Every twenty-something is winging it. Whilst some may be more graceful than others, don’t let that fool you—no one actually knows what they’re doing.
So then why do we pretend that we have our lives all figured out?
I remember sitting on my apartment floor in Korea hyperventilating. I had killed my third mint plant. I had done everything right; I gave it plenty of water, love and sunshine. So how on earth had I managed to kill it? Seriously?
Of course, being a plant serial-killer wasn’t the cause of my anxiety attack. I was freaking out because if I couldn’t even keep a plant alive, how the hell was I supposed to be an adult and make adult decisions? My teaching contract was coming to an end and I had no clue what I was going to do next…let alone with the rest of my life.
Everyone kept asking me what I was going to do, “after my travels, and when I get a real job.” And I kept thinking, “Wait, so teaching and traveling indefinitely isn’t an acceptable answer?”
I felt immense pressure to have my sh*t together. Thanks to social media, I was able to see my “stable friends” neatly gift-wrapped lives, the incredible jobs, the down payments on beautiful homes; the engagement rings and friends traveling with an end in sight. While they were laying the foundation for their lives, here I was killing one plant at a time.
I called my dad in a panic and he laughed at my quarter-life-crisis meltdown.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret I wish someone had told me when I was your age. No one knows what they’re doing (aside from about four percent of the population who knew what they wanted to be since they were in diapers). There isn’t a handbook that comes with your twenties, you figure it out by trying and making mistakes. Don’t worry about what you can’t control, just enjoy it.”
(Little did I know said gift-wrapped friends were also calling their parents in a blind panic asking for similar advice.)
I felt a huge sense of relief. Despite what I was led to believe by their social media accounts, no one had a clue.
And of course we didn’t know what we were doing! For the first time in our lives we didn’t have someone guiding our next decision. And yet none of us wanted to admit it for fear of looking like a fool. So we all pretended we had everything figured out; while secretly we frantically tried to plan our next step hoping it looked right in our Mayfair-tinted Instagram pictures.
But you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay not to know what the next step is; it’s okay that we don’t have a five year/three year/one year plan. It’s okay that things change, and plans get messed up. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to change our minds and want to do something else; it’s okay to freak out.
I am no closer now than I was a year and a half ago to holding the answers to my future, and I’m still trying (and failing) to keep my mint plant alive. I still get waves of anxiety about the future and who I am, but then I take a deep breath and remind myself, I will get there when I get there.
Everyone is on their own journey. We can make the rules and we design a life that we want to live. We don’t have to know where we are going, all we need to know is we’re on a path that is fulfilling and makes us happy.
Author: Kate Bishop
Editor: Travis May
Photo: elephant journal