Dear 20 and 30-Somethings:

Are y’all ready for this? I know, I know, you cannot handle another thing. You’re constantly bombarded with new information, articles, blogs, podcasts, and self-help books that promise a much-needed buoy thrown out in the tumultuous sea that is life as an adult. I. Get. It. You can’t take any more advice!

Well, try this on for size.

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    It’s gonna get better, y’all. I promise.

    That’s it. That’s the . I wanted to go ahead and lead with that straight outta the gate. I know you’re needing a little affirmation, and not just a positivity, bubblegum wrapper, encouraging quote to try and make you feel like you’re not drowning. Cause let’s face it. You’re drowning. But it won’t always be this way. That’s all I’m trying to say.

    This past week my husband heard a song he liked on the radio, and naturally, he pulled up the group later on YouTube so we could enjoy it together. As we listened to a couple of their jams together (enjoying the sound because it sounded like something from the [90s]) the words to one of the songs stuck out to me. The young, lead singer, who looked to be maybe [22], sang about his desire to take life back to when it was simple. He crooned about bedtime stories and running outside, long summers and swimming all day. I believe the title of the tune included the words “stressed out,” and as he sang about getting up early to make more money, I spoke out loud to the lad.

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    I said, “Just wait until you’re [40], man. It will be simple again, then.”

    My husband laughed, “no doubt,” he replied.

    And that’s the truth of it my dear, young, stressed out friend. A fantastical thing is going to happen to you, and though you can’t fathom it now, I promise it’s coming. If you’ve been through a human growth and development course you may remember learning about Erickson’s Stages of Development, but even if you haven’t, that’s cool because it’s even better than anything ole Eric conjured up. Let me try to explain.

    In your [20s], you’re trying to figure out who you are. You’re learning to be out on your own, pay bills, maybe further your education. You’re working hard, with what sometimes feels like little payout, and you’re many times struggling to make ends meet. You find yourself desiring a certain place in life, and what I mean by that is the place where you imagine your contentment will be found. You long for more, and you have certain ideals of what will make those dreams a reality. Nothing wrong with dreaming, mind you, but much of your thought-life and attention is given to this pursuit. The pursuit of happiness.

    You’re working to build relationships. Real, adult relationships. You’re finding your people, your tribe. You’re building the grownup version of the high school clique, but with less of the judgment and backstabbing. Lol. You’re making lifelong pals, and maybe also looking for lifelong love, of the romantic kind.

    It’s hard to find your people when you’re still struggling to know who you are. It’s tough to find love when in reality you’re running from it. It’s hard to find healing, trust people with your heart, and tear down the fences you built in adolescence. A lot of young adulthood is talking to one another with just the tip of your head peeking over that backyard fence. It’s so much easier to duck back inside with a blanket, book, and loyal pet. Yet still, you long for what’s beyond the fence. Stepping outside is scary.

    Your [20s] and [30s] are spent finding yourself and then finding the people like you. It’s a time or personal growth, but it’s also still a time of self-doubt. You care a little too much what other people think, and even in your [30s] as you try and tell yourself to not give a crap, you still kinda do. Breaking out of the peer-led box is just as hard as knocking down fences.

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    And oh, the search for fulfillment. In jobs, relationships, body image. Young adulthood is a journey of discovery, discovering what makes you happy, and letting go of what doesn’t. It’s a trek through hills and valleys. It’s finding out that what you thought you wanted in life, you start to realize, “eh, not so much.”

    It’s a time of heartbreak.

    It’s a time of financial struggle.

    It’s a time of peace-seeking.

    It’s a time of hard knocks.

    It’s an adjustment.

    And truth be told, it’s a stressful time. I don’t think it has to be, but you usually haven’t figured that out. You think job title, bank balance, or owning a home is the epitome of success. More equity equals more joy. More insurance equals more safety. A bigger credit score equals bigger opportunity. It’s a time of self-focus rather that self-reflection. It’s a lot of striving and very little rest.

    It didn’t happen all at once for me, that transition from stress to simple. It wasn’t like a magic spell, poof, turn [40], become carefree. It kinda slid in over time, nonchalant like, until one day I looked up and realized, this is the happiest I’ve been in my whole life!

    I stopped caring what people thought of me. I didn’t let anyone else’s idea of success fashion my own. I ceased measuring myself against others, using their yardstick like it was universal or something. I found peace in the little things. I smiled about a tiny, lavender flower shooting up through the sidewalk cracks, and I gave less frowns to how I might be failing in life. I was able to forgive others and try to walk in their shoes. I stopped being offended by everything! I realized the world wasn’t about me.

    I took off the mask, trying to be who I assumed others wanted me to be. I tore down the fences, mended my heart, and opened my arms to others who were hurting. I learned to trust love, trust God’s plan for my life. I let go of the little things that caused me unnecessary grief, and I accepted the little things that made me happy. I opened my eyes to what was important. I realized time is a tricky thing and it zooms by. I decided to savor life, not fret over it. I valued relationships more, financial status less. I found my child’s laughter more of a treasure than the contents of my home. I decided to place value in life over luxury, people over things. Bottom line, if it wouldn’t affect me for all eternity, I let it go.

    I realized it was okay to love myself. It wasn’t pride or overconfidence. I finally believed that what God thought of me was most important, and I realized I had been created in perfection by a King. That made me smile. I somehow welcomed the wrinkles, sagging skin, gray hairs, and even the aching joints. It was all a reflection of a life well lived. I loved every bit, even what the world called flaws.

    And do you know what? Life started to seem simple again. I didn’t long for the way things used to be, but instead I enjoyed each moment as it came. I traded my stress for contentment, realizing that even what wasn’t perfect was still wonderful. I figured out how to see life with its glass half full. For even in a bad situation, I could find the good somewhere. I realized seeing from that angle was the best vantage point. I didn’t stop dreaming, but I found each day was worth celebrating since it was all a stepping stone for my next step there. It wasn’t just the finish line that mattered, but everything in between.

    So, in that line of thinking, my young adult friends, I will remind you to enjoy the in between. Where you walk now? It won’t always be that stressful. The simple life is just around the bend. The key to getting there is to let go of what’s behind you, press on towards the goal, but never forget to stop and smell the fragrant flowers along the way.

    For what it’s worth,


     

    Forty-one & Having Fun

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