Let's talk about the mid-20s slump. It's real, and it's totally OK
There are several points in life that are universally acknowledged to be difficult: the Terrible Twos; the mid-life crisis, and so forth. But one that I never knew existed until it was thrust upon me is the mid-twenties slump.
At 22, I graduated from university, and, not knowing what I wanted to do I fell into a full-time job. Half my friends had been earning money for the last 3 years that I’d spent writing essays and getting drunk at my student union bar, and the other half were either diving into their graduate careers, having babies or travelling the world and making incredible memories.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Settle down and get married? Travel? Start an ambitious career? I had no idea. After being on such a high after finish my finals and graduating, it was an incredibly anticlimactic feeling.
I think even if you know what you want in life after you finish university, it’s still a massive shock to the system once you’re finished with full time education. You’re protected by a very safe and secure bubble at school and uni, and you always know what is coming next and what you are working towards. Once you’re away from that, it’s completely up to you and there isn’t necessarily a set path you have to follow.
I then ended a six year long relationship with someone that I had always thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. After all these massive changes I started to get bouts of anxiety about where my life was going. I’d always had an idea of what was ahead and now I’d reached a point where, when I looked forward, the future looked completely unknown.
For a person who adores planning, this was not cool.
After realizing I was on the wrong path with my job, I broke down in tears to my boss and told him I wasn’t happy and I needed a change. I also opened up to some of my friends about how I was feeling and realized that so many of them felt exactly the same way. Even my dad said he felt down for quite a while after graduating university and starting work in the real world. Why was no one talking about it? There I was, thinking I was alone in what I was going through and I should probably just get a grip, and unbeknownst to me, my peers were going through the exact same thing.
This was a huge turning point for me. I then began to decide on some of the things I wanted from life, and some of the opportunities I could take, now that I was a single woman with no ties and no real responsibilities yet (mortgage, husband, family of my own etc.) I began to see this terrifying, unknown future as a blessing; an opportunity to do something amazing with my life and have new experiences.
I decided I wanted to do something more rewarding and got a job working for a local charity in the Fundraising Events team. I began to focus more on my blog because I love my writing so much. I decided that travel was a priority for me, so planned a USA roadtrip and applied for an overseas volunteering position for 2016. I also started putting money in a savings account so I could slowly save for a mortgage.
Once I got some clarity and focused on the things I wanted to prioritise in my life, I began to feel happier and much more motivated to work towards my goals.
If you are currently in that stage of post-uni life, where you have no idea what you are doing and are in a bit of a slump, here are some ways of coping that have helped me enormously.
Make a list
This is my go-to coping mechanism. A lot of the time, it’s completely meaningless and purely makes me feel better, as I feel like I’m getting organised about whatever it is that is bothering me (although I’m probably not). However, when making decisions about your life, it’s useful to write down the things you want and get some clarity, to decide what your next move is going to be.
Take it one step at a time
There’s no rush to sort out everything in your life all at once. Prioritise and decide what is most important and start with that. If you want to get some travelling done while you’re young then work out what you need to do to make that happen and concentrate on that. If your career is important to you then make your priority finding a job or getting work experience or getting on the relevant course you need to be on, and take it step by step. You’ve got plenty of time to work towards everything you want, so focusing on one goal at a time will be far less stressful.
Find out what your passions are
Passion is what gives you drive and motivation in life. It gives you reason to get up in the morning. Whether it be baking, travelling, photography or singing; find out what you’re good at and what you love, and put your all into it. If you haven’t found this yet, perhaps you could try a new hobby out – pilates, sailing, a creative writing course. Try something new and put yourself out there; who knows what you’ll find.
Broaden your horizons
Now is the time to get as much life experience as you can. There’s no need to get one job and stay there until you retire if it’s not particularly stimulating. While you’re young it’s great to try different things to find out what you enjoy, both professionally and in your spare time. Travelling can make you more open minded, working in different roles and for different companies can give you so many new skills and allows you to meet more people.
Don’t compare yourself to your friends
I cannot stress this one enough! Looking around at what others are doing with their lives and comparing yourself to them is such a bad idea. Social media makes this really hard because you can end up suffering from FOMO, which can cause a lot of anxiety. Concentrate on what you want and pursue that, without worrying about anyone else. It doesn’t matter if half your friends are married, having babies and the other half are travelling the world with money that seems to have appeared out of thin air. These things may not be what you want right now and that’s okay! Your life is just that: yours. Decide what it is you want and go for it.
Remember you’re still so young!
If you’re in your mid twenties you are still really young. You have so much time to achieve your goals, see the places you want to see and do the things you want to do. You don’t have to be married, with a family, a high powered career and have travelled the world by this age. Plus you going on about how old you’re getting is going to really piss off everyone around you who’s older! Chill out and concentrate on the here and now a little. You don’t need to have everything all figured out just yet.
Enjoy yourself and value what you have
Don’t lose sight of what you have in life. It’s easy to get bogged down with everyday life stress and focus too much on the negatives. Look at everything good in your life and count each blessing. You are more in control of your happiness than you think, so remember that each day is a new day and you can do whatever you want with it! How amazing is that?
Carrie Smith is a 20-something just trying to figure it all out.
[Image via Comedy Central]