Articles about how to live in your twenties are driving me absolutely insane. Life is never that simple. And life is meant to be lived. No listicle on Buzzfeed or Elite Daily will make me truly believe that I’m not doing what is right for me. It’s a horrid cycle, because as a girl in her mid twenties, I bounce around on the Internet constantly. I can’t avoid these articles. What’s even worse is that every single person in their twenties will identify with at least some of what the author was trying to say. And that sweet moment of identifying with something positive and concrete in these articles can make you feel like, “Yes! I am doing this right! It says so right here!” But, I often find that most of the advice is rubbish. And I find myself getting very worked up and asking questions like, “Who are you to say that taking an assistant position to make sure my student loans are paid is the equivalent of being a sellout? That not being able to dedicate the same amount of time to my art or craft as I could in college is something to be very ashamed of? That this isn’t at all the time to find love? That my year as a 23-year-old is already doomed before it even began?”
It’s a shame, because most people in their twenties do feel incredibly lost. But that is the most important thing about your twenties: figuring out who you are and what really matters. There is no how-to guide that fits the lifestyle of all panicked young people who are scrounging to figure things out and stand their ground. I’ve witnessed several nervous breakdowns of friends and coworkers who feel that they are not meeting the expectation of this “defining decade.” But each decade is defining. Each story has its own ending. Each of us is different. Each of us has to find our own path and do what is right for each of us. Each of us has a tailored journey that leads us to where we are all are inevitably supposed to end up. We shouldn’t set rules or guidelines that don’t necessarily have any real weight to them.
Scolding someone for earning a degree in something that isn’t exceptionally practical for the postgrad job search is something to be ashamed of. But above that, I believe that scolding someone for the job that they may have “settled” on is even worse. We all have to make a living, and some choose to work hard and experience different environments to gain an understanding of another trade. When did becoming a renaissance man or woman become so unappealing to twentysomethings that they felt the great need to post these articles about how if you’ve put a talent to the side, you’ve failed. No. That’s simply not the case. And as someone who graduated with a degree in creative writing, I think it’s important to become a renaissance woman. My father was a musician (a graduate of Julliard, a very dedicated musician) and always had a job, but not necessarily in the field of music. He was a personal trainer, a singing telegram man, a gravedigger, a stock man at the local Target, an activity director at a nursing home, a canter, a caregiver at a camp for the blind and deaf, and in his 50s, he took the alternative route to getting his teaching certification. This man has seen so much, met so many people, and provided for his family. But if we judge by the random internet article, this man is a failure.
It’s hard. This decade brings us so much anxiety but it will truly help shape who we are. Why would anyone want to add more stress and anxiety to this confused and eager herd of twentysomethings by comparing them and their actions to others? I know that I am only halfway through my twenties, so maybe it’s hard for me to judge from here. But I cannot and will not accept that anyone can be sure as to what steps would have led to a brighter or happier path. Following what YOU want to do and figuring out how YOU are meant to experience your twenties–or any decade–is what’s most important. The only advice that I believe I can pass on to everyone I know is this: think; really live; try to seek knowledge but let wisdom find you; reflect; rejoice; appreciate everything and everyone. If you don’t like something about you or your life, change it. Set achievable goals and reach them. Smile and laugh as often as possible, and stay alive as long as you can.