There’s a certain beauty we see in being messy. It feels like you’re in an artsy film with a lot of lens flare and close-ups of you smoking at sunset. Life just won’t come together for you.
Recently I read this quote and it hit home:
“Your life is not an episode of ‘Skins.’ Things will never look quite as good as they do in a faded, sun-drenched Polaroid; your days are not an editorial from ‘Lula.’ Your life is not a Sofia Coppola movie, or a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or a Charles Bukowski poem. Grace Coddington isn’t your creative director. Bon Iver and Joy Division don’t play softly in the background at appropriate moments. Your hysterical teenage diary isn’t a work of art. Your room probably isn’t Selby material. Your life isn’t a Tumblr screencap. Every word that comes out of your mouth will not be beautiful and poignant, infinitely quotable. Your pain will not be pretty. Crying till you vomit is always shit. You cannot romanticize hurt. Or sadness. Or loneliness. You will have homework, and hangovers and bad hair days. The train being late won’t lead to any fateful encounters; it will make you late. Sometimes your work will suck. Sometimes you will suck. Far too often, everything will suck—and not in a Wes Anderson kind of way. And there is no divine consolation—only the knowledge that we will hopefully experience the full spectrum—and that sometimes, just sometimes, life will feel like a Coppola film.”
It’s accepted as the norm to get trashed on the weekends, go home with someone, vomit, walk back home gingerly with smudged mascara and heels in hand, and tell your friends all about it over brunch. There’s something inherently wrong with that. The problem is that this is romanticized. It’s romanticized in film, TV, and in real life.
It sucks when you don’t have shit together. It really does. But we can’t limit ourselves and say, “That’s just what life is like these days.”
It’s now suddenly OK to be broke and living in the city, eating cold leftover pad thai you forgot to put in the fridge while you nurse the hangover from the bar you drank last night.
“I’m such a fucking mess!” you text your friend. LOL.
And yet we accept that it is OK to be this mess, because everyone is right there beside you, right? You’re in your 20s and this is what it’s supposed to be like. You’re supposed to wake up with strangers, eat crappy food, and take artsy pictures at the beach. You’re supposed to either have a shitty job or a job you hate. You’re supposed to constantly be going on dates with quirky guys. You’re supposed to drink entire bottles of wine and cry while you watch Ryan Gosling smolder around your screen. You’re supposed to be this broken, messy, and struggling artist.
So we romanticize the hurt, the pain, the mess. We romanticize mental illness and make it something beautiful and poignant. We make hook-ups with people that don’t deserve you something quirky and “natural.” We make loneliness a part of everyday conversation. We’ve made memes about it. We dramatize it. We joke about it. Yet, we don’t admit it.
Recently I watched this TED Talk. Meg Jay essentially addresses how 30 is now the new 20. We spend our 20s making mistakes because we think it’ll be OK, because we think everything will work itself out later. We put off traveling, we date shitty people, we take shitty jobs, and we say to ourselves: “I’m just livin’ life, but it’ll figure itself out!”
“As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually the defining decades of adulthood… What do you think happens when you pat a 20-something on the head and say, ‘You have 10 extra years to start your life?’ Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.”
Being miserable isn’t a lifestyle that we all have to go through in our 20s. Make mistakes, but don’t make the mistake of accepting those mistakes as a part of your life and not as reasons to grow and get better.
Treat yourself with respect. You deserve better.
Your body is a fucking temple. Stop quoting Liz Lemon as a way to justify your inability to make yourself a proper meal and exercise every once in awhile.
Don’t stay with that person that you’re annoyed with or bored with or stuck with because you figure you can’t do better or something better will come along eventually. You have to look for those people now. You can’t settle and pass time and put off happiness.
Don’t squander away your talent and complain about your career going nowhere. We live in a time where everyone alive is accessible. Work hard, study hard, and network. Make something of yourself. You might have to take shitty jobs in the process. But don’t accept that you are your shitty job. You can be better. It’s all in your hands.
Don’t stay in the same place. Go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be Europe or New York. Go anywhere. Take a risk and leave your comfort zone. Stop putting travel on your laundry list. Meet people and treat them with respect. But don’t ever forget about yourself.
You are the most important. Everytime.
Being fucked up and messy and broke and unhealthy is not OK. We have to stop justifying it. It’s not glamorous or artsy. It’s your life. You are living it everyday and you have to claim your life for your own. You can’t just let things happen to you and laugh about it over mimosas later.
“Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.”
You can change everything you want to change about yourself. You can be smarter, thinner, a better runner, extremely knowledgeable about astrophysics or improv comedy. You can read more, you can be a better cook and a better son or daughter or sibling or best friend. Remember that.
But you can’t change the shitty decisions you made because you believed that you couldn’t do any of that.
Meg (or Meghana) is a senior at the College of William & Mary, and probably the coolest person you’ll ever meet. She’s obsessed with writing anything that allows her to create characters and ideas. She’s pursuing a career in advertising (so holler if you’re hiring) but aspires to be one day become a comedy writer on the nerd level of Tina Fey and/or Mindy Kaling. Besides that, she’s always planning where she can next travel, obsessively watching sitcoms and TED Talks, binge-eating chocolate, studying for her business major, trying to support a fashionable wardrobe on a student budget, and putting out fires when she gets a chance. If you’re a rich prince looking for a spouse, please forward me your resumé.
Reprinted with permission from “A Zest for Life”. Formerly titled “Don’t Settle for Cold Pad Thai”
Photo by Nico Nordstrom