As someone who would fit into this “emerging adulthood” phase and someone who should theoretically be in the dead heat of a “quarter-life crisis,” I should have maximal exposure to these ideas. I should be thinking about what I’m doing with my life, when I’m going to settle down in a career, who I’m going to marry, and how I’m going to transition into a responsible “adult.” Notice how I put the word “adult” in quotes because who is to say when and how you are officially an adult? Is it when you turn 18? Is it when you buy your first house? Is it when you get married? There are legal definitions and social definitions and the answer will vary depending on which one you adopt.
Well, I would say that being in my mid-twenties and being human, there are definitely moments where I experience or am talking to one of my friends about their experience trying to answer these difficult 20something questions. I may not ask the same 20something-like questions, but they still get asked. In fact, part of the illusion that I will speak about in Part 2 of this post is this idea that some 20somethings have it all together while others don’t (stay tuned for that topic!).
The first theme I’ve come across among those in their 20s is this idea of expectations. We have so much expectation of what should happen and the way it should happen. We have dreams for how things should look. We expect to get a certain job. We expect some relationship to last. We expect to get into grad school. Unfortunately, life throws curveballs. We have to wait a couple years before we go to grad school. We have to go back on the market. We have to keep applying for jobs. It’s not to say that you won’t ever get your dream job or that you won’t ever get into school or get married, but it may not be the moment you think it’s going to happen.
Then there are social expectations. We want life to always be good and fun and be able to party all night while still being able to work hard during the day. We want it all. The truth is that it’s all an illusion. We’ve made that up. Who said that we should or can do those things or that it will look that way? It may happen that way some of the times, but who said it will always be that way. Things work out differently for different people. Who said that we can have it all? As one of my favorite quotes says “We can have it all, just not all at the same time.”
Sometimes it takes a while for a dream of ours to come true, but what keeps it from happening is our choice to stop it because we don’t see immediate results. This is especially difficult in our “instant gratification” society. As humans, we have to be willing to bear the uncertainty and stick to our goals. Stick with the vision of the things you want to do, the goals you want to accomplish, the person you want to be. Results won’t always be immediate, but you have to pull yourself forward. I’ve realized in my own progression from thinking of applying to actually being accepted to grad school, I had my own setbacks. I applied once and didn’t get in anywhere. It was hard. It sucked. I was disappointed, but I also did the work and took 2 years off from undergrad to grad school to get a job, figure out what to do differently, and how to set myself up better for next time. It takes persistence. It takes stamina. In this age where things are immediate, you have to be willing to be patient and sit with your goals. If you want to do something differently; if you are trying to change something in your life or perhaps in a more formal therapy, then you’ll have to be patient and focus on the goal at hand. You have to think about what is the next best step for myself? Not what am I going to do 6 steps from now, but what can I do right here, right now, today that is consistent with my goals and moves me one step forward towards the bigger goal. Be goal-oriented but present focused.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the “bigness” of some goal you have for yourself. Whether you’re coming into therapy trying to deal with anxiety or trying to recover from some addiction or trying to heal from some loss, all of those carry some burden of uncertainty – not knowing how and when you will recover. It seems like such a large task when you have been doing what you’ve been doing for so long. However, what I’m asking you to do is to release the “bigness” of it and stick to today. What is there today that you can do OR not do that will move you one step and one day closer to what you’re ultimately trying to do? If you’re worried about not being able to have a drink for the rest of your life, can you just not have a drink for today? If you’re worried about having a panic attack next time you go to the supermarket, can you just focus on what you’re doing right now? Doing your best in what you’re doing right now will lead you to what you need to do next, so stick with now and see what later brings.
What is one small step you can take in your life that will get you one step closer to where you want to be? Did any of these ideas resonate with you? Share your experience and stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I continue this conversation on how we compare ourselves to others!
UPDATE: Read Part 2 of this conversation here!
Note: Much of this post was inspired by recent conversations with some friends and a recent post about Dr. Meg Jay’s book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now. Check it out if you’re interested. To purchase a copy of Dr. Meg Jay’s book, click here.
- The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s Matter
- The Happiness Advantage: How Internal Determines External!
- Affirm how far you’ve come!
- Don’t judge someone else’s experience based off of your own!
Rubin Khoddam, PhD Clinical Psychology student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.
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