2012 marks the last year of my twenties.
Previously, saying that made me collapse into a fit of inconsolable defeat. Once, on the phone with my father about my car being paid off when I'm 30, I fell to the floor during the middle of the conversation. All it took was me saying, "Well, when I'm 30..." and my brain processed that as someone taking a bat to the back of my knees. My father heard heaving gasps on the other line and waited for my two minute bawl fest to conclude before daring to continue the topic at hand.
I never thought I’d make it past 29. Not because I have a craving for horse tranquilizers or a death wish obsession with Kurt Cobain, but because it seemed nearly impossible to imagine a life past that. My brain simply would shut down when thinking about my 30s. Or maybe, much like the Mayans, my internal calendar simply stops on 2012. Being an only child of divorce, I never planned out my future to include things like marriage and children, so a life after 30 seemed moot. I guess deep down I always thought I would stay a kid and my 20s have been a roller coaster of accepting that that is not the case.
Now that I’m getting closer to 30, I welcome it. If these past few years have been any indicator of things to come in terms of life balance, then I’m looking forward to the more stable mental well-being that my 30- and 40-something lady friends promise will come.
Entering your 20s is initially exciting. It’s like exiting the womb for a second time, but this time you’re all big and understand what the hell people are saying and you can say stuff back in return. At 20 I was about to start my life and I had no idea what amazing prospects the future held. I also had no idea that I would have many nights crying and drinking at home alone, screaming to no one, “WHY?!? WHY MUST I GO THROUGH THIS INSUFFERABLE AGE!”
Looking back, each year of my 20s felt like a mini lifetime. I was clearly a different girl each year as I got closer to understanding who I was. Even though it takes many years, if not forever, to finally understand who we are, the twenties in particular are a challenging exercise in bewilderment and questioning. My 20s lifeline has been a roller coaster of extreme ups and downs, bad and good decisions and amazing discoveries. I cringe thinking about some of the douchey dudes I dated, talking endlessly to my parents and friends about my trivial problems and episodes of extreme flakiness when I was in a state of perpetual Deer Caught in Headlights Syndrome. But I also see many milestones, milestones that seem more common the closer I get to 30. Because I never had very specific and large goals as a child, my twenties have been about small and achievable goals that have given me personal satisfaction the older I get.
Each year of my twenties has been dramatically different:
At 20: I was at film school thirty miles from home. My high school boyfriend came to see me almost every day and I spent most weekends at my Mom’s house. I still hung out with my high school best friends who also went to college close to home. I enjoyed studying film immensely and figured that the following year I would graduate and head to the big city (NYC or Toronto) and begin my life as a film director/actress/writer.
At 21: I was offered a job to work for an Oscar-winning actor at his production before I had completed college and found myself living in Los Angeles (a city that never even popped up on my radar of places to live) where I knew no one. My boyfriend back home realized before I did that we were through and though I got over the break-up quickly, I found myself extremely lonely in my 24/7 career path. I would visit home and feel progressively alienated from the life I previously knew.
At 22: I found myself having difficulty handling my life in LA, but absolutely determined to become a success at what, I had no idea. I slept with my phone next to my head, dated people I wasn’t supposed to and found myself slowly slipping away from the girl I knew. I essentially became an angry jerk that made bad decisions. I had difficulty finding the support group I had back home because I worked so much and so did everyone in LA.
23 was an extension of 22, and I spent a lot of time taking photos of myself drunk on my bedroom floor. I did this because I wanted to remind myself down the road how bad I felt at one point in my life and I liked looking at pictures of myself because that’s what narcissistic 23-year olds do. In my career, my life was more adventurous than I could have ever imagined for myself, but I was becoming increasingly more unhappy. Was it possible that the career in film that I always wanted wasn’t right for me?
At 24: A change was happening, but I didn't know it yet. I finally recognized that being in a constant funk wasn’t normal and I was tired of being all emo and listening to M83 songs while longingly staring out the window at the lights of Hollywood. Halfway through this year, I decided I was going to leave LA and try something new while I was still young.
At 25: I found myself driving to Austin one day, where I also knew no one, had no job lined up, but finally felt like me again. I moved to Austin to work on my writing and that’s what I did. Friends and family from back home commented on the fact that I sounded happy again and I no longer felt guilty that I didn't hang in there with LA and left my career in the industry I went to college for. I realized that maybe your twenties are about trying new things and finding what is right for you.
At 26: I felt like I was home in Austin for the first time since I left my real home. I met wonderful people and found the creative spark I was looking for. I still continued to date douche bags, but they were a nicer grade of douchery.
At 27: I found myself getting very serious about my writing and the direction I wanted to go in my life. For the first time I found myself having very specific goals other than the ones I wrote at 7 years-old that include broad ambitions such as “BECOME REALLY REALLY FAMOUS BY THE AGE OF 10.” “WRITE 40 BOOKS BEFORE 20” and “MAKE 50 MOVIES BEFORE 30.” I began to realize that I wasn’t a 9-5 girl and despised working jobs where I had to pretend I gave a crap.
At 28: I finally made the career jump I was looking for and though I’m only on the first step of that career path, I’m looking forward to what the future may bring. I also met someone who loves me for me and I love him for him. Someone who I clicked with. Before then, this seemed like a nearly impossible feat.
And my thirties will bring a whole new set of mini chapters. This next decade will bring new life experiences, some I will now be prepared for and some that I will not. I will turn 30 and life will keep going, but this time I will have more assurance than I did ten years ago. Sometimes, I wish I could tell my 21-year old self that everything will be ok, but I doubt I would have listened.
Even though I had numerous people telling me that it will all work out when I would talk endlessly about my twenty-something existential crisis, I did not believe them. Your twenties are about feeling like crap and making bad decisions and not listening to anyone so that one day you don't. It's about trudging through the muck and the mayhem so that you'll become the person you're suposed to be. It's about growing up and laughing maniacally when seeing someone in their early twenties and thinking, "Oh boy, I'm so glad I'm not you anymore."