One of my coworkers asked a couple of us today, as she nears her 20th birthday, what the biggest lessons we’ve learned in our twenties have been.
That’s a toughie, because I’m still a new-twenty, and my soul is rooted in at 19. I’m still learning how to stand on independent legs, and I’m still stumbling into the arms of people who love me more often than I’d like to admit.
It’s a toughie, because the years before my twenties were not kind ones. I made mistakes; I hurt other people, and other people hurt me. I lived in fear and resentment of and for the times I was rejected, the times I failed to live up to the standards that other people put before me. I was healing from manipulations and emotional abuse, from heartbreak and pain.
It was a fragile existence. It still is a fragile existence, some days.
I’ve only been a twenty for a year and a month now. What could I have learned in such a short time?
I’ve learned that promises aren’t contracts, and I’ve learned that that might not be a bad thing. There are some promises that shouldn’t have been made and that shouldn’t hold fast.
Not all friendships last, and that might not be bad, either. Because some people take more than you have or are willing to give. You will learn fast who will be there at noon (and again at 3 AM) when you need to release some of the pent up pressure behind your eyes and in your heart, when memories are so stifling that you forget where you are.
And sometimes you will be wrong about a person. It’s a bittersweet realization when someone you did not expect to stays by your side, and the person you thought would never stray is long gone.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help. With everything from homework assignments, to filing your taxes, to what brands are better to get at the grocery store, and that most of the people around you will have had to ask the same questions at some point or another. And if they haven’t, it’s only a matter of time.
It’s completely acceptable and not at all desperate or pathetic to get excited about free anything. Food, t-shirts, hugs, candy, pens, those funky wrist bands — it’s all fair game. Even if you don’t need it.
Twenty and beyond is a strange sphere of life — you’re still in an awkward in-between and there’s growth (emotional, mental, spiritual, physical) that keeps life turbulent long after you feel it should have settled. There’s still so much you don’t understand, and so much you want to understand, and so much that you’re forced to try to understand that you really don’t care about at all.
Twenty and beyond is exhausting; there isn’t enough time and you feel like you’re always running, but it’s exhilarating. It keeps your blood pumping and your muscles loose. Sometimes you’ll feel short of breath, but you learn to breathe deeply and enjoy every moment of the chaos.
Twenty and beyond can be awkward and gawky and uncomfortable, sure, but the awkward and uncomfortable makes for some good laughs later (I’ve never had as many opportunities to laugh at myself as I have this last year) and laughter is so good for the soul, so even that is it’s own kind of beautiful.
Mostly it’s beautiful. I know what I said earlier was discouraging — I was speaking out of sadness because today was dismal — and it was all true but it was not the entire truth.
The entire truth is going to be unique to you, so I can’t tell you what your twenty is going to be like. But I know you; you’re a bright sun ray sort of girl. And whatever happens, you’re going to be fine.