I recently turned thirty and despite trying to not make it a big deal I couldn’t help but reflect on what I had and had not accomplished in my twenties. I naturally dwelled on what I felt I had failed at. Speaking to my female friends, knowingly or not, a few seem to have gone through a similar experience and insecurities have arisen as a result. Anxiety, stress, nervousness, worry… these things were nowhere to be seen in our early twenties. We were bright eyed and ready for what life threw at us. We hadn’t failed at anything yet and with no experience in the real world to speak of, we had nothing to lose. Some of us went travelling, joined start-ups or found jobs in fancy companies and began the horribly slow climb through barely plausible promotions (a £500 annual salary rise before tax anyone?). We were each others’ biggest supporters and were there with a £5 bottle of wine at the end of the day for when the boss was unbearable.
The mid twenties were a time of feeling like we’d found our groove. Confident in our professional lives, there were newbies beneath us and we were quick to disregard the age pressures we had put on our selves in our teenage years. Married at 27? No way! What was I thinking?! I worked a 45 hour week, lived off Cheerios and Blossom Hill wine. And without fail I was £50 over my overdraft limit at the end of each month, but to me it just didn’t matter.
Then we neared the end of our twenties, lifted our heads for air and realised that we weren’t all swimming near each other anymore. Some of us were now living with our partners, not our BFF’s. The salaries of some were definitely over £45k whilst others were still holding steady at £27k. Holiday days were no longer spent on recuperation after a festival but to go on a yoga retreat.
There was an online video doing the rounds a while back which showed a sports coach creating a ‘race’ between twenty or so teenagers. They all start at the same place and can gain 2 steps if they are able to answer yes to each question. The questions are along the lines of ‘Have you had a father figure in the house?’ ‘Do you personally pay for your phone?’ It’s a way to show the disadvantage people have in life before they even graduate and start competing for the same jobs.
In my friendship group we all come from similar middle-class backgrounds, the questions emerging from our own race are not of social economic status, but of mental wellbeing and personal drive. Move 2 steps forward if you believe in yourself. Move 2 steps forward if you don’t suffer from anxiety. I have conversations lasting hours with friends who are now questioning themselves over their life choices, and the reasons tend to be based on seeing how others are living their lives. Why didn’t I do a course on the side? Why didn’t I ‘settle down’? I should have changed career when I had the chance. Had the chance?! You still have the chance!
I also question many of my own life choices, and maybe I shouldn’t have got that final tattoo - but I know that I am happy with where I am and I need to remind myself of this when I start to worry about the small things. My main fear is not reaching my full potential. A niggling thought that is a constant at the back of my mind. But we must remember, that we are not even half way through life’s journey and if we had settled on one path that would remain the same until we leave this world, how bored would we be!! Our parents were of a generation where they usually made one career choice for their entire working lives. It’s not uncommon for Millennials to have multiple jobs at any one time. We need to accept that what works for us may not work for everyone and that’s ok. But as long as we push ourselves to make the most of the life we were given and the opportunities presented to us, I don’t think we can go far wrong. So hang in there.