Friday, October 17, 2014

Best Years of Your Life

Some people say that college was the best four years of their life. Admittedly, my college years were fun–more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. However, I have to say, I have been quite pleased lately to realize that my twenties have actually been the best years of my life. 

Sure, the twenties can get weird. There are so many situations that come at us and so many curveballs. There are mountaintop moments, and there are definitely more than a handful of fall-on-your-face moments. There are great successes and personal improvements, and there are times when we forget to prioritize our spending, get our hearts broken, make really bad decisions, and try to act far too young or far too old. We're kind of "in between," and we sometimes get carried away on the weird questions of "if we're doing enough" or "if we're good enough." From the ever-changing friendships and relationships, to job bouncing (or even losing a job), climbing ladders only to realize you want to jump ship to a new career field altogether, and not really knowing if you're ever "grown up" enough, it can be a somewhat stressful time. 

In our mid-twenties, there are plenty of days that end with sentiments such as's a coping mechanism.

But, if we truly relish it for all it's worth, it's a wonderful time. So far, I'd say that 22–almost 26 (I need just a second to recover…26 is here!) have actually been the best–albeit some of the most difficult–years of my life. 

You have the opportunity to figure out what you want in life. Whether you're dating and figuring out traits you do and don't like, or you're trying out new hobbies and learning if you can really transition from a softball player into a tennis player (hint:  it's not easy to stop trying to swing for the fences, and this is how you frustrate whoever is playing with you and lose tennis balls…like lots and lots of tennis balls), you have the opportunity to take a little time and look around. Find those things that interest you, try something new, give it a shot. The twenties are a period of discovery.

You can typically still get away with being considered young in some decisions. While I'm all for being responsible and taking accountability, sometimes, we all still yearn for that opportunity to ask for forgiveness and say, "I'm young and stupid." Things happen, and sometimes in taking those aforementioned chances, we make mistakes. While we are adults and have to deal with consequences, we are, indeed, still learning. And, it's okay to do a couple of stupid things during your twenties. 

And I'm totally cool with that! 

You have responsibilities. I know I'm weird, but I still love making my car payment. It was one of the first on-my-own, brand new, adult purchases I made. It's mine. I am responsible for it. I'm also responsible for the life of a small dog, responsible for showing up to work on time and delivering quality results for my clients, and responsible for being accountable to the people in my life. Growing up and actually having bills to pay can be a burden, and it's not always fun. But, it's also kind of cool. 

You're constantly growing. Whether it's been through periods of focused personal growth (i.e. making sure I go to the gym every day, intentionally taking quiet time, getting up early, setting good habits) or through periods where I didn't even realize I was changing and maturing, the mid-twenties change a person a great deal. Those first few years out of college and truly on your own are times of many lessons learned and many memories made. Each experience–good or bad–shapes us and gives us a chance to become more of who we were meant to be and to make a greater difference in the world. 

You realize what matters and what doesn't. Over these years, you learn that saying "no" is okay. You learn to let go of those who don't want you in their lives. You learn not to stress out too much about the things you can't change. But, you also learn the true, genuine beauty in moments–both large and small. You appreciate the value of a good wine, the wonderful simplicity of old friendships, the joy of a Netflix night, the shock and awe of people watching/clubbing/observing how "college kids these days" behave, the wonder of those new connections that happen with incredible ease, the beauty of family, and the fact that life keeps getting better. You take time for yourself, you enjoy the people who matter, and you let go of the things that don't. (No we're not perfect, and we still have our moments of obsessing over stupid things or not appreciating the good things, but we are learning, and it's getting easier). 

You learn to surround yourself with good people. Those who play mind games, those who make us crazy, those who are selfish, those who hurt us intentionally, those who gossip about us–or anyone for that matter–they can all take a hike by the mid-twenties. Sure, we'll stay on good enough terms to say "hi" if we run into you in Target, but trust us, we'll probably try to dodge you on at least the first three attempts until it becomes painfully obvious that we've seen you and you've seen us. Once we come into our own, we don't need the reassurance of having a slew of people surrounding us at all times. We've matured enough to realize that being alone or being around a couple of good people is far more satisfying than having bad company. 

Awful people?

You don't have to live off of Poptarts and Ramen, but you could if you chose to. You have the option. You're no longer that strapped for cash, and you have the opportunity to go out and have a nice steak or make a meal at home. However, should you just really get one of those have-to-have cravings for a Poptart (seriously, who doesn't love a good Poptart?), you can go get one. 

I made a grown up decision today...I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

You have the time, a little bit of freedom, and enough money to experience life (and you've likely mastered the art of experiencing on a dime). After all of those years of living on a shoestring budget in college, you've learned how to have fun for little. The beauty of the mid-twenties, though, means you don't always have to. You can take a long weekend from work, hop on a plane, and go explore a bit. For many of us in our generation, we're settling down a little later. That means as long as you find someone to feed your dogs, you're good to go. It's a beautiful freedom. 

You have many milestones to celebrate. And, let's face it, milestone celebrations are a great excuse to get together with friends, pop open a bottle of champagne (or wine), and embrace whatever awesomeness you are toasting. These are the years of first jobs, first new cars, engagements, promotions, etc. I've even been known to celebrate the first time I set up a retirement account. It's the little things, you know. 

You learn to legitimately stop caring what others think. You cut the pretenses a little bit. Whether it's just being yourself on a first date or embracing your place in your family/friend group. I've learned to appreciate that I'm the one who's usually around for comedic relief and known for bringing a good bottle of wine to an event. I'm happy with it. My family is happy with it. When you hit your mid-twenties, you accept that you are who you are, and others who love you do the same. 

Own those quirks! 

You occasionally allow yourself to behave like a preschooler with a credit card. There are times when my adult side wins out and I can easily put something I don't "need" back on a shelf. But, there are also times where I want it, so I'm going to buy it. I fully know the difference between want and need, but I also know that I work my butt off for my paycheck, and sometimes the best part of being an adult is being able to spoil myself just a little bit. It's one of the best things in the world! 

Or the pool, or the gummy bears, or the ill-advised shot of tequila. Girl, you work hard for your money ;)

Your parents become friends–allies even. I've always had a great relationship with my parents, but lately, we've developed a fantastic bond that I wouldn't change for anything. There's not quite anything like having coffee with them and chatting about life or being able to call them, share experiences, and get advice on everything from insurance to setting up an IRA. We laugh together…A LOT, I enjoy every minute with them, and they suddenly make a lot more sense to me. 

Andthey've even mastered the art of the selfie AND the photobomb. They're hilarious!

You learn to forgive. People are flawed. They do stupid things. We learn to let go, let live, and move on. In the teens and early twenties, I had a hard time with this. My Hispanic/Irish heritage would occasionally kick in, flare up my temper, and make me decide that some things were unforgivable. As I've grown up a bit, I've learned that it's much more freeing and cathartic to feel the pain/anger, and then let it all go. Forgive, and let it be. While trusting the one who wronged you again is truly a decision that will need to be assessed carefully, forgiveness really is a great thing, and it's the only way to truly move on from any instance in which you have been wronged. 

Sometimes, we really don't know the options people were faced with. Forgive anyway.

The fact of the matter is, there are many things–from a new found appreciation for sweatpants to getting to make my own decisions and from finding out what I really like in life to being surrounded by the best people for me–that make the mid-twenties amazing. They've had their ups and downs, but they truly have been the best years of my life. I'm encouraged by this, and I'm pretty sure that means my dad was right about the fact that it just keeps getting better and better. For that reason, I'm excited to turn 26, because I'm looking forward to the next "best 4 years of my life!" 

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