Often, people have the opinion that current twenty-somethings aren’t the best at being adults. I know I’m not the greatest at it. Right now I have a washer full of dirty clothes (no not sorted), a dryer full of clean clothes, and a laundry basket full of folded clothes that still aren’t put away 2 weeks later. Despite this, I’ve been hearing things like since age 21:
“You have the whole world ahead of you.”
“You are going to do something amazing with your life!”
“You’re just a baby! You have so much life ahead of you.”
“You could very well run this place one day.”
And once from an 11-year-old: “I bet you’ll make a great mom.”
Meanwhile, I can’t even do laundry quite right. What happens if, in 10 years, I haven’t done anything at all? What if I am still not separating my laundry and only taking it out of the dryer when I absolutely need a shirt that is in there? Cue instant panic — also known as the quarter-life crisis.
There is an immense pressure on us at this age to use the decade of our 20s to “make something of ourselves”. But most of us are just trying to grab the courage to find ourselves at all! And in the meantime we’re being told that — despite being the largest part of the workforce now — we are pretty worthless as far as work goes, and far too entitled. So while I avoid doing laundry, let me share my 5 favorite mantras for dealing with the pressure of being a 20-something.
Your life is not the plot of a cartoon
You don’t have to save the world by age 20 or develop superpowers or go on a quest any other intense thing. All you have to do is function on a day-to-day basis while doing no harm to others.
You have no idea what kind of impact you’re already having on the world
I saw a wonderful photo once of an apple with a pile of apple seeds. It had a paraphrase of a quote saying: “You can count the seeds in the apple, but you can never count the number of apples in a seed.” You have no possible way to know the impact you are having on the world by smiling at a stranger, doing good work at your job or just being you.
Things are different now than they were twenty or thirty years ago
Just because your parents got married and had kids in their early twenties in no way means you have to. That’s just not how things work anymore, and it’s okay! That said if you do decide to get married and have kids in your early twenties because it’s what you truly want, then great! Because …
Whatever makes you happy, makes you happy
You might not want a family, or to be a CEO or to own your own house. Guess what? That’s totally fine! As long as you are happy, that’s what really matters. Regardless of what you’ve been told you have to do or have to be happy.
You’re more grown up than you think
Just because you haven’t quite figured out how a 401k works or why you would want one doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your 20s right. My guess is you are taking care of yourself on the day-to-day and making ends meet to the best of your ability. What else could the world ask of you?
Even if you’re still getting help from your parents, or struggling with taxes, or living with 5 roommates to keep your rent ridiculously low it’s all okay. It’s easy to forget, but most of us in our 20s right now graduated with more debt than the generations before us while at the same time entering the workforce in a recession. We can’t be expected to hit the ground running full speed with circumstances like that. It’s okay to need some help. It’s okay to leave the laundry in the basket. You tried, you made an effort, that’s what’s important.
Finally, at the end of the day, only you know what is best for you. If you are perfectly happy working your 9 to 5 with plenty of down time to binge watch Netflix, more power to you! If you are staying up till 3 most nights working to start your own company while still working a full-time job during the day, keep at it! There’s no right way to live your life, and there’s no right way to use your 20s.
Katelin Tiernan is a digital marketer by day and a crochet-loving bunny mama by night. She can nap on demand and has a not-so-secret desire to be the lead in a Carpenters cover band. Check out her personal website Hello Lovely for self-worth inspiration and her Instagram for photos of cute bunnies, coffee cups and crochet.