Your 20s are a difficult time. Britney said it best with the line “not a girl, not yet a woman.” And we all know how that turned out for poor Britney back in her 20s.
The truth of the matter is that, especially in this day and age, a lot of people in their 20s just aren’t happy. Some people will tell you it is because you are setting your goals too high without doing the work to deserve big rewards, and maybe you are. Others still will tell you that the world the Baby Boomers left for you has been picked clean of good jobs and financial stability, and it certainly seems like it has been.
But beyond the broad strokes, there are a million smaller things a lot of twenty-somethings do wrong that are keeping you in a funk. Here are five of the top offenders.
5. You keep circling back to your ex.
He was awesome when you dated him the first time around, things were okay for a while after the awesome wore off, and finally things weren’t okay. Either you made a smart decision and broke it off before things got too unhappy, or he did the same to you. But like your own version of The Walking Dead, the animated corpse of your once brilliant relationship keeps trudging back into your life.
Neither of you know to leave good enough alone and you find yourselves meeting for casual coffees that turn into sex, or you find yourself stressed out about something completely unrelated and send him “I miss you” in a text message.
Maybe it was growing up on a diet of chick flicks where true love always comes after a series of tumultuous breakups that makes you feel like you always need to bring him back around. Or maybe you just get lonely and he is someone who understands you, or at least did at one point.
You’re both clinging onto the bit of comfort you have for each other and, surprise, are doing yourselves more harm than good by retracing familiar territory. The longer you entertain these ghosts of a past relationship the more you keep yourself from finding someone new who is right for you.
4. You keep hanging out with your friends who do more harm than good.
Everyone has these friends: the ones who keep you miserable. At this point in your life they are more than likely just vestiges of periods past — maybe an old friend from high school or university, a cousin your age, a friend from your first job — and you keep them around because… Well you don’t know why you keep them around.
They are your friends, and friends stick together until the end, right? Well that attitude has only really brought you heaps of misery. Your relationship consists almost entirely of them putting you down about the clothes you buy, making you feel bad about the guys you date, or giving you grief about how much money you (don’t) make.
Alternatively you could have the friend who always needs you. They’re always in some kind of trouble, they’re always dating someone they need to be saved from, they’re always taking up all of your time and energy. They’re always just exhausting you.
Despite the fact that you are no longer in high school and you don’t need to worry about who to sit with at lunch every day, for some reason you’re hesitant to break off these friendships, even though you know you need to and you know that the repercussions in grown-up-world don’t matter.
You need to help yourself feel better by stepping back from these friendships and giving yourself a little space to breathe. One of the sad realities of being a grownup is that sometimes friendships just don’t work out, and no matter how much you care about them you have to let them go and wish them the best if they are hurting you — especially if they don’t realise they are doing it. It doesn’t have to be a big blowout, but missing a few phone calls and being busy a few too many times can go a long way.
3. You drink too much.
It was one thing to go out partying every weekend when you were 19, but now you’re a big ol’ grown up in their twenties and you’ve got to start acting the part.
Have you noticed that when you get together with that certain group of friends (your “weekend friends”) all they want to do is go drink somewhere? And are you even having fun waiting in big lines and spending way too much money just so you can say you went somewhere or did something?
There is nothing wrong with going out every once in a while, you are still young after all, but if you can’t remember the last weekend you didn’t spend getting drunk you should probably take a step back and analyse your life. Try playing board games, or video games, or doing a movie night this weekend and try doing it all without drinking. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll also feel good about the productive next morning you’ll have sans hangover.
2. You hate your job.
So you hate your job, congrats, along with breathing this is one of the major signs of being alive. But you hate your job in a way that goes beyond the woman across the office breathing too loud or parts of your lunch getting stolen.
You hate everything about your job, you hate what you’re going in every day to do, you spend half an hour in bed every morning staring at the ceiling thinking of ways you would quit if you didn’t need the scraps of money they pay you that you need so badly. You stare out the door of the stops on the subway leading up to yours just dreaming of hopping out and doing anything but going to work.
While you probably already spend countless hours every week searching for and applying for other jobs, you’re still stuck where you are. You already know that a change in your daily life is what you need to get you out of your funk, either that or electroshock therapy.
For the time being you need to work harder to find something — anything — you like about your job and hold on to it for dear life. If your favourite part of the week is your group meeting offer to take charge and plan it. If you really love those brief seconds out of the office grabbing coffee for yourself offer to grab coffee for everyone else and buy yourself a few extra minutes. Treat the symptoms for the time being while you look for a cure.
Then spend evenings and weekends working to make yourself that much more hireable to other companies. Take on small side projects, volunteer your skills, do anything to make yourself more marketable to other employers. Even if you can’t get hired somewhere else right away you’ll at least have something to look forward to during your miserable day at work.
And do yourself a favour and don’t try to explain this problem to a Baby Boomer, their sense of entitlement has clouded any understanding for the blights they have committed against your generation.
1. You aren’t exerting enough control over your life, your situation, and your own happiness.
At the end of the day it all boils down to you. You need to stand up and make a firm commitment to your own happiness everywhere in your life. If your ex calling you up makes you feel confused, nix him and start looking for someone new. If your friend is saying hurtful things to you, send her packing and make some kinder friends. If your drinking is interfering with your life, dump that shit down the drain and start waking up before noon on Sundays. If your job is making you miserable, work your ass off and find one that doesn’t.
You’re behind the wheel here, this is your life, and every decision ultimately comes back around on you. You’re a grown up, remember? You can’t blame this on your parents anymore. You’ve got to take control in every possible facet and steer your life away from the rocks before you’re 35 and thinking about how much you fucked things up in your 20s.
Make a conscious decision to work on your happiness and take it from there.
Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.
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