I graduated from college in 2014, and I was so excited to move on to the next chapter of my life. I was ready to be done with all of the exams, the endless amounts of reading and writing, the college drama, the trashy parties, and the general sense that I was still stuck in an adolescent bubble. I couldn’t wait to be out in the real world – working a first job, exploring a new city, and finally launching my own journey as a truly independent adult.
Fast forward three years, and the post-college life wasn’t what I imagined it would be. I was working a job that didn’t necessarily feel like a natural fit, dealing with the aftermath of a painful breakup, trying to survive in a city that was far too frenetic for me, and hopelessly running from date to date trying to keep myself busy and prevent the dreaded slowdown where I’d be forced to reflect on everything that had happened since graduation.
More than anything though, I was scared. I had no idea what would or even could come next. There had always been structure and set milestones in my life – middle school, high school, college, internships, and the coveted first job. All of a sudden, these milestones disappeared. I slammed up against the shock of adulthood – the loss of clear direction, the expectation of instant gratification, and the fear that everybody (but me) had their entire life figured out.
As I began the journey of writing of my book, Then We Grew Up, I slowly realized that this was OK. I had to embrace the unknown. This untethered period of my mid 20s was a rite of passage. So many others had already been through it and so many others were going through it with me – I found comfort in the fact that everyone I knew managed to make it through this transitional phase in one piece.
With an adjustment in perspective, I have actually come to appreciate this period – the limitless optionality, the independence and freedom, and the ability that we have to truly start writing our own narratives. Our 20s is a time where we can choose to become anything we want – we will undoubtedly experience exponential growth during this period (in many ways, more so than we have during any other period to date), and we can leverage this to try and evolve into the adult that we decide we want to be.
One of the most important things I’ve already learned about this untethered period is the following: we have to go all-in. No matter what we’re doing, we should throw ourselves into it. Remove any hedges that we have and embrace the present. From firsthand experience, I’ve learned how easy it is to become removed – to look out to the next milestone, to wish you were somewhere else or doing something different. It’s such a loss to live this way. Being present and engaged with exactly where we are may be extremely difficult to do (it took me a long time to start to figure it out), but it’s transformative – you start to view everything with an incredibly different perspective.
At 26, I still try to revel in the fact that for the first time, I don’t have any set milestones that I need to hit. I can choose my own destiny. I don’t pretend to have this incredibly complex time figured out, but I’ve found peace in the limitless opportunities, and the fact that I’m growing every day into the adult that I want to become.