My third grade self had planned on getting married when I was twenty and having children when I was twenty-two. (Even then I knew I would need at least a year of designated binge drinking before being responsible for another human). I was going to be a writer when I grew up and I was going to live by the beach. I loved the beach. It was inconceivable to me that there might be restrictions to the planning of these life events. It might be hard to find a husband. It might be near impossible to declare “writer” as your profession without a trust fund. And I didn’t realize that everyone wanted to live by the beach.
My birthday is tomorrow and I will be twenty-seven. Twenty-seven! And the save the dates keep coming in the mail — sandwiched between my student loan bills and Dominoes pizza pamphlets. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that our twenties are full of changes and growth and lessons and babies that aren’t your own. Here are the six most meaningful lessons I learned in my twenty-sixth year.
1. Make new friends, but keep the old (sometimes).
Sometimes you have friends you’ve known since kindergarten whom you have nothing in common with anymore. They are married and you’re still trying to have more than a burrito’s worth in your savings account. Sometimes you have friends who betray you. Both are reasons that you don’t have to keep them. And sometimes you meet individuals whom you bond with instantly when they also agree with you, that yes, the neck pillows look like vaginas, mere minutes after meeting them. And sometimes you know those are the ones you’ll be friends with forever.
2. Love isn’t (always) enough.
We want to think it is. Love Actually tells us it is. And so does William Morris. In reality you can love a person deeply, every part of them, from their giggle outbursts to the way they look at you in the mirror with tooth paste in their beard, to the manner in which they lie in grass and the deliberateness they approach buttering a piece of toast with, and the way they talk about the home you don’t have yet and it still won’t be enough to keep them from leaving.
3. It will never go away (I mean it).
That thing that you’re meant to do. That thing that you knew you wanted to do when you were seven. That passion you try to suppress because being an accountant makes more sense in your current life style. It will never go away. Do you know how scary it is to meet a fifty-four year old who talks about how they loved writing growing up. Or photography. Or wanted to be a counselor and help adolescent girls with eating disorders but is doing nothing close to that? If you’re lucky enough to have this thing, indulge it in some way or another. Even if it’s knitting socks. You don’t have to make it your career, but you’ve got to humor your soul.
4. Trust yourself (no one else is you).
To leave that job, that relationship, that friendship, to stick with another that requires more maintenance, only you know what that perfectly small, yet certain pang in your stomach feels like. No one else knows your intuition. And so often we try to talk ourselves out of even that because it’s harder and lonelier and more uncertain than carrying on as we were. No one else lives inside your head and your heart and your bones, except you. Unless you obtain a weird bone eating bug virus.
5. Things can change in two and a half minutes (or two seconds or two hours).
Who is healthy and who isn’t. Who has a brain tumor and didn’t at breakfast. Who is living and breathing with lungs and whose heart is beating and whose isn’t because they got shot by their mentally unstable neighbor because they wanted to enjoy the rooftop after a night out with friends. Who is in love with you, right now, all the way, and who has fallen out of it because you waivered. Now is all you have and you can make that look however you would like. Stop procrastinating! You’ve thought about being closer to your family, telling that person that thing, saying sorry, traveling on your own, buying those jelly sandals that remind you of your youth and will probably give you awful blisters but are so appealing in the name of novelty? No one is stopping you except you.
6. It’s gray (life and also some mice).
I learned this the most this year. Life can be equally awful and amazing at once, like maybe the day you see a baby fall out of a stroller and face plant you also got to eat hot Cheetos and cream cheese for dinner. Things are hardly ever black and white.