Movies, mentors, parents, and music will all tell us that our 20s are the best, most thrilling years of our lives. We’re young, dating is exciting, we’re finding our individuality and careers. All of these points hold truth, but what most people don’t talk about, or warn us about, is how emotionally discouraging our twenties can be. Although it is a time of excitement, it’s also a time of loneliness.
It’s a time when our peers are no longer doing the same thing. College is over, breaks in between quarters and semesters have ended. During this quick transition, exhaustion sets in from the stress of accumulating enough money to pay for living, loans, bills. The people we’ve consistently seen over the past few years are now working 9-to-5 jobs, or continuing their retail, or restaurant jobs that leave them getting off around midnight. Few of us have managed to tack on a couple of safety years by attending graduate programs. Some folks, myself included, decide to refrain from drinking, while others maintain that typical weekend, and sometimes Thirsty-Thursday lifestyle. Folks are moving back home, or moving to different cities. And these differences begin to separate the people we have used as our support systems. We could argue that those people are obviously not good support systems if they let these things get in the way of friendships, but it’s difficult to maintain when people are at a different stage in their life. Not to mention the fact that many people lose connection because there is sometimes a lack of understanding, or support from the people who are aren’t doing the same thing as you.
Our 20s are lonely and not one person thought to mention that. Instead all I’ve heard is how it’s a time to be outgoing, and find myself. But what happens when you find yourself, and some of the people you leaned on no longer support who you are?
What I’m learning from my 20s is that I can have all the confidence in the world with my passion, career, myself, and it can still be immensely lonely. Our 20s are conflicted for people who have not quite found their passion and for those of us who have. This disconnection, combined with poor communication, is what deteriorates a friendship. People in their 20s need to accept that some people are putting themselves together faster than others, and instead of distancing ourselves, communicating these frustrations, successes, and confusion. It’s good communication, and an ability to separate ourselves from others that helps confidence grow and builds stronger friendships. Unfortunately nowhere in college or high school do we learn good communication. And I only attribute my ability to communicate well to my many therapists during my stay at an eating disorder recovery center.
Facebook, Instagram, and other social media networks are providing us with the unfortunate opportunity of feeling shitty about ourselves, simply by informing us of how much we’re not doing. Social lives, bars, vacations, engagements, marriages, and kids. You name it, it’s happening, and it’s confusing the absolute crap out of us. This confusion is constructing a barrier between ourselves and the people around us. Instead of congratulating the people around us, we internalize their lives and question the routes that we’re taking, even if we’re someone who disagrees with, for example, marriage at a young age. Those Instagrams can be so persuasive with their filters, even when we’re fully aware that those daily photos don’t capture the full spectrum of that person’s life.
We are passively contributing to this cycle of self-doubt and confusion by posting about every success of our lives. This results in shaming those who are doing well because it’s making us question ourselves at a time when everything around us is up in the air. Further separating friends and family. And we could even go further by talking about how restricting in general it is to be labeled a twenty-something, because anyone above the age of 29 is standing right there telling us how much we don’t know. While this is completely true, how can we create a learning environment for ideas to grow and develop if we’re being shamed by both our peers and the people who are supposed to be our mentors?
Our 20s involve moments of fun. But more often than not, our 20s are both challenging and lonely. It’s a transition period, a time for growth, and a time when we can focus on how to be better people. Instead of utilizing social media to increase competitive behavior during these transitional years, we could practice reaching out in a real way. Instead of hyping up our 20s as the best years of our lives, we could give a friendly warning that it’s also a rough transition. Maybe then others could seek out resources to help them learn better communication, self-awareness, and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with accepting that life is rough, if anything it helps us put together a better tool kit to handle the challenges and maintain a sense of happiness throughout it all. We don’t have to allow social media and false hopes of our 20s to separate us from supporting one another, so I hope this works as a source of encouragement for finding happiness within these challenging years.
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