forget we’re all winging it out here and that none of us have it all figured out.

The zen habits article provides a few solutions to coping with the uncertainty. And so I’d like to add my own advice to the mix – EMBRACE the uncertainty. Take it from someone who already wasted her time wallowing in it, constantly second guessing herself and wondering if she was wasting her time or doing the right thing or pursuing the correct passions. That path did nothing but give her anxiety.

Halfway through my 26th year, (which has felt like one big bundle of uncertainty) I’ve learned embracing this unclear point in my life is the most important thing I can do for myself right now. I will never get unstuck if I keep approaching my life questions in the same old ways (like avoidance). I’ve also learned that feeling like I’m in a place of not knowing does not automatically mean I’ve failed myself in any way – by embracing the unknown I’m just putting a little more trust in the process and opening myself up to potential to learn on the go.

Embracing the uncertainty, doing something outside of your comfort zone, and trusting the process may seem small at the time, but they are often the catalyst to welcoming more positive change into your life. Embrace on!