I turned twenty-nine last month. As I look back at my twenties, it's actually kind of weird to me that I'm not thirty yet. Most of my friends have reached that new decade in their life, so in my mind, I've already been there for a few years as well. It's comforting to know that in reality, I'm still younger than I feel.
Twenty-five was the last pinnacle age for me. It marked the beginning of my first year in Los Angeles, and the huge transition that came along with it. The next few years blended together in a haze of sunshine, smog, and traffic; in LA, it's hard to notice time passing. Then, halfway through age twenty-eight, I suddenly relocated back to Minnesota, and now here I am. It's been four years since I moved to LA, six years since I graduated from college, and almost four months since I moved in to my First Official Apartment That Is Completely My Own.
The Beyoncé jam above is my new theme song. I was introduced to it by my friend Shannon in one of her beautiful blog posts, and I listen to it almost every day. It's empowering in the most Beyoncé-ish of ways; read the lyrics and you'll see what I mean. Boss bitch to the max. Whenever I'm feeling like I just can't handle adulthood/being single/figuring out ALL THE THINGS, I simply press play, and let Beyoncé remind me of what I am.
I've always been amazed at other peoples' ability to know what they want. I'm a consistent late bloomer, and I have been my whole life. I graduated from college for the sake of graduating, with a degree I was interested in but that I knew wasn't going to lead to any specific job or career (I'm grateful for my education, but if I could go back and do it all over, I'd go in a completely different direction). I fell into different relationships assuming that they were what I wanted, but without ever really thinking about why I thought they were so good for me. There have been several points at which I could have coasted into a lot of decisions just because I was comfortable with the way things were, but somehow, inexplicably, I didn't, and I'm eternally grateful to whatever force it was that intervened.
Unlike most of my friends right now, I'm not married, I don't have a steady career, and there isn't much about my life that is settled or concrete. I used to be envious of people who knew what they wanted to do before their twenties were over - who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with, where they wanted to live, how they wanted to spend their time - and then I realized that I was operating under the assumption that there was one correct way to "do life", and that I had somehow missed the boat and was doing everything wrong. I had made up my own imaginary guidelines based on comparison, which is always, always, a bad idea.
Once I identified the comparison game I was playing, I started to see the timeline of my own path as full of opportunities instead of as a cause for impatience. I have a sense of purpose and direction that I have never felt before, and that I don't think I would have achieved had I made decisions because of internal and societal pressure that it was "time" to do something, or that I was taking too long to get my shit together. When I take a look at myself five years ago (hell, even two or three years ago), I can't imagine making some of the big decisions that others my age have. Some people might have known themselves well enough at that point in their life, but I didn't. And there is so much beauty in that subjectivity. The concept of adulthood - of parenthood, of career-hood, of what dictates a fulfilling life - has shifted in recent decades, and it's so thrilling that we can all do our own thing while being supportive of everyone else doing their own thing at the same time.
Up until a year or two ago, I felt completely lost. And to be honest, I still feel lost at least once a day. But never before have I had more freedom, and never before have I been more sure of who I am and what I want out of life. I'm building a set of standards I want to live up to, and I'm able to be picky about my options.
I've learned how essential and necessarily difficult critical thinking is - to make every decision with intention and for reasons I can name. This practice is often exhausting, but I believe it's crucial. If I didn't think critically and deeply about every part of my life, it wouldn't be as rich as it is, and I wouldn't have as much curiosity, or passion, or desire to grow and change and learn and do. I'd rather be overwhelmed with feelings and wonder than live in complacency and never question anything. I've experienced firsthand that coasting along through life is pleasant enough, until one day it isn't. Critical thinking happens at some point whether we want it to or not (SEE: the midlife crisis), so it might as well be a regular part of the journey instead of a last resort.
I've also learned to own my shit; to not be fatalistic and convince myself that I have no control over my own circumstances. The truth is, I always have a say in what I can do to make my life better. I have made the mistake in the past of not being assertive about who I am and what I want. I have left things up to the hands of fate by denying my own thoughts and assuming that I didn't have the power to do anything to make a change. Letting fear and pride get in the way of me owning my feelings is something that has had lasting consequences in my life; I have lost people and opportunities because of it, and I'm determined never to let that happen again. Slowly but surely, I'm changing my habits. If I want something, I'll state it. If I believe something, I'll claim it. It's okay to have desires and opinions. I always have a choice, and to not acknowledge that fact is a resignation of ownership over my own life.
So many of the above ideas are new discoveries to me, and I've been bursting with them for awhile now. It's amazing how stark the difference is between hearing something like, "You have control over your own life", and actually experiencing it - for me, it marks an exciting new phase of adulthood, and it feels so, so good. I feel empowered, and my guess is you'll probably see me returning to a lot of these topics throughout future blog posts.
Or maybe I won't. I'm a grown woman, and I can do whatever I want.