Aside from the excitement of embarking on your first job, few serious commitments, and endless enthusiasm and energy, what's so great about being in your early 20s?
I can safely say that now as a 28-year-old who feels far more comfortable than I ever did at 23. And that feeling is only growing each day.
In my case, my early 20s were (was?) one of the most exciting times of my life. Who knows, maybe it will turn out to be the most exciting time of my life. But if it was and if that time has passed, I don't mourn it at all. I can appreciate and love that time for what it was but also go forward knowing that the days ahead will be a lot more steady, with a lot more genuine happiness rather than fleeting, ecstatic moments paired with lots and lots of insecurity.
I moved to New York a week after graduating from SCAD, settled into a killer West Village apartment that I was able to live in thanks to my professor-turned-mentor and her daughter-turned-my friend.
I split my time between working at Conde Nast, going out to dirty bars in the East Village and wine bars in the West Village, and watching Netflix in bed.
I ate a lot of Five Guys, felt bad about myself, felt way too good about myself, and generally had that thing that's so specific to people in their 20s: an incredibly positive outlook on life paired with a sense of not having any clue about what happens next. I think they call that fear.
Like so many in their early 20s, I suffered from serious fear of missing out (FOMO, to you youngsters). Even if I was tired and felt like staying in to read, I'd always go out just because I didn't want to miss a night of going out. It felt like anything could happen at any moment – an exciting feeling, but also an unsettling one.
I still like going out, but now I prefer staying home to watch a good documentary and drink white organic wine like the sweatpanted yuppie that I am. I'd rather get a good night's sleep and embark on a daytime adventure than spend the night trolling from bar to bar, cold, wanting pizza, and needing to go to the bathroom.
Those adventures aside, the greatest part about entering into your late 20s has to do with all of cliche things you read about – how you suddenly discover who you are and realize what's important to you.
All of that happened to me, and if it hasn't happened to you yet I can say that it very likely will. It was like I woke up one morning and suddenly was able to block out the background noise and just breathe.
The wonderful Ann Friedman put it best in a recent NY Mag piece when she said, "It was around age 29 that the number of fucks I gave about other people's opinions dropped to critically low levels." So much yes.
I realize this isn't the case for everyone – I was beyond fortunate to have a family that supported me endlessly which meant that I didn't have to worry seriously about a lot of things when I was 24. That's not the case for many, and I'm so grateful for what I was given.
I also realize that this feeling of sudden clarity doesn't necessarily happen to everyone in their late 20s. Maybe the late 20s is more like a mindset that could happen at any age – the Oprah 'aha' moment for your life, let's say.
Either way, I'm honestly grateful for reaching the point that I have – almost gushing, really. I wish there was someone I could thank for this sudden peaceful feeling of comfort and self-realization.
If you're 25 and under, hear this: enjoy it, revel in it, make the most of it. But also know that as much fun as you're having now, you're going to have more fun later.
It may not be as exciting with a capital E!, but it's better. And if it's not? Well, you'll just give way fewer fucks.
P.S. – Just want to be clear to everyone that I'm not trying to hurry through any age and am truly appreciating each and every day one at a time, and reflect positively on those that have passed. This post is just thinking back on where I've been, where I am now, and where I'm going.
All photos by D Watterson III