Saturday, August 30, 2014

6 Easy Things to Get You Through The Limbo That is Your Twenties

As a twenty something I often feel like my life is spent in limbo, somewhere between my rebellious teenage years and my hopefully more mature thirties (when I assume I’ll have everything figured out).
Some days I wake up and it all makes sense. My life is in order, my friendships feel solid, my job is fulfilling, I am content with being single, I am equally excited about the prospects of the future and pleased with my current circumstances. All in all, I am happy.
Then there are those days when I go to bed frustrated, anxious, and confused. I have a bad day at work, I feel disconnected from my friends, being alone feels lonely, and the future feels too vague to ignite anything other than fear. I feel lost.
I suppose it’s natural for life to have its ups and downs, but what is important is how you handle them. After surviving the struggles and insecurities of high school, I really thought that crippling self-doubt was a thing of the past.
Then college brought a whole new sense of doubt into my life. I always wondered: “Am I studying the right thing?,” “Am I branching out enough?” “What will I do after college?” I always put those thoughts to rest with the idea that it will all sort itself out in the end.
Then I graduated and surprisingly didn’t have anything figured out. I didn’t have a job lined up, I was single, and my friends were all in various different places in their lives, which made it hard to relate to anyone. Some were starting families, some were starting their careers, and others were still in school.
Now I’m living abroad which can be exciting, but difficult. I’m not exactly in the career I want to be in, nor am I actively pursuing any of my hobbies or passions. I am single, granted by choice, but sometimes I miss the comfort and stability of a relationship. I am constantly setting goals and planning trips for the future rather then fully living in and appreciating the present. I am ultimately waiting for this mythical moment when all the pieces of my life, every lesson I’ve learnt, hardship I’ve overcome, heartbreak and accomplishment are going to fall into place and lead to something bigger. 
I am beginning to think that moment doesn’t exist. That maybe each step simply leads you to the next, and there is no end game. If the only constant in life is change, and if growing is a never-ending process, I’m not entirely sure what I’m working towards. The fact that I am not currently established in a home, a career or a relationship can be unsettling, but so is the thought of settling down.
The uncertainty of being in your twenties is overwhelmingly daunting. However, these doubts lead me to remember what makes me happy in times of ambiguity. So I made a list of 6 things that always help get me back on track:
1.    Loosing yourself in a book
There is nothing like being in the middle of a compelling book. You have come to know the characters well enough to invest in their outcomes. You are far enough from the end that you still have a lot to look forward to. And each page comforts you because it is a temporary escape from your own reality and a window into someone else’s mind.
2.    A Heart to Heart With an Old Friend
When you haven’t spoken to someone in a while but despite scheduling obstacles the cosmos seem to reveal an opening in your day, and you both finally manage to find the time. You may not cover everything that’s happening in your lives, but the person knows you well enough that you can skip to the important stuff. Most importantly it feels like a load off to bare your soul to someone whose been around through it all, and it reminds you that friendship is stronger than distance.
 3.    Exercise
Everyone is different but nobody is so different that a little bit of fresh air and sunshine can’t benefit them. I always find that no matter the length or difficulty, a walk can do wonders for my mood. Especially when I’m feeling too lazy to take one in the first place. This is the easiest and most productive form of exercise because you can combine it with running errands and pretty much any attire is appropriate.
 4.    Reminiscing
This can be dangerous if done incorrectly, but it can also be extremely beneficial to your psyche. Every so often I go through old pictures and I remind myself of all the good times I’ve had, the places I’ve been, and the people I’ve met along the way. This typically makes me nostalgic, but then I feel grateful for the opportunities and how they have all lead me to the current moment. It is also a good reminder of the bad times in between those good memories that seem so insignificant now in comparison.  Eventually all the doubt and struggles of today will be distant memories of yesterday.
 5.    Thinking
This is similar to and can be combined with #4, but usually involves music and more complex thoughts. I think the most productive way to do this is on some mode of transportation (a bus, a train, a plane, and my favorite- in a car on a road trip). When you are in transit, you typically can’t avoid being alone with your thoughts, and that can be a wonderful opportunity. I usually take advantage of this time by putting in my headphones, tuning out the world, and thinking. I think about everything from my bucket list, to how I’m on or off track from my goals, what my hobbies are and if I’ve updated them lately, am I being true to my passions, what my stance is on controversial issues, what the future might hold for me and for the world, how people perceive me, what are my strengths and weaknesses, how much I’ve changed, who are the most important people in my life and why, what I learned from my mistakes and I inevitably recall all that I have to be grateful for.
 6.    A Trusty Fallback
When all else fails, sometimes we just need to allow ourselves to let go and give in to a trusty fallback for some relief from the doubt that haunts our twenties. This may come in the form of a TV show, movie, junk food, wine, or all of the above. The point is that it’s a guilty pleasure and it is reliable. I know I can always depend on an episode or 10 of Friends and some unhealthy snacks to cheer me up when I’m feeling down.
Being in your early twenties can be difficult because there is so much uncertainty, but it can also bring unique opportunities. If you do it right, you can look back on these years and smile without regret, because you lived. You make mistakes, but you learn from them. You try new things, and some even stick, and you realize others aren’t for you. You date different types of people and each relationship teaches you lessons about yourself and what you need. You develop friendships that will get you through the hardships of life after your twenties, and hopefully you take a lot of pictures so that you can show your kids that you used to be cool. At the end of the day, it will all work out, because it always has before. But for those days when you are having trouble believing that, try one or all of these 6 things and I guarantee you will feel confident and reassured in no time.

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