If You're Lost in Your 20s

Life lessons for 20-somethings—as experienced by a former 20-something

Posted Oct 15, 2013

Everyone feels lost in their 20s.

It's always an honor to correspond with my PT readers—particularly, when I hear how a blog post resonates with you.  

A few months ago, Allison*, a 22-year old recent grad, wrote to me because she had read my "If You're Turning 30 and Freaking Out" post. While she still has about a decade before turning the big 3-0, she confessed that she was already feeling lost.  

As much as I dreaded entering my 30s, I remembered how fragile and turbulent my early 20s (heck, my entire 20s) were, which is why I was more than happy to share with her some of the things I know now that I wish I had known then. 

Then just last week, Allison wrote me back with a life update, on her birthday of all days. Since our earlier emails, she had quit her job, started taking chances, and was finally starting to live her life the way she wanted to. 

I'm not saying my letter had anything to do with her new found self, but just in case it did, I'd like to share it with you anyway. ;) 

Dear Allison, Here are a few things I learned about my 20s: 

1) We are all different and follow different paths. We are not our friends, so do not compare our path to theirs.  

Does anyone want to buy me this Anthropologie dress?

2) It's experience, not money that makes us happy and gives us purpose. I used to have a sick obsession with Anthropologie dresses. I would spend paychecks on dress binges, only to discover that the joy of a piece of clothing lasts three days, tops. Then I would inevitably move on to something else. I'm not saying that I don't love Anthropologie dresses anymore (I still do), but I am at a point where I can control my urges, because I know that the "happiness" they provide is fleeting. Money has that same effect. Think about what makes you truly happy – what you need in your life to be fulfilled, loved, and truly happy. Is money on that list? 

3) You are 22. There is no such thing as settling. At 22, life is all about opportunities. If you want to switch careers, do it. What's stopping you? I just quit my job last week, and it's the most liberating thing I've done in a long time. I know how hard it is to look for a job while you're already working 50+ hours a week. It's incredibly stressful and time consuming, but if you want a different life, you must live a different life. 

4) Get used to being uncomfortable. I know some people like to coast through life and be complacent and just "OK" all the time. That's fine if that's what they want, but I have never been that type of person. I am constantly struggling and figuring out what is going to make me a better person, and then I go do it. Chances are, a lot of things are going to make you uncomfortable and scared. Just do it – be scared later.  

I'm pretty sure this guy was brave.

5) Be brave. I'm not saying you have to be optimistic all the time. Especially, if you're not an optimistic person, then what's the point? But everyone can be brave. Being brave means just standing your ground even when it's uncomfortable and terrifying. It means that you are ready to take on a challenge, and that you are going to do your best to overcome it.  

I hope this doesn't come across as cheeseball advice, although I'm sure it does. Your 20s are about experimenting and becoming independent – it's about discovering YOU and everything about YOU.

Enjoy that & embrace that. And lastly, STOP thinking about your ___________. Seriously! Get them out of your head. They have nothing to do with your happiness or success. Only you do.

So figure out what you want to do, then DO IT! 

*Name changed for privacy.

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