the time will pass anyway: navigating life in your twenties

Girls

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nighingale

This idea as a life framework has been on my mind for the past several weeks. I realized – in the back of my mind at first but now clearly – that it was always a lie that success was waiting just around the corner from graduation day. Success coupled with fulfillment takes time. And it’s always taken time. And the fact that the Mid-Life Crisis is a fixture of our society is proof that people have been telling each other and themselves the lie for decades, and that the delusion eventually wears off.

Life in my twenties, and maybe for its entirety, is about finding the balance between financial survival and personal fulfillment. And they don’t always arrive together, at the same time or as part of the same activity. And being content with that, and knowing I’m ok, and continuing to strive regardless, is the big life lesson.

What I’m still trying to figure out is if we need to rework what we say to kids about following their dreams or if we would cling to that idealism even if we weren’t told it. Maybe we would go through the crap of realizing in our guts that life is hard, that we can’t always get what we want, that life isn’t fair, even if attempts were made to let us down easy in the beginning.

Ultimately, it’s worthwhile to work toward hard, big, important goals. It’s easier to keep going, though, when we don’t put ourselves on a timeline, when we realize we won’t implode if we don’t get from point A to point B by age 25. I don’t think my generation suffers from a case of adultlescence. I think prior generations were simply deferring the hard questions for mid-life. And some within my generation have been intimidated into deferring it, too. But I believe that:

“Contrary to a belief popular among older people, the Quarterlife Crisis is not the idle whining of a coddled, presumptuous post-adolescent. It is the response to reaching the turning point between young adulthood and adulthood; it is the amalgamation of doubt, confusion, and fear that comes with facing an overwhelming set of identity issues and societal expectations at once.” – Alexandra Robbins, It’s a Wonderful Lie

If we do it now, maybe we can avoid it later. And that’s ultimately healthier because we’re less tied down now. We have the space – and the physical health – to move past the false expectations and self doubt and maybe arrive at a place of contentment and self-understanding in a decade or so. And we get a whole, long life to work toward our dreams instead of scrambling for it at age 50, ill-equipped and emotionally shattered.

Know that, as long you’re dreaming and reading and working toward something, you’re fine. You don’t need to have arrived. And you might never arrive. It’s the working toward something with hope and diligence that ultimately makes you a success as a human being. Believe in that and find rest.

“…The pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.” – There’s More to Life than Being Happy, The Atlantic

photo source: CNN

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3 thoughts on “the time will pass anyway: navigating life in your twenties

  1. So very well put! When I found myself at a crossroads a couple years ago, choosing between a stable and well-paying career and my personal fufillment and staying true to my values, I chose to take a leap on the latter. I felt that it was really important for me to make this decision at 24 rather than deferring to 54 and leaving 30 years of unhappiness in my wake. I can’t say life went exactly according to plan after that or was filled with constant happiness, but the journey has been well worth it and has certainly lead to a more purposeful life.

    1. My friend and I discussed the danger of starting every life path conversation with, “I should…” That takes all the control out of your hands and let’s someone else tell you what to do. I think we have to make choices we can live with and hope they’re not too tied down to unrealistic goals or others’ expectations for us.

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