October 27, 2012
I recently turned 27. Isn’t that something? For those of you younger than me, it definitely seems like something. And for those of you older, I know: it’s nothing. Three years ago, when I was 24, I remember meeting a new co-worker who I assumed was around my age. When she told me that she was 27, I was inwardly shocked and – honestly – felt a little bit sorry for her. Yikes. So old.
Over the next three years I have of course revised this opinion (and also come to see what a little twat I was being): 27 ain’t that old. But it’s not 24, either, and there’s a lot I know now that I was far from knowing then. Here are some things I’ve learned.
Around that 24 mark, I was focused on one thing: finding someone. “Finding someone” meant that I spent all of my time hoping for a connection, desperately wanting to meet a guy who I would KNOW was the right one. This manifested itself in countless nights out spent getting wasted and looking around hopefully for my soulmate, eventually making out with whoever was around, and then waking up the next morning hungover, covered in tahini sauce from the post-makeout falafel, and still completely alone.
Meanwhile, I was working a 9 to 5 job that I knew wasn’t really what I wanted, and ignoring the voice that would pop up now and again to say: “Weren’t you going to be a writer?” I pushed that down; it was easier to focus on my loneliness, which I could feel really purely sad about because it wasn’t my fault. In other words, I focused on the unattainable thing, instead of examining my life and looking for action I could take MYSELF that would improve it.
What I’ve learned is a cliché, but it’s true: You have to focus on yourself first. You have to be driven by your own secret desires for yourself, not by your loneliness.
After college, I was lucky in that almost my entire group of friends moved to the same city. We moved into a two-apartment house – three of us on the top floor and three on the bottom – and just lived as if college had never ended. I felt like I’d escaped that curse everyone talks about, that period of post-college adjustment to a new kind of social life. It was just the same!
I hadn’t escaped it, though, I’d just put it off: eventually, we all started drifting in different directions. Most people moved to other cities. Soon, the group of five girls with whom I’d shared a weekly email thread about our Friday plans didn’t exist anymore – it was just two of us left here in Boston. So now, I don’t have a set “group.” I have a few really great friends who are still here, and others spread all over the place. But the strongest friendships evolve: one of my closest friends lives in LA now, and we email about five times a day. I live with the best friend I’ve had since high school, and our relationship keeps getting better. It takes more effort than a mass text, but it’s rich in a different way; it feels good to have great friends even though they’re not always immediately accessible. I still feel lucky: I’m acutely aware of how amazing it is to deeply care and to be cared about.
When I was in elementary school, I was pretty sure that eighth grade meant adulthood. The eighth graders were the oldest kids in the school, and their classroom was down a long hallway. I pictured the hallway as a golden path to the future. I was sure the eighth graders had it all figured out.
Later, I extended that to the high school seniors, then the college seniors, then, people who were 25. Now, finally, I can see that there is no moment in life when it all makes sense. Nor is there any real marker that someone DOES know what the fuck’s going on – an engagement or a house does not mean that someone feels complete and content. At 27, I can talk to my parents and see that while they’ve done a lot of amazing things with their lives, there are still doubts and insecurities that they’re holding on to and trying to make sense of. Answers don’t come with age. Age provides perspective, but life wasn’t designed with a point at which it definitively gets easier. It’s up and down, all the time, for everyone. We’re just doing our best, all of us, and that’s ok. With that said…
During that 24th year of mine, I did very little work. I mean, I went to work every day and on paper that looked good, but I was just coasting – intentionally avoiding the harder realities about what I really wanted and how to get it. I was hoping for a good relationship, and hoping to one day have a job that made me happy; I was also drinking a lot and spending entire Sundays just shuffling through Okcupid profiles. Listen, I’m no expert on success (that’s a massive understatement; I don’t even know what success is), but I do know that now I’m working hard. I have identified goals and I get up every morning thinking about what I can do to achieve them. It’s requires a lot more mental participation, much less scraping by – and that feels better, and I’m happier every day.
I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning my fate in these post-college years. How unlucky, that I didn’t fall right into the perfect career after graduation! What the hell is wrong with me that I still can’t tell you what I WANT? For me, I am just now, this year, inching towards my purpose. But I know others who aren’t there yet, and that’s fine. People switch careers and make big moves at all ages. Any answer that is arrived at is subject to change down the line. There’s time.
We’re all in this together: the early twenty-somethings and the late twenty-somethings and the thirty-somethings and everybody’s parents and your younger single aunt and your older married aunt and your college professor and your ex-boyfriend and the people you run into on the street. We are all just trying to make it work, no matter what stage of life we’re in.
To sum up, here is my non-expert, just-normal-person, 27-year old advice: Keep working to identify what makes you happy. Keep participating in your life as fully as you can. Value your good friendships, value your individual goals, and only get a drunk falafel when you feel like it’s absolutely necessary. And whenever you can, know deeply that you’re going to be fine.
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