this is the twenties

When I was in my twenties, it felt like I was riding wild horses, and I was hoping I didn’t go over a cliff.

~ Chaka Khan

Lately, “this is the 20s” has become my mantra.

I feel so grateful, so often, for having friends who are 30+. Hearing tales of their 20s, the struggles they experienced, and the ways things got easier—or simply just changed—once they stepped into the next decade of their existence, never ceases to soothe and remind me that things will be different.

When I’m swallowing huge chunks of self-doubt, and inhaling panic about what my life looks like or where it’s seemingly going, I bring myself back to their stories. I remember that this thing I’m experiencing, is just the twenties.

I’m not failing at life, I’m wholeheartedly succeeding—it just feels a bit fucking confusing.

I do often find myself counting down how many more years of the 20s I have left, though. It is hard not to literally wish my next four years away, because the last six years have been bonkers. There have been so many incredible moments, but there have been so many ridiculously hard and painful ones too.

I don’t feel 26. I feel about 103.

I find it hard to believe that everything I’ve experienced has fitted into just 26 years. As much as this is exhausting, it is also reassuring. I see how much has happened in such a short space of time. I see how completely different things are from six years ago, or even just three.

I can only imagine that this change will continue. That six years from now, things will look very different to what they do today. I hope so. My 30+ friends tell me this happens, and at the moment, they know more than me.

My inner critic has various elaborate and convincing theories, as to how rules or life patterns are different for me, and that things are going to be how they are now, forever…but there is nothing that makes me any different to anyone else that has transitioned from the 20s to the 30s, and then to the 40s…so whether I believe it or not, things will get easier.

They have to. Even if just a little bit.

The thing I love most about my generation—and something that rarely gets recognized—is that we’re fucking hustlers. We make it work. We get that money. We’re innovative and resourceful. The odds may be stacked against us and yet we still find a way to triumph. 

Ryan O’Connell

The 20s feel like a right of passage.

They feel like the toddler years of adulthood. They’re the time in which I’ve found my feet and am learning to walk down a path I’ve chosen, even if I sometimes wonder where the fuck I’m going. It’s the time I’ve found my voice, and am learning to speak—truly speak—for the very first time.

They’re the years in which I’m learning to embrace the art of therapeutic tantrums. The years I’m continually discovering what I need around me, in order to thrive and flourish. And I’m learning how to find it for—and give it to—myself, rather than just feeding myself with whatever is nearby or whatever’s been handed to me by the people closest. They’re the years I’m learning it’s safe to be authentic—to share the whole of me. My sorrow and my joy, my pain and my beauty.

I’m beginning to develop relationships based on compassion, mutual respect, and understanding, rather than just befriending the nearest cool kid. I’m learning to soothe myself with creative expression—sometimes messy, sometimes articulate—when I realise life doesn’t look how I wanted it to.

It has also been a time when childhood and early-adult trauma has surfaced, and the animal of anxiety and depression has reared its peculiar head. It’s left me feeling isolated, nutty, and different from everyone.

But I’m not.

I’m healing from a traumatic youth, but I’m also just being 20-something. And one day, I’ll find myself as a 30-something, offering soothing words and tales of my experiences, to someone my junior. Because despite the feeling of being almost continuously lost, I know I’ll look back on these years with compassion and warmth. I’ll be able to see them as vital chapters of my journey, vital versus of my life song, without which I would be incomplete. Chapters or versus, that are here to make me, not break me.

The thing that has blown me away this whole time, is how much I’ve grown. And how much I continue to.

I will allow myself to daydream about stepping foot into the 30s, because it makes this time feel a little bit more manageable—I know it’s not forever—but when my critic is bashing me over the head with a story of my supposed failings, I’ll continue to flip that critic the bird, and remind myself that, “this is the 20s”.

And when I hit 30, I’ll have a massive banner at my party that says:

“I made it! Thank fuck for that.”

Originally published on elephant journal.

do i know enough to be a grown up?

I’ve been feeling really worried, lately.

I’m worried that I’m not grown-up enough to be ‘being a Grown-Up’.

I’m worried that each decision I make—life decisions or daily decisions—comes from a place of not knowing enough, so I struggle to trust whatever option I pick. And each decision I tackle has a 100 tonne weight hanging from it, because of a worry that the decision will freeze the future to be a certain way:

“If I do that then my life will be like that forever…if I choose this, my life will be this way, forever.”

I freak out that I don’t have long enough to make the wrong decisions, and I don’t fucking want to, anyway.

I want to do the right thing, always.

Change and new-ness has been floating into my life in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. Perhaps, ever (to this extent). Things I’ve known and things I’ve needed, have been—and are—shifting within me and around me. As much as this has been exciting, inspiring, hopeful, and beautiful, it’s also freaked me out.

As a child of trauma, change can feel—and does feel—fucking terrifying. Change feels like something bad is about to happen—I’ve got a knot in my stomach almost constantly, and the need to look over my shoulder to check that no-one or nothing bad is coming, is almost constant, too.

Change that brings goodness is the most terrifying change of all.

What if it gets taken away?

What if it disappears?

What if I do something that makes it go away?

This type of change has also freaked me out because it’s continuously landing me in a pot of uncertainty around my ability to make this work, and keep this goodness coming. The sense of responsibility I have towards me and my life suddenly feels overwhelming.

I want to do my ultimate best.

I want to provide myself with a life I want—and love—to lead.

I never want to turn into my parents.

I so desperately want to succeed.

I so desperately don’t want to fail, or fuck-up, or become them.

What if I don’t know enough to make this all happen—to be a ‘successful’ Grown-Up? 

I want to know and learn all that I’m ever going to learn in life, right now. That way I’d be able to make decisions that ensure a beautiful and fulfilling future, for myself—if I know everything I’ll ever know now, I won’t go down routes or pathways that result in me fucking up or failing. I can just get on with enjoying.

My inner critic has a colourful opinion about all this, too:

“Fucking up when you’re young is okay, but you’re 26 now. You’re responsible for your own life—get your shit together. There’s no-one to catch you if you fail, so you can’t. You’ll be so ugly and embarrassing if you do. People will will ditch you. You’re old enough to be classed as a Grown-Up, so you can’t fuck up anymore. You need to figure out what you want and need, and go get it—you should know that all by now. Noone else is fucking up or failing, and if they do, they do it skilfully or beautifully. You don’t.”

Writing this, I laugh.  

Firstly, I’ve made so many mistakes already, I’m probably (definitely?) making some now, and I’ll 100% make heaps in the future—that’s 100% guaranteed. Secondly, the inner wise part of me knows that in these mistakes—the fucking’s up and the supposed failings—I’ve learnt a shit-tonne and grown loads. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. And thirdly, all those wise folk out there say that any successful person fails a fuck-load, right?

I fear the potentially painful embarrassment and aching regret of fucking-up or failing, but I also fear the potential regret of all this fucking worrying.

I’m trying desperately to make decisions with the compassionate awareness that I’m figuring life out, and that what I’m choosing to do could be ‘wrong’ (I fail or fuck-up), but it could also be ‘right’ (it brings me goodness and happiness and joy).

The concept of right and wrong is debatable anyway…

This change that’s come recently, has sparked a new depth of self-love and an ability to parent myself, beneath the worry and fear that’s been flying—and kicking—around. The need to fight reality, panic, and freak out has had a slightly looser hold. I’ve generally been choosing the option of nourishment, self-love or love, in moments I’d usually hit the panic button or self-destruct.

This internal shift is the change that’s brought the most beauty and joy, but also the most worry:

Is love (from myself and from others) really what life’s all about?

What if all the guru’s in the world have got it wrong?

Is it really okay to love myself if I fuck-up and/or fail?

Will my life really unfold around me, if I give myself what I need right now? 

What if the life that unfolds, isn’t the one I want?

What if the way I’m living and my process that I’m trusting, is wrong?

What if I’m being irresponsible listening to my needs in the way that I am?

What if, what if, what if….ugh.

My inner perfectionist and nerdy organiser, needs proof. She needs to know that putting self-love at the top of the agenda of daily life, works—that it brings me health, happiness, stability, freedom, and joy.

She needs to know that to give myself permission to fuck-up, and to choose the option of nourishment rather than destruct isn’t irresponsible, it’s essential.

I don’t have enough years under my belt of living this way to show me this is really true for me and my life. I’ve only got the words of wise folk, and my instinct, telling me it is.

I definitely don’t feel like I know enough to be a Grown-Up, and I feel utterly terrified and overwhelmed about the fact that I am one, and that I’m responsible for my life—and the ambition to lead a beautiful one—but I’m beginning to see that this journey I’m on is one that’s jam-packed full of learning.

So if I don’t know it now, I’ll certainly know it at some point in the future.

And I’ve got time.

Lots of time.

Originally published on elephant journal.