getting through your early 20's
Updated: Jan 1
Let's talk about that nagging feeling that you should be having the time of your life ...
Photo on Unsplash by Billie (@billiebodybrand)
Let's begin with a quick disclaimer: I'm absolutely not about to give you the definitive answer that the title suggests - you're actually stepping into the ramblings of another fairly lost soul, so sorry about that.
Ask a group of people, 'what age were you when you had the most fun?', and you will receive a variety of ages. Similarly, ask, 'What age were you when you felt the most lost?', and again, varying responses - but no one can deny there is something particularly confusing about being in your early twenties. Some of us are recent graduates, others working full-time jobs. Some are stay-at-home mum's whilst some are still stay-at-home children. You get the picture - we're all muddled, (throw in a global pandemic and a recession and you're really having fun).
I was listening to a podcast the other day, Dolly Alderton's Love Stories in discussion with Afua Hirsch, in which Afua openly says,
'There is no amount of money that could pay me to go back to my twenties'.
The two women, both now in their thirties, spend a moment reflecting on the period in their lives which held such high expectations. They describe it as being full of confusion, hard work and tiredness; three words we can all relate too.
I considered my own experiences. Before March, I was burning out. A third-year university student; I was spending long days in the library, in meetings or rushing deadlines, and long evenings working at a local restaurant. Even my weekends were filled with both university and part-time work, squeezed between social events that a lot of the time, I didn't want to attend. And then comes social media, of course, only to add to the pressure. It's hard not to notice figures like the Jenner sisters, or the multitude of young YouTube/Insta influencers, twenty-somethings and already millionaire's (disputed billionaires!). Or, on a smaller scale, the handful of girls from my high school that have already amassed a huge following and a central London flat, the entrepreneur who flashes his expensive car and fancy watches all over his Instagram feed...I could go on.
So, as I listened to Dolly and Afua, I felt exactly what they meant. I'm living in it, day by day, figuring it all out, trying to keep my energy up and stress down. Thank God these women had got through it; successful, inspiring women that weren't necessarily anywhere near where they are now at twenty-two. Dolly even admitted to never feeling like she had enough money in her mid 20's and that the money she did have seemed to be spent on stupid things.
We've had time to reflect in abundance over the last few months, and I believe the sudden slowing of the world came with its advantages. We were allowed some time to breathe. Almost immediately, no one was doing better than anyone else. Possibly minus the celebrities in large mansions equipped with swimming pools who sung patronisingly online to all us regular folk, but I think we all learnt very quickly to ignore them. Everyone's lives became pretty dull, no matter what age, job, town or friendship group you were in. There was a phenomenal lack of photos of edited bodies on perfect beaches, no incredibly expensive new purchases being shown off, no wild parties; we were all at home.
I used this time, initially, to do a lot of panicking. The panic that I'd struggle to complete my degree, that I'd miss out on graduation, that job prospects were quickly looking bleaker...the feeling of being twenty-two, at a huge transitional period, and suddenly thrown into even more uncertainty was overwhelming.
But I listened to Afua, as she told me how she wished she'd have taken life as it comes and gone with the flow, rather than constantly convincing herself she was doing it all wrong, and I couldn't help feeling a little guilty.
It was a welcome reminder that I need to focus on what I can control. I can't stop the pandemic, improve the state of the economy, or wish up an abundance of job opportunities. But I'm safe, I've had a comfortable lockdown experience that I'm extremely grateful for and I've had the opportunity to continue in education for as long as I want to be there.
So, here are some of the things I'm doing at twenty-two, rather than stressing, panicking and letting boredom sink in:
Listening to podcasts, you've heard enough about that.
Reading books, by wonderful (though a little predictable) authors such as Candice Carty-Williams and Sally Rooney.
Exercising, some days not at all, but I do aim to do a little bit most days. NOT for weight-loss, but for the endorphins I keep hearing about.
Attending free workshops/discussions, most recently Dazed 100 Academy. This one might seem like a huge bore at this point - but believe it or not, there are still some really interesting (and free!) Zoom calls happening.
Being lazy, most favourably by having a long bath. You can't always be panic-applying for jobs/internships.
Playing Animal Crossing, I've paid off my mortgage there.
Wearing comfy underwear, a five pack of baggy knickers from Asda most days.
And here are some of the things I've stopped myself from doing at twenty-two, (as much as I possibly can):
Comparing myself to others, I've unfollowed a bunch of unhelpful accounts on instagram and muted anyone I can't unfollow without upsetting. I've cut down on social media as much as I want to, which was quite a lot.
Napping, when I was at Uni I'd often miss out on sleep during the night and catch-up during the day. Getting at least a full 8 hours when I'm supposed to and making the most of the day has made a lot of difference to both my mood and productivity.
Only following people within my age group, learn from the women that came before! They're knowledgable, hilarious and have learnt to not give a shit in a way we will come to.
Skipping meals, I've started eating more and I'm feeling healthier. Very cliché, but avocado is my new best friend.
Making myself miserable, there were a lot of things I was doing that made me miserable. This will be unique to everyone, so have an honest think and write down the things YOU do that tend to get you down. This could be drinking too much alcohol, putting yourself down or overworking yourself.
As a final point, remember you're reading the words of someone still in their very early twenties. I know nothing, and I'm just as lost as you - but I have started the process of going with the flow and enjoying the things I genuinely enjoy. We're all going through it, let's admit that and help each other out, rather than spending our time quietly comparing ourselves to one another.