It was about this time last year that I found myself in a bit of a trough in the peaks and troughs of life. I had been dumped twice in the space of six months, still wasn’t 100% over my horrid ex-boyfriend, had started a new job that was not at all what I was expecting and was poor as an actual mouse. In the midst of all of this I’d started to develop a feeling of unease and anxiety that seemed to be largely comprised of a lot of questions I didn’t know the answer to:
Why do I only manage to go on dates with psychopaths? Why have I only got five pounds in my bank account? Why did I drink all the wine and text my ex a nonsensical message that ended in ‘and I broke my arm!’ when I didn’t break my arm at all? When is life going to feel like it’s supposed to?
T’was a mystery.
It’s amusing to look back on but at the time it felt anything but. And it turns out I’m not alone. Almost half of the British population feel that they are having some sort of life crisis and this is particularly prevalent with us lot in our mid – late twenties.
Finding myself in the midst of this confusion I sought advice from all the much older and much wiser people in my life and compiled it into this tome of ultimate wisdomness (yep that’s what I went for).
Don’t get me wrong, I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life. But I certainly feel a lot less anxious about it. So here we go.
Work out what you don’t want
Is there anything worse than someone asking you what it is you want from life?
One time in a job interview someone asked me where I saw myself in 5 years and I said ‘gosh probably celebrating the fifth anniversary of you asking me that question’ then laughed like a hyena whilst they sat in uncomfortable silence.
I did not get the job btw.
And I still don’t know the answer to that question.
However, our twenties are the perfect time to figure out what it is that we don’t want. And by proxy, what you do want.
Per example, my twenties have taught me that I have no interest in
- Working in a job that makes me want to stick pins in my eyes out of boredom. If it gets to the point where I feel like being sick on a Sunday night – I’m out. It’s just not worth it.
- Living with ten trillion people in one big happy housemate haven. Passive aggressive arguments about who moved the bin from the bin area specifically marked bins? Nah I’ll just pay slightly more rent thanks.
- Men that pretend you don’t exist until they’re drunk at 11.30pm (see also getting out of bed to go across London to ‘hang out’ at midnight – imma stay in bed probs…so disappointed to miss this golden opp tho…srsly.)
- Warehouse raves playing house music until 6am that charge you 8 quid for a hilariously retro drink like a ‘VK’ or ‘Smirnoff Ice’ that doesn’t even get you drunk and only gives you a sugar rush.
Once you’ve worked out what you don’t give a fuck about, it helps you gain a bit of clarity about what you do want without making your brain explode thinking about the endless possibilities of what you ultimately want out of life.
If you need a bit of help here can I highly recommend you head here for Sarah’s Knights trans-formative approach to not giving a fuck.
In my case it helped me find a brand new job that I actually enjoy and resulted in me deleting all the boys that made me feel like a sad old sock out of my phone. Baby steps kids. Baby steps.
Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s very easy to compare ourselves to others and then have a mad panic about it.
This isn’t even limited to people of our own age. Quite often it’s the YOUTH that give me the worst of the lurching ‘what am I doing with my life’ panic.
Like when you see some unbearably smug entrepreneur signing copies of their new book attended by their ten billion Instagram followers and then you realise they are only twenty fucking two and actually you may as well just be dead because you are so old and past it and will never achieve any of your life goals other than managing to eat marginally less cheesy snacks after 8pm. OMG BREATHE.
Comparing ourselves to others is a fool’s game and we just have to stop it. The problem with comparisons such as these are that it’s not rational and in that moment we see only what we want to see, not the reality of the situation. We don’t see the times where they were told no, struggled and felt like shit. We imagine they skipped straight into their successful happy place like a smug happy clam but of course that’s not true.
Everyone struggles, everyone feels like they just can’t do it sometimes. Rather than comparing ourselves to the faceless images of success that surround us we’d do better to remember that and just focus on ourselves.
This isn’t even limited to people that we idolise on social media btw.
Just the other day I met my friend G for lunch. She is someone I think of as imminently successful. She owns a flat, she is beautiful, she has a great job and manages to go on dates without falling asleep at the table. She makes life look very easy.
So, it was fairly surprising to see her in a slightly frazzled state over what she was doing with her life. The point here being, even the people you think have it all sorted worry and feel scared and trapped. We all do! It’s just life! So instead of comparing ourselves let’s help each other and actually tell each other how we feel. There’s strength in numbers and by admitting when things are a wee bit tough we might find we’re not as alone in the struggle as we thought.
And maybe delete Instagram off your phone for a bit. Yeah go on do it. Nothing good came from seeing some clear skinned fitness star brandishing her new book with the caption ‘Life goal achieved: first book by age of 21. Whooppeeeee.’ Literally nothing.
This also neatly leads me on to my next point…
Ban the word ‘should’
Ah good old expectations.
I should be married by now
I should be earning this amount of money by now
I should own my own house by now
Beating yourself up with some weird fantasy accomplishments that you probably dreamed up for yourself when you were 15 and ‘being Ben from A1’s girlfriend’ was on your ‘must achieve before I’m 30 list’ is just nuts.
Partly because everyone is an idiot when they are 15 (I wore fishnet gloves not as a joke and hero worshipped Avril Lavigne) and partly because back then 30 felt like it was ten hundred years away and not you know… (nervous high pitched laugh) JUST AROUND THE CORNER. What. I’m fine.
Should-ing yourself is problematic for two reasons
Firstly, it stops you from acknowledging just how amazing your life already is. No, you might not own your own house or be planning your wedding but I’ll bet that your life is plenty amazing without those things. And if you had those things would you be happy and satisfied or would you start pushing for the next wildly unrealistic goal? Well now I’m married I should really have a brood of unbearable children and a bigger house and another car and oh my god my head has exploded sorry. It’s a recipe for disaster
Secondly, it can actually lead to you pursuing things you don’t actually want.
Here’s a weird one: every time I see someone I used to know ten billion years ago getting engaged (this does not apply to my friends btw – only old acquaintances) I feel like I could possibly spontaneously vomit with panic.
When I spoke to my friend T about this she was kind of confused. I’ve never been big on the whole marriage and babies’ thing. Infact I broke off a relationship of 5 years precisely because it was hurtling towards that conclusion and it made me feel like I was wearing a really hot tight scratchy jumper of ENTRAPMENT. BREATHE AGAIN… Jesus…
So why does it induce this feeling of ‘oh my fuck what is my life’ in me?
Perhaps it all comes back around to that pesky beast: comparison. Seeing a picture of a girl who used to chew blu-tack at primary school waggling her finger at the camera with some sort of smug ‘nothing to see here apart from my eternal happiness’ caption whilst you sit at your desk death staring your phone as you wait for some moron to remember that you are alive and text you back can trick you into thinking that you wish you were also getting engaged whilst wearing matching fleeces. But if you’re honest with yourself the stuff you are beating yourself up for not having may be things you don’t even really want in the first place.
And that’s just a waste of valuable time really.
To quote my very wise friend N – “You don’t want to end up playing house with someone and living in a shoebox to save up to move to fucking…Barnet or something and have notched up ten years with someone by the time you’re 27 and have to check your shared calendar if you can go out to the pub after work just because that’s what you think you should be doing.”
And he’s totally right by the way. If you live by what you think you ‘should’ be doing you’ll only end up miserable.
Don’t get me wrong – if the above sounds like your dream then more power to you. Go right ahead! But if it’s not then why on earth would you beat yourself up over an ideal that doesn’t even set your world on fire.
Just Bloody do it.
As hard as it can be to remember, our twenties are a time when you don’t actually have to have the answer to what you want right this second.
It’s a time to experiment, to try new things, to get it wrong and then get it a bit more wrong until suddenly you feel like you’ve got it right.
It’s pretty scary out there at times and every time I so much as glance at a newspaper or a middle-aged person I’m reminded of the fact that the housing market means it will be near on impossible to buy a house ever unless you’re extremely fortunate or some bonkers distant relative dies and leaves you a shit load of cash. Or the fact that a university degree is no guarantee of a lasting career and to launch said ‘career’ you will most probably have to work if not for free then for bare minimum wage. Or the fact that a totally acceptable form of dating now includes long horrible silences punctuated by 11pm texts reading ‘Hey – what you up to this evening?’
‘Well I’m currently sitting in my pants with a blackhead strip on, binge watching Netflix because I have 5 quid to my name and picking ingrown hairs out of my legs in between crying. You?’
‘not much – you?’
‘Wanna come over?’
But the antidote to that is just to take a deep breath and take a chance. Do that thing you always wanted to do. If you fail then that’s life and you can dust yourself off and try again. Or try something different for that matter.
Put it this way – I don’t think anyone ever got to 70 and thought ‘gosh i wish i’d been a bit more cautious’. Unless they were…you know…like a bank robber or something…
Enjoy your journey
VOM. I know. I hate myself too.
But hey if it’s not about being happy then what on earth is life about anyway? So, take a deep breath and stop worrying so much about what you should be doing or where your life is going.
When the anxiety descends, go and do something that makes you happy. Go see your friends, go for a walk, go smell some books in an old bookshop (just me?), go lie outside and marvel at the fact that you beat the one in 400 TRILLION odds of being born in the first place. Whatever it is, go and do it.