the quarter life crisis series: remember to breathe

I was honored to be asked by a fellow blogger that I’ve met through the 20sb group to serve as a guest blogger this week during his vacation.  Thanks so much, Patrick, for this fun opportunity.  Check out his blog!  Here is what I wrote about, what he calls, The Quarter Life Crisis (aka. being a twentysomething in the post-college world).  I could say so much (!), but this is what I came up with during this past week of travel and more travel. (PS I’m still recovering.)  I’ll be back soon with more on Julie’s beautiful wedding and hopefully be back to regular posts soon!  Thanks for your patience.

When I was a sophomore in college someone said to me, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”  Six years later I can still remember that moment so clearly.  Not only had it caught me off guard, but it made my always-thinking mind think even more.  Why did he say that to me?  What did he think I was looking for?  Did I look lost?  Was it his way saying that I looked ‘tired’ (ie. you look like crap)?  I revisit that memory every so often and realize how he saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed.  I was a naïve twenty-years old at the time, stuck in a world of daydreams; contradicting questions; and never-ending what ifs.  I was looking for something, and in fact, it’s the same thing I’ve been looking for it for as long as I can remember- both consciously or unconsciously, depending on the day.  And between you and me, I’m pretty certain that it’s the same thing that I’m looking for now. 

 On that note let me pause for a second because I’m remembering that, as a guest blogger, (some of ) you)don’t know a thing about me.  To put it best, I’m a very, very, very single, Bachelor’s Degree-holding twenty-six year old currently residing in the big city of Chicago.  Now generally speaking, when I tell people that I lived here they immediately feel the need to share “I love Chicago” and indulge me with their stories of Cubs games, love for pizza at Gino’s East or Giardano’s, and their shopping escapades on Michigan Avenue.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago too…on some days…those most likely beginning with the letter “S”…that occur in certain seasons, neither being too hot nor too cold. 

 As I’ve come to experience, Chicago is a different city for tourists than it is for residents.  I moved here eighteen months ago without knowing more than 10 people- most based on what Facebook told me.  To say that the relocation was out of my comfort zone is a complete understatement.  I was numbed by anxiety, fear, and sadness as I moved hundreds of miles away from family and friends to a city I’d only been to once before (after accepting the new job).  Everyone saw this as an amazing new adventure, as they expressed their jealousy, everyone except me. That was then and this is now.  I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that I took a huge leap of faith in moving here, and how much I’ve grown as a result.

Now that you know a little bit about my current status let me attempt to comfort your own anxieties with my thoughts on being a twentysomething in the world today, or as it’s being called, the Quarter Life Crisis.  First let me acknowledge that this post is based merely on opinions based on my individual experiences and observations.  Feel free to agree or disagree.  After all, to each his own.  Years ago I would have agreed that my twenties were a period of crisis (after crisis); however I’ve recently learned to embrace this time in my life and treat it as a learning experience.  Sure, some days just down-right suck.  Trust me, my life is far from perfect, but that’s the way of the world- whether you’re in your trial-and-error twenties or not.   

I remember reading a quote years ago from a famous actress, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was.  Anyways, she made a comment about how she would never go back to her twenties, as they were marked with doubts, fears, insecurities, mistakes, regrets, frustrations…shall I go on?  If you’re in your twenties, have been in your twenties once before or know how to count to twenty, I’m sure you have experienced a doubt or frustration of your own at some point.  And if you really haven’t, then I recommend you do so.  Why?  Well, that’s how you learn more about yourself and your capabilities, silly. 

Earlier this year I was fortunate to take an online Human Relations class that greatly influenced my perception on life as a twentysomething.  Professor Shostak replied to one of our Discussion Board posts by saying: Learn about life by living it.  Learn about success from failure, and about what works by making mistakes.  I sat on this quote for a few days, thinking the same thing you most likely are- Why would you encourage failure and mistakes?  Professor Shostak also shared this Japanese proverb with us: Fall down seven times, get up eight.  Doesn’t that perfectly describe life as a twentysomething?  I actually experienced a fall…get up experience (again) earlier this week after receiving a blind-sighted rejection email for an internship program that I’ve been counting on participating in.  Sure it stung a bit, especially after reading that email over and over again, making sure that I read it correctly.  (Yep, rejection.)  But instead of throwing in the towel and moping around, like I may have done a few years ago, I picked myself back quite nicely after the initial disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy but my days of giving up and wondering ‘what if’ are over.  Plus when it’s something that you truly want, there’s no obstacle can stand in your way.     

So at the beginning of my post I mentioned that I’ve identified that I’m still looking for something that I may very well have been looking for since my younger days.  Before I share, let me ask, what are YOU looking for?  Maybe I should rephrase that: What are YOU hoping to find? 

For me, I’m just hoping to find love and happiness.  Easy, right?  Now I’ll forgive you for assuming that by love and happiness I am envisioning a romantic love.  I mean after all I’m a very, very, very single girl and who doesn’t want to find love?  (And I do too.)  But what I’ve been hoping for find is love for myself.  Around the same time that the “I hope you find what you’re looking for” comment was made, my mom said the following to me: You cannot expect someone to love you until you love yourself.  It took me many years and a broken heart to understand how right she is, and my only wish is that I realized this sooner…but better late than never.

I’ve spent the last two weekends back in Ohio attending the weddings of two of my best girl friends.  On Saturday I was honored to serve as Maid of Honor for my friend, Julie, who I’ve known since I was an innocent freshman in college.  I love this candid photo of her because every doubt, worry, stress, and fear is erased from that beautiful bride’s mind.  As you can expect, my friends’ weddings caused my mind to think, and think some more.  I stood up on the altar, with (happy) tears in my eyes- witnessing love in its purest form- finding myself daydreaming at times.  As I get older and watch my friends get engaged, married, and begin having babies, I find myself wanting these things for myself more.  And as happy as I am for Julie and her husband, Ken, I am still the twenty-six year old who wants to find a love like theirs… one day.  (Chills.)

Life is a journey.  Such simple words yet so true.  However, it’s taken me a long to see the validity in that four-word phrase.  Life as a twentysomething can be compared to a choose-your-own-adventure novel.  You are the main character in your story, and not only do you get to choose your supporting cast, but you also have a role in choosing the plot.  If you want to end a chapter and begin a new one, do it.  Sure there are obstacles in the way- that’s inevitable.  But nothing is impossible.  Nothing is holding you back.  Nothing, except yourself.  I wasted a lot of time in my early twenties wondering- about anything and everything.  So many regrets played over and over in my mind, influencing my outlook on things; however, here I am, still standing taller and stronger than the day before.  Sure it’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible.  I have stumbled and fallen as much as anyone.  And bruises and scars, don’t even get me started on where they derived from, but as the song goes- scars are souvenirs you never lose.  Embrace each and every one of them because they have helped you because who you are today.

If I can leave you, my fellow twentysomethings, with a few words of advice, here they are.  Take chances.  If something tickles your fancy in any way, then don’t sit back and wonder ‘what if’.  Put yourself out there and see what happens.  As my lovely Grey’s Anatomy stressed- Knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping, and even the biggest failure, even the worst, beats the hell out of never trying.  My new philosophy on life is live fearlessly.  If you can live without fear, then you can truly live- no matter what age you are.  And along your journey, don’t get too discouraged and never give up.  You’ll find it eventually, usually when you least expect it.  You may need to take an unexpected path to get there but you’ll get there, and when things get a little lonely and/or stressful, just remember to breathe. 

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