Why Your Twenties are Terrible/Awesome

Or: Gah I’m turning 27 on Wednesday!

When I was twenty-one years old my mother told me that her twenties were the hardest decade of her life. This kind of puzzled me at the time. After all- I’d just gotten the ability to drink legally; my life was going great! I was getting ready to graduate, my world was full of friends and endless possibilities. If this was what the twenties decade of my life was about, I thought I would be okay.

Me at 21

Now at nearly twenty-seven (my birthday is tomorrow-aack) I’m a bit more circumspect. Every year of my twenties so far has felt like a life time: an individual universe of life lessons, future defining decisions and self-contemplation. There’s been a lot of fun parts and a lot of intense parts but the takeaway is that man, being in my twenties is exhausting.

Our twenties is when most of us make the major life decisions that are going to affect the rest of our years: what kind of person will you be? What will you do for work? Will you get married, and to who? There’s a lot of pressure to choose wisely, to choose as if our lives depended on it. And that is a bitch, because there is just no way to know if you are making the right choice until maybe even years later.

In a way, this is what makes leading a typical, traditional lifestyle so appealing. There is a certain comfort in following the status quo: so many people can’t all be wrong, right? If you do what everybody else is doing your life might not be very spontaneous, but at least you’ll feel secure. You’ll know what comes next because it’s all been done before, a million time, by everyone else.

For some people though, the typical American lifestyle just doesn’t cut it. They want something else, something different, and that in itself is pretty scary. Breaking away from what’s normal can be absolutely terrifying (and exciting) because there is just no way of knowing how it will pay off. It’s higher risk, and hopefully higher reward.

It’s not a better choice, or a worse one, but either way it’s pretty scary to be in your twenties and trying to be the architect of your destiny. I’ve gotten pretty experienced at dealing with the doubts that inevitably creep in. When the doubts creep in there’s only one thing I know how to do. I take a deep breath and I wait it out. Because even if the doubts don’t totally recede the panic does. Then I can actually think clearly about what I’m doing with my life.

I also remind myself that nobody else has it figured out either. Life’s not a race, it’s an evolution. I’m growing and changing and while that’s uncomfortable and leads to late night wine and tears, it’s normal, even preferable.

That’s the thing right? While your twenties are tough and emotionally exhausting, they are also pretty intense, fun and awesome. I’ve done so many things in the last 7 years: I’ve traveled to five continents, I’ve fallen in love multiple times, I’ve learned and experienced so many things. Best of all, I’ve found out so much about who I am as a person. Information that will guide me for years to come.

I'm not a tweeter I just blog a lot

When you come right down to it, that’s the reason I started this website, the reason I’m so keen on people traveling in their twenties. It’s such an intense time, when you learn so much about yourself, and travel just accelerated the process.

The best part is, I don’t feel bad or depressed about getting older at all. I only marginally resemble that twenty-one year old girl and I even kind of miss her sometimes. Or maybe I just miss that simpler time when my biggest decision was what to wear out on Friday night and how long I could get away with procrastinating on my term paper. But I like my life a lot now, I’m grateful for the choices I’ve made that have brought me to having drinks in Bogota with my boyfriend on my twenty-seventh birthday.

I’ve only got a few more years of my twenties left, and I’m excited to see what surprises and revelations they hold!

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69 thoughts on “Why Your Twenties are Terrible/Awesome”

  1. I turned 27 in October and this is pretty much spot on for me. It seems like there are so many life-changing decisions to make in our twenties, I wonder if it ever slows down. I try to remember that no one knows what they’re doing, really, everyone is just “winging” life. I have taken my passions–backpacking abroad and working with college students–and parlayed them into a job where I run a study abroad office at a college! While my life doesn’t always match up with other people’s expectations or ideas about what I should be doing (for instance, marriage, family, etc), I love what I’m doing and I’m happy figuring out my life as I go along. For me, that’s what is important!

  2. I’m turning 24 soon and all of a sudden have realised I don’t have a clue what to do or where to go next. It’s nice to know that that’s ok, and maybe a good thing.
    I’m exited for the rest of my twenties now so thank you xx

  3. This was very well-written! I’ll be 27 this year and I’ve never traveled due to more pressing concerns. I have to admit that I’m envious of your life and the life of other 20-somethings. I can’t help but feel I’m missing out on the almost-carefree lifestyle that many 20-somethings experience.

    I’ve been working to support myself since I was a young teen in order to survive. My 20s have been nothing but stressful and miserable. Although I’ve experienced a lot of adversity and managed to overcome it, I still feel like I know absolutely nothing about life. I feel like I don’t know much more than I did at 17, which is a scary thought since I’ll be 30 in a few short years.

  4. I’m slightly late, but my word, am I glad I found this post! I needed it! I’m not in exactly the same position you are – I’m 27 in a week and haven’t really travelled at all. But I feel the same way about the pressure and decisions and changes, and am just going through a realy crazy time at the moment. And it’s so good to hear that not everyone has it figured out at my age. Thank you.

  5. I couldn’t agree any more, Steph! The twenties are emotionally intense, but you seem to have reacted pretty well ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here’s to more awesome years in the twenties (I have two more years left) and have a lovely birthday.

  6. Hi there sweetie. I am with your mom, it was the hardest decade of my life, and I would not go back to it. No nothing tragic, just the pressure, and not having enough sense to take the time to figure out who I was and what I really wanted, because everyone was telling me who and what I was. I know they meant well, but I spent most of my life trying to be someone else, and you have probably heard how stressful that it.
    I love that you are figuring it all out and are not propelled by any of it. I am 50 and my daughter is 25, so she is about where you are. I have always told her the same thing that you mom told you.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I really appreciate it, and I think your daughter is lucky to get the same advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I turned thirty while living in Sweden and it took me a year to get over the depression of not being in my 20s. I guess I wasn’t like many of your commenters – I loved my 20s, and after getting my act together my 30s were pretty great too. But do be sure to wallow in every moment of your 20s. After that people expect you to settle down a bit, and it’s annoying.

  8. I couldn’t agree with this post more. I just turned 28, and I have to say that my 20s have been pretty tough, but very important. I’ve learned a lot about who I am, what I want, and what I believe. I am so looking forward to my 30s, because I know I will have more of life figured out and I will be more confident in myself as a woman.

    Here’s to the next few years! Let’s enjoy it while we can!

  9. Happy Birthday Steph! I completely agree with you. I’m 26 and while I’ve done so many amazing things in the past five years, I feel like I still have so many things to figure out and it can get overwhelming. Thanks for writing this and if anybody wants a good laugh about being in their twenties, the tumblr F*ck! I’m in My Twenties is hilarious. http://fuckiminmy20s.tumblr.com/

  10. So this first picture I thought was a recent one. Maybe you don’t marginally resemble your 21-year-old self emotionally, but you sure do physically. Good genes!

    I’ve been thinking a lot of doing a similar post as I’m turning 30 in about five weeks. I can’t believe how different I am at 29 compared to how I was at 20. It really is amazing the changes you go through in this decade of life.

    Happy Birthday, Steph.

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