Disclaimer: This article may be a little crass. The intention is not to be offensive or demonstrate a lack of empathy, because everyone has a different situation. The purpose is to show a little tough love, from one peer to another, about the potential we all are capable of reaching if we start fighting for it early on. It’s also about giving y’all a few helpful tips and resources for taking the steps needed to get there.
A few weeks ago I caught up with an old friend/acquaintance about life.
We had the same run-of-the-mill conversation I typically have when I catch up with many people around my age. We talked about work and what we’ve been doing. Eventually, the conversation arrived at what seems to be a natural point in the progression, and an inherent dissatisfaction with life was expressed.
I listened to the reasons this person was stuck in the early twenties rut so many fall victim to. But this time instead of nodding along with quiet encouragements about “still being young” and there “being plenty of time,” I responded differently.
“Well, what can you do to change the way things are?”
The person was taken back for a moment, but then the conversation shifted to something that was actually productive and meaningful.
The most challenging step to creating change in your life is understanding the role you play in your own unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Of course, there are external factors too. There are unexpected, disappointing and downright unfair circumstances and experiences that will challenge and derail you. There are financial and personal trials that will restrain and discourage you at a young age. The job market is more competitive. College debt is suffocating. Moving is expensive. It’s a freaking battlefield out there in the real world, I know. But what are you doing to change that for yourself?
How many of the following statements would you say are honestly true?
- I regularly take chances outside of my comfort zone through travel, new experiences and opportunities to learn.
- I enjoy what I do, and feel my passions are engaged in my current career/educational path.
- I often meet new people who introduce me to unique perspectives, share my same goals/aspirations and make me a better person.
- I feel challenged and excited.
- I really enjoy the area that I live in, and the community I am a part of.
- I feel appreciated, fairly compensated and considered in my current career/position.
- I maintain only positive relationships in my life that are built on honesty, kindness, friendship, understanding and mutual respect.
- I am working towards the personal and professional potential I know I am capable of achieving.
- I am proud of who I am and love to share stories, experiences and moments from my life with others.
- I feel like I have a true purpose.
Be honest, how many answers could you truly say yes to? Calculate your score out of ten…
So, what score means you should make some kind of change? Anything under 10.
If you answered ‘False’ to any of the above questions, you should be actively trying to make some change in your young life.
What are you waiting for? Being young should not inherently disable your personal and professional progress. You can be just as ambitious and aggressive about your life as you want to be. It is really challenging, but it’s possible. Below are some changes you can start making TODAY to work towards the life you want to be leading. As I said, these may appear harsh at first, but you’re worth the tough love. You’ve GOT this. You’re ready to make your future a reality, if you’re willing to give it everything you’ve got.
How to make a change.
Step 1: Actively seek new opportunities and find something that makes you happy.
Getting a good job today is a nightmare. Getting a good job when you’re 22 with no job experience can actually feel impossible. BUT part of the reason we settle in for the long haul at a crap job (that leads to no professional progress) is because we believe it’s all we can get at this point in life. And instead of working every day (yes, every single day) to change that, we become stagnate.
This isn’t twenty or thirty years ago. A piece of paper from a fancy school or even an internship, won’t buy you a one-way ticket to the career you want anymore. It’s more challenging to stand out, and yes, that’s disappointing, but it’s not the end. Maybe a dream job at 23 isn’t exactly in the cards for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop looking for new opportunities. Start TODAY!
- You can actively make yourself more marketable for a better job.
- You can get your resume out there on LinkedIn, Indeed and other related job boards.
- You can learn new skills, take free online classes and listen to career podcasts.
- You can attend networking events in your area and make the right connections.
If you hate what you’re learning, change your educational path. If you hate what you’re doing for work, try to get a new job. You can do it. Just believe you can.
Step Two: Move the heck out of your parents’ house.
**Queue the viciously insulted and financially frustrated twenty-somethings wishing they could throw virtual tomatoes at me on stage.**
I know this can be very challenging and often pretty impossible for many young college grads with little financial capabilities. I 100% understand financial reservations and restrictions, trust me. BUT I also know it can be used as a crutch that restricts twenty-somethings from getting a move on with their dreams.
Saving while you live with your parents for a period of time is one thing, but so many young people get stuck in the “I just graduated so I am going to live at home for awhile” stage and then wake up one day at age 26 and realize they’ve fallen way behind where they want to be. (Not because we don’t love ya, Mom and Dad!) But because in order to achieve personal happiness we have to make mistakes, learn a few lessons and figure out how to function on our own.
So, save some money. Operate on a tight budget, and actively work towards striking out on your own as soon as possible. You can move in with friends, or look for higher paying jobs in other areas. There are opportunities if you seek them the entire time you’re saving up. You can’t be an independent adult if your mother is still cooking you dinners, your father is still paying the electric bill and you’re making out with your serious girlfriend on the couch in their basement. You know that too deep down.
Step Three: Strive to better understand the nasty F-word that will really control your life- Finances.
This will help with the above step as well, obviously.
Thinking about the amount of college debt I have dangling over my head is enough to send me into sudden cardiac arrest at any moment. I’ve had to wrangle more bills and expenses than I ever really thought existed, and there will only be more from this point on. At first, that’s overwhelming, restricting and scary. It makes you want to bury your head in the sand, say life really sucks right now and surrender your twenty-something soul to the devil. But, you’ll be OK! Just educate yourself, be responsible and set yourself up for financial success.
If you’re like me, start by getting a handle on that student debt. I outlined tips for tracking and managing your student loans here. Then, understand your income, set a budget, pay your bills, create goals and work towards them. Understand your options for long-term savings too. It’s not exactly sexy stuff, but it will set you up for the adventures and experiences that will break you out of the early twenties rut.
Step Four: Rid yourself of the relationships that hold you back, and create a few new ones that empower you.
Surround yourself by people who want the same things you do. It seems easy, but it really isn’t. We don’t just get in career and college ruts in our twenties, we also get in people ruts. Whether it be a significant other that lacks the emotional maturity to respect and empower you, or friends that don’t want you to move on without them, people can hold you back. Even the people you love, and even people who love you, can keep you from achieving your full potential.
It’s your twenties, meet new people! The world is filled with incredibly complex humans that you can relate to on all different levels. They’ll challenge your perspectives and introduce you to new ideas. They’ll push you.
I’m not saying you have to ditch every person you’ve ever loved to be happy in your twenties. BUT I am saying that it’s OK to distance yourself from some people, and it is pertinent to be open to meeting new people.
Step Five: Take chances. Move away. Travel. And embrace the unknown.
I’m really serious about this one. You have to take chances if you want to be happy, especially when you’re young. Of course you feel discouraged if you’re living in the same place you grew up and it feels job-saturated, frustrating and far too familiar. Step outside your comfort zone! Try something new. Involve yourself in new activities and engage your interests. Spread your wings. It doesn’t have to be on the other side of the globe, but a new place really can change so much for you.
It COULD be across the globe though too, if you’d like. Your twenties are a great time to travel and it is possible if you save up, think ahead and dedicate yourself to taking the time while you still can. Below are a few resources for travel in your twenties.
- Under30 Experiences: Group trips and adventures that you can pay for over time
- Travel Zoo: Cheap bundled trips. Best for international travel.
- Kayak: Great for bundled US trips and packages for traveling to cities.
- CheapFlights: Pretty self explanatory.
Go on, get out of here! It may take some time to make it happen, but you have to try. .
There are ways to get out of the rut we so often fall into as twenty-somethings. You don’t have to put off your happiness. You can work towards it every single day. I’ve watched so many people crawl out of deep twenty-something holes in their lives and end up better for it on the other side. Ask yourself the same question I asked at the beginning of this piece, “What can I do to change the way things are?” Then, go out there and get the life you want… today.
If you have any thoughts, questions or tips of your own, feel free to let us know in the comments below.