When people refer to their 20s, they mention all of these wild adventures, moving failures and successes, lots of heartbreaks and falling in love. Regardless of what the past year has given us, this places a lot of pressure on those of us who are in our 20s currently. I always tell my friends, in addition to telling myself, to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. One will often hear me say that we are only alive for so long and we have to make the most of it.

At the same time, taking care of ourselves is just as essential. We cannot have a sleepless night every night, and we cannot always live out of suitcases or live without repercussions. Our bodies are, unfortunately, not invincible. They are strong and capable, but even the strongest items can break if we do not take good care of them. If money were not an object (in the sense that we, sadly, need it to even have a roof over our heads or food on the table), I am sure that we could do a lot more. I know that I would be traveling every second and I would invest in all of my passions without worrying about how successful they will be.

When we are younger, we envision ourselves having a well-paid and fulfilling job while having enough energy to go for happy hour drinks with our friends every evening. One might envision glowing skin, attending pilates and yoga classes, and going on romantic dates or getaways with the perfect partner. We may even be planning our weddings or buying our dream homes. We are content with this because we also spent a few years traveling with our friends, experiencing night life, and making spur of the moment decisions all while excelling in our college/grad school courses. An expectation exists to accomplish all of these things in our 20s so that we can have the rest of our lives to invest in our families.

We speed up so that we can slow down later, but we are unstable throughout all of it. The proper footing is never quite underneath us. We could be having fun, but we also could be struggling mentally with all of the events that are prompted by the world in which we live.

Would it not make more sense to just follow our own paths without feeling the pressure to do or not do something? Who says that one has to jump straight into more school right after undergrad? Who says we have to be in serious relationships by the time we are 25 or be married shortly after? Luckily, I think more folks are realizing all of this hence not abiding by cookie cutter norms.

We tell our loved ones to experience life at their own paces, but what we tell ourselves could be totally different. I have the expectations that I will run a marathon within the next year and climb Mount Kilimanjaro within the next two years. Why? If I did either of these in the next five or ten years, they would still be meaningful accomplishments. When I was younger (not in my 20s), I thought that I would be living in New York City and working at some big time organization like the New York Times. The reality is that I am still in Minnesota, working at a small, local non-profit, and will be going to grad school with not enough money in my pocket this fall.

I still have had amazing experiences, ones that I would have never imagined for myself, and seen a lot of the world. I still have my fair share of wild stories to tell. I have met people who have influenced my life and their communities in impactful ways. I am only 22, but my 20s are already shaping up to be more than I imagined – just not in the way I thought.

I would rather do a few wonderful things than rush through every experience that I “should” have. If I cannot stop to smell the roses, would my 20s really be the whirlwind that I want them to be? My stories may not match the person next to me, or a person who was in their 20s decades ago, but they are just as cool. We do not have to be on the go 24/7. We can sleep a lot some days or binge watch TV shows or read books instead of running through the streets if we want to do so. We can spend an entire day crying if that is what will help us in that moment. Our lives do not end when we turn 30. Decades of living still exist after that and we should be making the most of those as well. I have people in my grad school cohort who are younger than I am as well as many who are nearing their 30s. We have all chosen our own paces and decided what works best for each of us. A conventional life does not have to exist if we do not want it to do so.

This post is inspired by my best friend, Harmanpreet, as she was ranting to me the other day about how she is only 20, and she does not know what she should be doing right now, or whether she is doing anything correctly. I think we owe it to ourselves, to our families, to those who have passed, and to the earth to just do what we want whenever we want*.

*without harming anyone, of course

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