And so approaches the end of another decade of my life, my twenties. I wish I could go back in time and tell teenage me not to assume I’d have everything figured out by 25. I’d tell her that despite any setbacks, I’d reach my 30th year of life in a place I didn’t think was accessible to me, a little brown girl from Sharpstown, years ago.
This decade showed me so much and humbled me in ways I can’t quite put into words, but it also showed me my strength and resilience in tough situations. I wanted to share some of the biggest lessons I learned in case there’s another little brown girl somewhere (or just anyone) that’s about to turn 20 and is looking ahead with unease and uncertainty. I don’t sugar coat things so fair warning, it will be hard. Ultimately though, you’ll blossom into a beautiful thirty year old and realize it was all for the best.
Timelines are Crap.
I said what I said. I have caused myself so much grief over the years by trying to meet imaginary timelines for everything. Graduate by this date, be married by such and such, buy a house before X date. Save up this much money by then, have my Mom set up the way I’d like by Y. Life literally said nope, nope, nope, and nope. And you know what? It’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine.
I’m currently happier than I had ever been in my younger years and I wouldn’t trade the position I’m in or the experiences I’ve had for the world. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t have goals or should just let life happen to you – don’t do that.
Just know that taking more time to achieve your goals is never a bad thing. If there are stumbles on any of the courses your navigating, say graduating takes you a bit longer than you thought, there is likely a very good reason for it. You just can’t, and likely won’t, understand it until your way on the other side of the mountain.
Be strategic without stressing yourself over arbitrary timelines set by society. Our lives don’t begin and end in our twenties. You shouldn’t sacrifice doing things that are true to you or rush anything you know is in your best interest. If you want to take that extra year to graduate or are going to tough out that job because your gaining knowledge, go ahead. The world will not end because you missed your 17-year-old lofty idea that you’d be making six figures by 25.
You’ll Continue Learning How to Build, Navigate, and Fail at Relationships.
Excuse my French, but – this shit got me. My twenties gave way to my first cute teenybopper love and then a couple of years later to my first “grown-up” relationship. I learned how to navigate the ever-changing and often stressful dynamics with friends and family. Let me just tell y’all now – I failed miserably, time and time again. The real ones are still around despite my blunders, and the same will likely happen with you.
For the girls reading this – let’s talk boys real quick and get it out of the way. LADIES, quit it with the all men are trash nonsense. Some suck, yes, but so can we. Your twenties will hopefully be the foundation for you learning how to be self-aware and conscious of the person you are and how your behaviors are relayed to others. I realized I mimicked my mother’s incredibly strong-willed “it’s my way or the highway” way of managing relationships. After a few years of vicious brawls, struggling with depression, and some enlightening therapy sessions, I finally realized that maaayyybbbeee – the same behavior I found intolerable at home would also be unacceptable to someone else. Note: if you constantly find yourself blaming others (especially in relationships) for the same repeated situations/behaviors, just know it’s a great time to take a second and step back. There’s a common denominator in all of that in need of a little lecture (*ehh hem* – you. FYI – this El/La Toxica sh*t is not cool).
What I will give you a heads up on, is to go ahead and brace yourself to learn these lessons the hard way. I had a very whimsical idea of what growing up would be like in my teens but I can undoubtedly say now, that for every lesson worth learning, I had to be dragged through it. However, these same tribulations will teach you what is most important for your mental and emotional well being. You’ll learn your boundaries and when to be firm versus accommodating, how to be self-accountable. And throughout this course of self discovery I’d also advise you not be so fast at canceling everyone and everything. Most everyone around you are experiencing the same naivety. Give them, and yourself, sufficient grace and empathy.
You Don’t Owe Anyone Sh*t.
Respectfully. This goes for relationships, your career, hell, the neighbors I don’t know. If you feel stressed by them – THAT’S WHO I’M REFERRING TO. If someone/something is constantly robbing you of your joy, your energy, your ability to function correctly – then it’s time to cut that out. Yes, I know I just said give people grace, but don’t do it to the point where you’re over-extending yourself to the max. Everything has a balance and learning when to say no is critical for your self-development. Some of us learn this skill early on, think Naomi Osaka. At 23, she pulled out of the French Open after them throwing a fit because she didn’t want to do a press conference (heavy on the ‘miss me with it’ energy). I’ve only recently learned to have the gumption to put myself first so watching her confidence and strength as she stood her ground has been truly inspiring.
You saying no to some plans you really didn’t want to show up to, or to additional responsibilities way out of your scope won’t, and shouldn’t, be the end of the world. If they are, then it’s time to reevaluate your circumstances.
Do Things That Force You Out of Your Comfort Zone.
Being a certified non-risk taker, I have mastered the craft of staying in my comfort zone. I can think of many ways that hindered me, and if I had to tell myself or you anything – it’d be just that. Don’t be so afraid of the world; book that solo trip, try out that new activity. If you can think of at least a handful of ways that the experience will enrich your life and create memories you’ll look back on fondly, then go for it.
I Still Don’t Know What I’m Doing.
Surprise surprise. This was the most painful lesson of all. I wanted to be the all-knowing Oz by the time I hit 30. I wanted to have answers to everything. I was going to coast through the rest of my life. But whoomp whoomp, if I had everything figured out already, then what the heck would I be doing after 30? It took getting into my late twenties to realize that that would be, for one, painfully boring, and two, what kind of badass would I be if I just stopped growing in my twenties? Oh, that’s right, I wouldn’t be one.
I now don’t mind what’s left to come. I welcome the adventure, the new experiences, the stories I have yet to tell.
Most importantly, I’m thankful for the people that are with me now. The friends that have stuck around through my extraordinary and most disagreeable times. I’m grateful for the wisdom that comes from age and from spending time understanding the generational behaviors passed on within my family. And I’m thankful for surviving the moments that I thought would mentally break me. To the two best friends God gave me – I owe y’all more than you’ll ever know.
I don’t care what you’re going through – DO NOT – I REPEAT – DO NOT CUT YOUR BANGS. Why is this such a thing? I don’t know, but seriously, put the scissors DOWN. And don’t box dye your hair black either. What was I thinking? Lord.