Don’t Have It All Figured Out in Your 20s? That’s OK, And Here’s Why
Chances are, you’re reading this right now because you’re taking a breather from something important. You have a 9 to 5 to pay off your student loans, or maybe you boycotted school and/or a “real job” in favour of the heavy hustle of self-employment. You constantly wonder (read: incessantly stress) whether or not you chose the right path. You don’t even know where this path leads and you feel like your time is running out.
If this strikes a chord, you’re definitely not alone.
I spent the better half of my life working towards a big, shiny fashion career. Four years of fashion school and two clothing lines later, my visions of the future crumbled when I realized the industry just wasn’t for me. Life came at me fast; my ideals and inclinations seemed to have evolved without warning or consent.
I was beating myself up for wasting time and panicking about what to do for the remainder of my existence. Then, on top of these wonderfully counterproductive anxieties, I started doubting my ability to accomplish anything at all. I was 23. And every single one of my girl friends have struggled with the same inner turmoils. That’s more than a little fucked up, if you ask me.
The truth is, perhaps more than any generation before us, we put a disproportionate value on not just youth, but precocious youth. We’ve been conditioned to believe that being a self-made billionaire CEO by the age of 23 is standard; that getting a wrinkle instead of a spot on Forbes 30 Under 30 is a disgrace. Though it can be inspiring when viewed through a certain lens, our youth-obsessed culture can be awfully toxic, too.
But plenty—if not most—people figure their shit out way later in life. Vera Wang trained all her young adulthood to be an Olympic figure skater before she took a whack at design well into her 40s. Julia Child didn’t even know how to cook until she got married in her late 30s. Do you know what Oprah was up to in her 20s? Getting fired from a television show.
All experiences add texture to being; sometimes a career path (and life) isn’t linear, but the wisdom you gain along the way is always invaluable. Personally, my biggest hurdle wasn’t finally discovering my true passion and pursuing success; it was unlearning the idea that I’m supposed to know exactly WTF I’m doing. After leaving the pursuit of a fashion career in the rearview, I went back to “stable” jobs and committed myself to curiosity: collecting a shit ton of books, enrolling in one-off classes in various fields of study, picking the brains of people who have already accomplished a wide range of different things. And there was a point between reading some poetry and listening to Zadie Smith at a TIFF discussion that I rediscovered my it: I wanted to write.
I’m now at work on a novel in hopes to be a published author. Though I’m still unsure of what my future looks like, I’m busy enjoying the process. And while the uncertainty can be stressful, what I’ve discovered is this: There is no ticking clock on your freakishly lucrative startup or 5-star movie. You are more creative and feel more motivated when your self-worth isn’t based on the number of times you’ve gone around the sun. Be present and enjoy the spontaneity of young adulthood; when you’ve watered your garden enough, you will blossom.