What You Don’t Have To Do In Your Twenties, Despite Popular Opinion

Full disclosure: this article was going to be about things that you should do in your twenties, up until about one minute before I started writing it. I was going to talk about finding yourself and learning not to settle, and figuring out exactly what it is that makes you happy. All of those are nice things, and they are definitely good lessons to learn, but when I really sat down and thought about it, I asked myself do these lessons really have a deadline? Does any of it?

Ever since I moved to Portland, all I have been able to think about is what I should be doing. According to my anxiety-ridden brain, that’s a lot of things, and they all are on my mind all the time.  I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until my writing partner asked what had me so distracted, and I literally sent her a list that was a paragraph long. I couldn’t even write it off because as soon as she asked me to pick just five to focus on for the day, I started crying. In my head, the deadline for each and every one of them was closing in just as quickly as the rest. All because I feel like I’m supposed to be held together so well, but don’t have any time to do it.

Today, I want to focus on perspective. So many people (myself included) seem to be in the habit of defining different eras of their life solely on what they should have accomplished in that time. As a teenager, it’s first kisses, graduating high school, and getting into a good college. In your twenties, it’s moving out, finding yourself, and getting married. Having kids in your thirties. Moving up in your career. The thing is, no two people’s lives are going to move at exactly the same pace, and they don’t need to. You have to know how to pace yourself and find your own boundaries, so you know when to push and when to rest because life isn’t like a race. It’s more like climbing a mountain—the more experience you get, the higher you’re able to go. You can’t base your own progress on someone else’s.

You don’t have to have all the answers yet.

I’ve realized lately that this is a much better time to start asking the questions. You know enough about yourself to draw the line somewhere, so start figuring out where that is. Try things, because . . .

You don’t have to stop experimenting.

Start a new hobby. Start six new hobbies. If there is anything you’ve ever wanted to do, you are still allowed to try it, and you’re still allowed to kick it to the curb if it doesn’t work out.

You don’t have to have it all together.

It’s okay if you’re still not that great with your savings account. It’s okay if your room still gets as messy as it did when you were sixteen. It’s even okay if you have cereal for dinner. The whole point of a transition is that not everything will happen all at once.

You don’t need a career.

We live in a world of YouTubers and bloggers, but you aren’t falling behind just because you haven’t found your calling yet. Some things are just a little further down the path. Take a breather. Smell some flowers. You still have time.

You don’t have to get married.

Rushing to find “the one” will only lead you into the arms of the wrong one. Take your time, and be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for, and don’t play games to get it. Playing coy and hiding all of your baggage will just lead to unpleasant surprises down the road.

And, most importantly, you’re still allowed to freak out.

Rent and debt and having to worry about managing your money all the time is frustrating and scary. It’s okay if you buckle under the pressure every once in a while—even if we don’t talk about it, all of us have experienced it. The trick is to look at why you’re freaking out and figure out how to avoid it next time.

Turning thirty, or any age, isn’t an end to anything. Age is just a number, just another year. You don’t need to run to make sure you get from point A to point B in the right amount of time.