Do you remember when you were really young, maybe 5 years old? You used to love dreaming up who you might be when grew older, sometimes staring at your reflection in a mirror to see if you could picture yourself as anything other than a child.
Here you are now, a 20-something-year-old walking a fine line between being young enough to still not know how things work, and being old enough to be considered that long-dreaded word in your vocabulary: an adult. And while you had then (and still might have) so many grand ideas of what your life would be like at this point, I am writing to tell you one, simple truth.
Growing up is not all it’s cracked up to be.
You will not own some gorgeously decorated home once you start earning a paycheck, nor will you land your ‘dream job’ the second you graduate college. The first man you fall in love with will not be your ultimate prince charming, and the world and life at large will not one big Disney movie.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Because as much as you have always envisioned — and strived for — perfection in all aspects of your life with that stubborn type-A personality of yours, life doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be worth it.
You are going to make some false friends, those who don’t have your best interest at heart and teach you to believe things about yourself that are nowhere near reality. And that’s OK, because you also find a best friend in someone who has been in your corner since kindergarten — she will travel with you through the rest of your life. And I promise you, you won’t even believe the kinds of friends that you’ll have in your 20s. Relish in each one of these friends when you recognize what you have. Tell them all that you love them sincerely and often. Give them the tightest hugs and never let them guess how much you appreciate them. They are everything that you’ve waited to find.
You will date and find a partner in someone for a time, but it doesn’t turn into the happily ever after that you thought it would at the start. And that’s OK, because it grew you up and taught you valuable lessons about life and love, and about sharing each of those things with someone. I promise you that eventually, the right one will come. Just have some patience and never forget what you learned along the way.
You will find out that there is really no such thing as a ‘dream job,’ that all kinds of work has its selling points and drawbacks. And that’s OK, because you also find out that just because there is nothing dream-like about a job doesn’t mean that you can’t set about making it better than you found it, leaving your own mark on it, and finding within in the elements that speak to what sets your soul alive. I promise you that if you don’t give up on it and if you keep those things that spark your passion close to heart, you can and will find your way.
You will learn that affording much of anything out in the world is rather difficult to do, and owning your own stylish space may be out of the question for a little while. That’s OK, because you get to spend a few more precious years under your parents’ roof, making new memories as you recount times gone by. I promise you that you will be so grateful for this time in more ways than you can even understand right now. Tell them you love them and tell them why you do. Hug them for no reason. Take every chance you get to put your head on their shoulders or even sit on their laps when you’ve had a rough day — no matter how grown you think you are. You won’t regret it.
You will experience just how vast and sometimes frightening the world can be, how life can change in an instant without stopping to ask for your permission. That’s OK, because guess what? You will change, too. You will adapt and grow, you will learn not to fight those changes but instead be at peace with them. You will learn to make the best of them while also looking toward building a better future — no, you will never lose your hopeful heart for the future. And I promise you that the ways in which you change and grow, adapt and embrace will come to serve you throughout the course of your life.
Is your life as a 20-something all you dreamed it would be? Probably not.
But I hope that somewhere in my endless words and sprawling lines, you see it. You see that while you do hold the pen in writing the story of your life, there will be unscripted plot twists, unforeseen character changes, abrupt endings you never saw coming, and happy coincidences that are beautiful surprises.
There are so many things you can decide and dream up, but also so many beyond your control, just past your reach.
I hope you have the tenacity to dream, to decide, to take risks, to never cease in your pursuit of building a life you love.
But I also hope you have even more courage to take the things beyond your control in stride, to not let them fluster you but instead inspire you to keep moving forward to see how that chapter of your story ends. You are now and always will be on a journey of becoming, of evolving into the person you were always meant to be with the life you were always meant to have; the things both within and beyond your control play a significant role in your becoming. Take it from my view, from this side of your life, that when things don’t work out as planned for you, they somehow manage to come together in a way more beautiful than you could have predicted — or even planned yourself.
I am far from grown up at this point. I have a lot of learning and living yet to do. Through what I have lived and from what I have learned thus far, however, I do know one thing is for sure: within you are all the tools you need to navigate all things, just trust yourself and trust timing of your life.
Even though you can’t yet read what lies on the next page of your story, I promise you that no matter what is to come, you are going to have one exceptional tale to tell.
Hang in there, kid. We’ll make it through together.
You Future Self