Friday, October 16, 2009

Lost (an open letter to all you twenty-somethings)


“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
-George Bernard Shaw

With increasing frequency I’ve either been stumbling across posts on blogs, or have been having great conversations with people (mostly in their twenties) who are facing tremendous uncertainty in their lives. As someone who's been through his twenties and lived to tell about it, I want to say a few things.

The general feeling I'm getting from some of you is that you feel unsettled, and more than a bit lost. Maybe you feel that your life is on hold, you’re not moving forward fast enough (or at all) because you’re already in your early/mid/late-twenties and you haven’t reached personal goals. Life right now isn’t what you expected it to be when you got here. You’re unhappy with certain areas in your life (career, family, relationships, finances etc.). As if the pressure you're under isn't enough, some of you also face it from family who are counting on you to rise to their expectations. Some days you just want to curl up under the sheets, wondering if it'll get better when you’re older.

Well, the discouraging and reassuring answer is there's no certain age that you'll stop feeling this way . I use the word ‘reassuring’, because you’re far from alone.

Your teens were a time of tremendous growth; that growth doesn't just stop when you reach your twenties. It simply takes on a different form. Trying to 'find yourself' is pointless because (whether you feel it or not) you’re constantly changing. I don't believe that becoming who you want to be is the goal as much as experiencing what happens along the way. How you handle things will define you.

It’s so cliché but so very true that life really is a journey and not a destination. Who we are is very fluid; we grow and stumble but don’t remain the same person for very long. Because we’re not supposed to. The uncertainty we face in our lives isn’t something to fear but something to be welcomed, and if we approach it with the right frame of mind it can lead to wonderful periods of self-discovery.

I won’t go too far here into the history of what I’ve experienced since my car accident last year because I’ve covered it on previous posts and with some of you through conversation. Suffice it to say I’m forty-four now and in many ways I feel I don’t know myself any better than I did when I was in my twenties. Sometimes I stop and question what I want to do with the rest of my life.

I remember feeling this way twenty years ago. How far have I come since then? This is a tremendously introspective time of my life. The hard questions can be scary because although in many ways I feel I have it together, I still don’t have all the answers. What I’ve come to realize over the years though is that it’s okay to feel out of control sometimes. We won’t always have all the answers, but I don’t believe we’re meant to.

I started drafting this post when my workday had ended this afternoon. Coincidentally I was right in the middle of it when a twenty-nine year old woman I work with dropped by to tell me about her "mid-life crisis" (her words, I had to grin). She married young, had a baby and is now feeling like she's missed out on some things, experiencing somewhat of a void in her life.

What I said to her, and I really believe this to be true, is that regardless of age, sex, career or social stature we're all searching to fulfill some part of our lives that seems lacking. No one is above this.

Through my teens and twenties (until I was twenty eight) I lived in a house filled with abuse and alcoholism. That situation seemed hopeless and permanent, but it did change. I know for some of you right now nothing seems to be going right. But this I can tell you, that which sucks now won't suck forever.

What you're going through isn't always easy, but it's a normal part of becoming who you are. Hang in, it'll get better.


  1. Very interesting post. For me its a very good representation on the twenty-something topic!

  2. Thanks for that Jack, it's good to hear. In some ways my twenties seem a lifetime ago, but in most ways I still remember that stage of my life very clearly.

  3. This is a great post. It is very nice to hear the perspective of someone who has survived the "quarter-life crisis". LOL. It's interesting you should say that you still don't know yourself, even 20 years later. I don't think we are meant to know everything about ourselves. I did a story last week about a 100-year-old man and I don't even think HE knows who he is by now. Lol. I think that's the fun part of being human. Like you said, we are always growing and always changing. There is never an end to the journey of self-discovery. :)

  4. I meant to write something a little fuller than last time, but I didn't quite get round to it. I've been trying to write a slightly longer post running around the same ideas recently - maybe as a view from the ground. But the quotation at the top truly fits the bill, at the very least fits my ideas around the what is known as the quarter-life crisis. The journey is a little bumpy along the way; but it isn't as if there's an well-defined end-point that you reach kick back and say hear it is...

  5. So true Jon. I don't believe we ever truly reach the point where we stop growing or learning.

  6. Great post. Thanks for sending me the link, Barry.

    I'm just finishing up my teen years and throughout them, I've been through a lot. From boy trouble to girl trouble, from family trouble to friends trouble, etc. The scariest experience for me was when I found out that one of my best friends was treated very poorly in a past relationship. She has a tendency to choose the bad apple from the bunch.

    Even now, my best friend has no idea how bad her relationship was. She thinks that what happened to her was normal. I've tried to tell her several times that what she was in was unsafe and what she is currently getting herself involved is, is just as bad. She doesn't listen though.

    I know this doesn't have much to do with your post, but I think you're right when you say that there is never a day where we stop learning. I hope my friend learns soon.

    As for me, I've learned to take things slow. I used to be very emotional, well I still am just not to the umpteenth degree. Now, I use my blog as a way to write about my days and my experiences. I vent. I also read other blogs that give me insight into situations I face!

    It's great. I'm happy and I think people just need to learn to be happy with their transition as well as being open about their mishaps.