When I graduated college and acquired my first job, I felt SO grown up. I wore a grown up watch, drove a grown up car, made grown up appointments, paid “grown up” bills (which were really just my car payment and student loans, since my dad was still paying my phone bill and insurance…). What I realized this year is HOW much growing up I still had to do.
Here are a few more things I have learned about growing up:
1. Our parents are flawed, just like the rest of the world: This has probably been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. When I was growing up, my dad was my idol. I used to call him about every single little decision I made–which classes I was going to take, what I was going to buy at the grocery store, what I wanted to write my paper about. When I first started teaching, I would (a) go to work, (b) go to practice, (c) go to my dad’s house for dinner and to walk the dogs, and (d) go back home to lesson plan–every single night. It was bad and probably very unhealthy how dependent I was on my dad. Then, he got a new wife. And, this new wife did not necessarily fit my perception of my dad, which was incredibly difficult for me. I started going back in my mind, replaying my childhood memories, and having to adhere this new schema to how I perceived my dad. I started realizing that my dad was flawed, just like the rest of us. He did not know everything. And that is ok. Since this revelation, I have been much more independent and have started making decisions on my own. I am growing up.
2. Sometimes, you have to date other people to figure out what you want: I re-watched a whole season of Boy Meets World a couple weeks ago. Granted, it is just a fictional television show, BUT Cory and Topanga do split up for an entire season and they do end up back together. We have these foolish perceptions in our heads that we are going to run into Prince Charming, fall in love, and get married, and never break up, never have any disagreements, never doubt being together. But, like our parents, relationships are always flawed and sometimes, you have to walk away from one and date a few other people to realize you wanted the original person in the first place. Everyone has stories about, “Well, we dated for a while, then broke up, and five years later, something brought us back together and we realized we were in love”, or “Well, I dumped him for this other skeezy guy, who I found out was cheating on me anyways, and then I realized what a great thing we had going”. Being a 20something is about making mistakes and bad decisions so that we learn from these decisions and be appreciative for the good things. I know that I will never get back together with my long term boyfriend, but everyone else, I am not so sure. You never know how the winds might blow…
3. Old people give the best advice: The median age of employee at my school is like 102. Actually, probably more like 38. But, I could not have survived until 24 without these wise souls. I look at some of my friends who work with people around their age–and while their jobs sound like a hoot and a holler everyday–their personal lives are a mess. Whenever I have a crisis in my life, I always seek out their counsel. And, they all tell me the same thing: “Oh, I remember when I was your age and that same thing happened to me”. It makes me feel less isolated, less alone. I am comforted to know that all of these crisis happen to everyone else–they are just developmental milestones, and since all these old people are still kicking and haven’t died yet, I think I will survive. Making friends with old people is the best!
4. You don’t have to attend every single social activity: When I was in high school and even in college, I always felt it necessary to attend every single social event. When graduation party season came, my friends and I prided ourselves on the 30+ graduation parties that we attended. It basically was–drive, eat cake, say hi to the person, and leave (unless the party consisted of a bouncy castle, and then we stayed). On my weekends, we would have social activities planned for Friday night, Saturday afternoon/Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. The idea is that, if you miss out on a social event, you would miss out on the inside jokes, and be secluded/isolated. But, as I get older, I realize that my friends have so many things going on in their lives that, if I miss one social outing, it won’t be a detriment to my social standing. It’s ok to do different things and hang out with different people.
5. Maybe it’s not about finding someone you love, but finding someone you can see spending the rest of your life with: The fact of the matter is, when you get married, you are supposed to deal with that person for the rest of your life. So, I marry someone with stinky feet, and I will have to smell their stinky feet for the rest of his life. Up until this point, I have kind of been focused on who I like, rather than who I see a future with, which completely alters the way I look at dating.
All of my friends are in the same stage of life that I am in and it is a pleasure to watch them all similarly navigate, discover, and find their own adult identities. Research suggests that we are the most malleable between 18-25, which I completely see now; I am nowhere near the same person I was when I graduated high school and even since graduating college a short two years ago. I think this turbulence is starting to slow down; I went through a tumultuous period where everything was changing, I was changing, my views were changing, and now, I am starting to focus in on who I am going to be for the remainder of my adult life (which is another daunting thought within itself!).
So, the good news for all you other 20somethings is–we have until age 25 to change whatever we don’t like about ourselves. The bad news is that we might have to hurry, because after 25, we might be stuck (or so research suggests…)