Lost On The Twenty-Something Journey

by Hassler, Christine Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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Dear Christine,

"I'm currently in my early twenties and I gotta say, I'm so lost. I have a lot of stress from a job I don't enjoy and battle constant insecurity issues. So how did you do it? How'd you become so successful and happy with your life? Because honestly, I'm finding it a bit hard."

- Lost in My Twenties


Dear Lost in My Twenties,

I'd be surprised if you said your twenties were easy for you as this decade of life is full of transitions, decisions, and expectations. And all of it happens at a time when you are just beginning to get a sense of who you are and what you really want. Rest assured you are not alone in feeling lost. In fact, it's very natural to feel lost in your twenties. It's a myth that you are supposed to know exactly what you want and how to get it when you graduate from college. College may teach us specifics about certain subjects, but we do not graduate with the life skills that make living as an official grown-up easy.

In terms of my journey, I went through a period where life I too felt completely lost which forced me to really examine who I was and what I was doing. I was in a job I didn't really enjoy as a TV literary agent even though hundreds of people would have loved to be in my position at my age. The decision to leave my job and try something new didn't come without fear, but I recognized I needed a change, a new direction to take my life in.

Fear had always stopped me and kept me in situations that were not aligned with who I was. It took courage to make the changes I did and I had to learn that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather feeling the fear and moving forward anyways. And as I moved forward, I realized that there were many internal changes I had to make before I could expect anything in my external world to shift. Bottom line: I had to learn who I was and like that person. Once I started to become happier with myself, I was able to begin to create a life that was more authentically successful.

But it took time as life is a constant journey. There is no "there" to get to. There is no formula to follow. There are no words of advice I can offer you that will make you happy and successful - you have to discover that on your own. As you travel on your own personal journey through life, here are a few things to consider along the way that may make the road ahead a little less bumpy:

• Stop comparing yourself to other people or measuring yourself against societal standards of where you think you should be. Keep your focus on your own life.

• Make a focused effort to learn from each and every one of your experiences. Reframe anything you may have perceived as a mistake as a lesson (and a blessing). Constantly ask yourself, "How can I learn from this?"

• If you aren't sure of your career path, take this time to learn as much as you can about various fields through research and informational interviews.

• Get your finances in order by getting on a budget, increasing your financial IQ, taking steps to improve your credit, and putting money into some kind of retirement fund.

• Take some time to really get to know yourself. Take this time in your life to look within yourself for answers rather than outside yourself for fulfillment. Work with a coach or counselor, attend personal growth seminars, and/or read self-improvement books.

• Focus on your relationship with yourself. Enjoy being single and spending some quality time figuring out who you are as a "me" before you jump into a "we."

Whatever you do, know that becoming secure within yourself and your career will take time. What you can do now is lay the groundwork for the life that you want, and take small steps to get there. Life experience is your best teacher. There is no magic elixir or secret mantra to give you what you desire. Living with self-criticism and chasing after expectations is exhausting and limiting so be easy on yourself. That said, be courageous. Step out of your comfort zone. Dare to look within, see what is stopping you and move forward in spite of your fear.