By Leah Bilquist
Many people say you learn the most about yourself in your 20’s. But as a 20-something, I’ve found that most of the time I am living in a state of panic — fear of where I am headed next.
Right now, at 27, I have everything my 25-year-old self wanted. I live in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Asbury Park, New Jersey, an “up-and-coming town” alive with culture, music and art. I wake up to the sunrise over the ocean, then hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for another hour or two. I spend my days working at a travel agency, where I will eventually train to become an agent. It’s a job I love. I started a travel blog and run a travel Instagram page with more than a thousand followers. I spend my weekends using my “travel swag” discounts, going to places I have never been. I spend this time drinking smoked bourbon at hidden rooftop bars and hiking mountains with the most stunning views. In the Instagram picture you see here, I am swimming under a waterfall in upstate New York.
When I look at that photo, I want to be that girl, and yet I am her. I am having the picture-perfect “carefree” summer adventure. But here’s the thing: Even having everything I always thought I wanted, I am still unfulfilled. I am constantly in a panic. What am I going to do when my lease is up? How long is it going to take for my job to give me a raise? Should I live somewhere new next? I’m going to be thirty in three years — am I old? Am I too adventurous and immature for my age? These thoughts are often nonsensical. But still, they run and run through my mind.
“When I look at that photo, I want to be that girl, and yet I am her.”
Finally, after being on the edge of having a full-blown breakdown, I forced myself to sit down and reflect on the past seven years of my life, trying to figure out this 20-something era everyone talks about.
And here is what I came up with: Being a 20-something is about change. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s good. It’s not a reason to panic.
Thinking back on the past seven years, I noticed that every year I have different people in my life. Who I was at 22 could not be friends with the people in my life at 24. Who I was at 24 could not be in a relationship with the same person I was with at 26.
I look at the 22-year-old version of myself and see how many positive changes I have made since then.
I believe I have now found a version of myself who is so confident that she’s not afraid to be alone — in fact, she actually embraces it. I am strong. I am independent. And today, I only want people in my life who can handle this version of me — the best version. But I will never take the people in my past for granted because they were all a part of my life for a reason. They contributed to my growth.
“I look at the 22-year-old version of myself and see how many positive changes I have made since then.”
Throughout my 20’s, I’ve had changes in mood, changes in mindset, changes in relationships — and still there’s more change to come.
My new dream is to live in Colorado. Alone. I want to be petrified. I want to throw myself into a beautiful mountain state that I have never been to, not knowing anyone at all.
I guess that is my conclusion to this essay — that it is OK to be confident one day and a trainwreck the next. It is alright that one day you want to stay where you are, and the next you want to pick up and move to the other side of the country. It is OK to not know what you want or question that what you want isn’t right for you at all. It’s OK to break down and cry when all of this overwhelms you, because it will.
Embrace these changes because with them you will grow — even if you can’t figure out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together just yet. It is OK to be a 20-something and not have any idea what it’s all supposed to mean.
Leah Bilquist is a New Jersey-based 20-something, travel journalist and travel advisor. She is exploring the country and seeking adventures, while trying to find out where her gypsy soul belongs.