Last week, when I turned 25, I had a bit of what you could call a quarter-life crisis.
I wasn’t in full-on freak-out mode, but more of a silent, wide-eyed realization that I’m halfway through my twenties and my next big milestone is 30. I started to think about all the things I’ve done in 25 years, but even more so, all the things I haven’t done.
Society (and social media) puts a lot of pressure on women to meet certain life goals or accomplishments by a certain age. There’s a narrative shown to us that is touted as the norm to follow, and if you don’t follow the norm then you feel somewhat left behind.
For example, at least in the U.S., the common narrative is that women go to college, and then spend their twenties getting the crazy stuff out of their system. This isn’t always wrong per se but it often gets blown out of proportion. I’m constantly drowning in images of women living this narrative to the craziest extent. If the narrative we see on social media is true, then all twenty-something women are expected to pack up their lives in a backpack or van and travel the globe for a few years on nothing but imaginary buckets of money and a sense of wanderlust, meet strange men at bars and sleep around, and hop from city to city chasing the next job.
I have done none of those things. So does that mean that I’ve ‘failed’ my twenties?
I’ve been able to travel around quite a bit, but I’ve never had the time or been able to afford a wild backpacking adventure through Europe. I’ve only lived in one other city during grad school. I fell in love with my current boyfriend in college and we’ve been together since. I never did the whole casual dating thing.
So sometimes I wonder, did I miss something important? Is it essential to do these things in your twenties, when it’s culturally acceptable? Will I wake up one day at 42 and regret not doing the crazy stuff while I still could?
I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to beat the clock.
I met up with a good friend the other day and when I told her about my quarter-life crisis, she understood where I was coming from. She agreed that people in their twenties have this pressure to do all the things before the rest of life hits you.
But then we also realized that just because you don’t do something in your twenties doesn’t mean it will never happen. Yes, traveling on a whim is easier when you’re younger, but who says I won’t be traveling when I’m in my 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s? My own mom is about to retire, and she travels more than me. In the last year and a half alone, she’s been to Tanzania, Scotland, the U.K., and Iceland! (Basically, my mom is life goals and I hope I can be like her someday.) My time to live in different cities, should I actually want that, is still ahead of me. And as for the dating thing? I’ve never been one for casual fun and scoping the bars. I’m very lucky to have found someone who loves me so early in my twenties, and if he’s the one, then I’ll count myself even luckier to have skipped all the drama and heartbreak that can come with dating.
At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a slight sense of FOMO in life, no matter your age. But it’s so important to remember that there are a bazillion ways to live your life and none of them are wrong. Everything balances out. You might choose to travel the globe, in which case you’re doing some awesome things but maybe you miss your family or having a stable income. Or maybe you’ll stick around home for a bit and spend quality time with family but you wish you had traveled more.
Don’t believe that you’re missing the best years of your life because you aren’t following the narrative. The best years of your life are whatever you make them. Personally, I feel much less scared about slowly creeping toward 30 now because I have a feeling that as I get older, my life is going to be even more awesome. I’m not going to lose all of my opportunities just because I only have 5 years of my twenties left. My life doesn’t end after 30 and neither does yours!
Follow your own story and see where it takes you.