Soooo confession: I don’t actually have my life 100% together. I’m sorry to disappoint you with the misleading title, but I don’t have the ultimate key to happiness for your 20’s. (Does anyone? If you do & you’re reading this, shoot me an email ASAP, thanks). However, even though I may not have it alllll figured out (and probably never will) there are some things I’ve learned in the two years out of school that have helped me get a little closer to that crazy thing called “balance” and “contentment” in adulthood. I figured there are some other people out there who might benefit from these life lessons, so here are a few tips for when you have absolutely know idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. That blank slate of the rest of your life seems terrifying, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be. Read on.
Find a Mentor
First of all, I need to give a BIG shout out to my mentor (& Ampersand fan), Dana. I got really lucky that I literally ran into my future mentor (she was on one of my tours when I was a tour guide in college, believe it or not) because she has helped me countless times throughout this whole adulting journey~ I’ve gone to her about career advice as well as personal stuff & she’s always given her honest, objective opinion. I’m grateful to have a sounding board when I’m making big (or small) decisions.
Mentors are great because they’re third parties who can see the bigger picture when you can’t. More likely than not, they’ve been through the twenty-something struggles & can guide you when you can’t see straight. Dana and I are super close, so I personally talk to her about things beyond my career, but you can also find a mentor for strictly for professional advice, too. Maybe your mentor is your manager at work, a family friend, or even an alumni from your Alma mater (because a lot of schools have mentorship programs already in place!). Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Mentors are a great way to help you figure out life when you have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
Read The Defining Decade & You Are a Badass
Two of the best books I’ve read about adulthood. To summarize (courtesy of Amazon):
- The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now (Meg Jay): “Our “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” culture tells us the twentysomething years don’t matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.”
- Kasia’s take: Nice to know that everyone’s in the same boat and the advice Dr. Meg Jay gives is backed by studies/science. (If you don’t have time to read the book, she has a Ted Talk here).
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (Jen Sincero): “In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bitesized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want and create a life you totally love.”
- Kasia’s take: Yea, it’s a self-help book but it’s actually hilarious. When I need a pep talk, I flip through it. Good reminder that you’re actually in control of your life & you can create it however you want.
Write Down The Big Picture
I’m not a believer in the “5 year plan” (because hello, I can’t predict how things are going to go next week, even if I tried), but I do believe in the “big picture.” But hey, Kasia, how am I supposed to write down the Big Picture if I don’t freaking know what I want to do with the rest of my life?? Well, that’s why we’re talking about the Big Picture vs. a specific 5 year plan. I’m going to take a guess that you probably have some idea of how you want your life to look/feel. So write it down. It can be as simple as “feel financially stable,” “have meaningful, fulfilling relationships,” or idk, “be happy.” Or maybe if you have a specific goal like “go to grad school” or “travel to [insert country here],” that’s cool too. Seeing those things in writing makes you feel like you have a little more control/direction. Worry about what you want to do, not necessarily the how you’ll get there–life has a funny way of making the what happen, sometimes without you trying/planning.
Call Your Therapist
If there is one thing I wish I did when I first got out of college was find a good therapist. I’m very open to having gone to therapy in the past/currently, but I really could have used it when I first graduated college. That first year out is f*cking confusing. I felt emotions I didn’t even know existed and was generally just in a state of confusion for a whole year. Good news is, your 20’s do get easier the more you do it, but talking to a third party to help you sort through your tangled thoughts is life-changing. Remember, still okay to ask for help. You really really don’t have to do this alone.
Find What Soothes Your Soul
This is something I find myself saying to my friend Sam when my life feels chaotic–“I need to soothe my soul.” It’s kind of somewhere between a stress reliever & a simple joy. When I feel myself getting a little too anxious or life feels a little too hectic, I do something that helps calm me down. And it can be anything. For example, things that soothe my soul include: long drives, wandering around Target (I’m not kidding), going to a coffee shop, taking a walk around Villanova’s campus, etc. Those things help clear my mind & let all my emotions settle back in. Not sure what your soothing soul activities are? Start with things that make you feel happy & relaxed and go from there. Again, it can be anything–find what works for you.
Lean on Your Support System/Identify Your Constants
Hi, here’s a reminder one more time in case you weren’t paying attention: It’s. Okay. To. Ask. For. Help. Swallow your pride & get rid of the idea that you have to do this on your own to prove to yourself/society that you have it “all it together.” It’s B.S. The sooner you realize it’s B.S. the happier you’ll be. Find your support system and lean on them. They are here to HELP. It can be your family, friends, co-workers, mentors, etc. Find the people who care about you & reach out to them when you’re floundering. Newsflash: they care about you for a reason and actually want to help you. So let them!
Additionally, figure out who your constants are. Relationships change in your 20’s because that’s life, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly who’s going to have your back no matter what and who’s just there when it’s convenient. When life is pure chaos, having your constants will ground you. Seriously, ask for help. Just do it. It’ll be okay, I promise.
Hardest lesson to learn & I’m learning it every single day. Remember, “Right now, it’s like this.” It’s something I heard in yoga, and I’ve found myself repeating it to myself often. Everything is temporary. This confusing, stressful feeling of not knowing what you’re doing, will pass. Right now, it’s like this. Honor here for what it is & know that things will change.
Again, I don’t have it all figured out. I’m a constant work in progress, and that’s okay. I hope that maybe one of these things helps give you a sense of direction or control. Our 20’s are hard. No one ever told us how hard/confusing they are. But they’re also a lot of fun. When all else fails, just let go & enjoy the ride. Usually turns out better than you expected. &.