Today is my 25th birthday.
While I’ve never been big on birthdays, turning a quarter of a century old is kind of supposedly an official, monumental thing – or is it?
I don’t feel any different. I’m sure we all know this by now; waking up on the morning of your birthday does not magically make you a different person.
If anything, I can breathe a little sigh of relief, knowing that this day has been looming on the horizon for quite some time now. The quarter life angst hump has finally been reached.
I’ve heard that as people grow older, they tend to feel more comfortable in their own skin, and know who they are just a little bit more than they used to. They start shedding all the baggage and nonsense and rise from the ashes.
I haven’t had that same experience. If anything, self doubt and confusion have, in some ways, become bigger issues for me. My twenties have been pretty tough, and this past year has been the hardest for me.
Some life changes and unmet hopes have left me feeling more profoundly sad than I ever have before. I was nestled in a nice little bubble of what I felt my life should look like, and it worked for a while. I was comfortable enough, and happy with what I had going for me, until at one point, I was left hanging on for dear life. When it all came crashing down, I lost my sense of self.
Life started pull me way back when I was meant to be moving forward. Experiences I missed out on, and growing pains I might have numbed myself to, made themselves known. Unresolved issues came out to play. I felt betrayed – and like a little bit of a drama queen for even thinking that.
While we can never know what the future holds (unless you’re a seer – then hit me up), I now know that there is no timeline in life. I always told myself this, but I can finally understand it. There are still times when I feel inadequate, more than ever before, and times when anxiety takes over. I’m so far off from where I wanted to be. But there are so many things I’ve learned this past year alone that have made these troubles worthwhile.
I am still very much a work in progress, and I’m only just starting to find out who I am. One thing I can do is continue to live in the present moment, no matter what it brings, while striving to create a life that I am truly happy with. I thought I would share three of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my most difficult year (so far – cue nervous laughter), in the hope that we can all kind of do this growing up thing together.
There have been many mornings this year when, for the first time, I would wake up sad, angry, and too tired to face the day. For a while I thought it all came down to being too weak to cope, but I’ve realized that the fact that I have continued to get up and face the day, every day, whatever it brings, has made me stronger than I’ve ever been before. Hard and painful times don’t last forever, and are an opportunity for great personal growth. I will continue to embrace whatever life throws at me and try to grow from it, knowing that I have the resilience to keep going – even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Things don’t change overnight. Being a devoted academic for most of my life meant that I could study hard, take a test, and almost instantly know the outcome. A lifetime of instant gratification has made not seeing results as quickly a little disheartening. But time isn’t something I just want to wish away, and life isn’t meant to be lived as if it’s a race. If I only wait for what’s next, I’m sure I’ll look back one day and wonder what I was doing throughout most of my life. As I always like to say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Investing in yourself is a lifelong pursuit, and I’m learning to plant things in faith for a better future – and that can only happen in the present.
The power of gratitude, la dee effing da, is actually a real thing. At times, it has been nearly impossible to think of things that I’m grateful for in my life. It’s not that I’m a naturally ungrateful person. But when it felt that everything was going wrong, it was challenging to reframe my thinking. Looking for things around you to be grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, is something I think is so important. (And, you know, Oprah says we should do it.) I’ve been reminding myself daily to count my blessings because no matter how bad things seem, they could always be worse. And there are always reasons to be happy to be alive.
I’m quite a bit curious as to what the next year will bring. The road might be rough, but if we can learn from setbacks and have faith that things are as they should be in this moment, that’s what really matters. While I might not be in control of everything, I am in control of what I’m in control of. And that should always be enough.