Hey you! Yeah, you. 20-something, stepping-into-womanhood, just-got-a-real-job you.
I know exactly how you feel. Everything in your life has prepared you for these years of new adulthood, or so you thought. But you feel so overwhelmed, like you're supposed to have a clear direction for your life, and you don't.
Let me tell you something - I'm a 20-something who does not have it all figured out - and you don't need to, either - but here are three lessons I've learned in the process of navigating adulthood.
Lesson One: Try, Fail and Keep Trying
I remember having those feelings of doubt when I first got my teaching job because I felt like I was failing. But in the process of failure in that first year of teaching, I grew so much! I learned which methods of teaching, managing a classroom, and communicating with parents and coworkers worked well, and which didn't.
No matter how many textbook formulas you try to follow in order to be successful in your career, you will experience challenges and setbacks. No formula will fit you perfectly, because you are unique, and you need to figure out what works for you. I don't consider myself a rockstar teacher by any means, but the only way I could really grow was from trying and failing and trying again.
Lesson Two: Your Timeline is Unique
I got married at 21, graduated college at 22, then relocated and got a job shortly after. Five years of marriage later, my husband and I still do not have children. Personal timelines are an emotional and complicated topic, but here's the point: your life might not shake out the way you or your family thought it would.
I never dreamed that I'd get married in college. Moving away from our rural farm town to Kansas City seemed out of the question. We had a well-thought-out timeline in mind for having kids. But my timeline is unique, and it's vastly different from the timeline I expected. And so is yours.
You may not see or fully appreciate it yet, but this trajectory of your life is shaping you into who you are supposed to be. Let go of the way you thought things were supposed to be or the expectations that others had for you, and live with purpose in the timeline you're in.
Lesson Three: You Can Switch Directions
Just because you chose a major as an 18-year-old doesn't mean that you are now committed to that career path for the rest of your life. Let that sink in for a moment. Isn't it crazy that our society expects kids to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, follow that path to a degree, get a job right out of school, and work there until retirement? So essentially, at 18, you are expected to make a decision that will impact your life for the next 40+ years.
As a senior in high school, I decided to study vocal music. Later in college, I changed my major to music education so that I could become a teacher. I love teaching, my school, and my students, and I'm happy working in this profession. But there's more to me than just that part of my life, and being a teacher doesn't mean that I can't also explore my other interests and talents at the same time! In my adult life, I've discovered other interests that I didn't know I had, as well as talents that I had put on the back burner, and I take time to sharpen these skills and interests even while I'm working as a teacher.
If you get your first job and you're unhappy there, just know that you are not stuck there for the next 40 years. You may know your interests more clearly now than you did at 18, so pursue those things without the guilt of leaving another career path behind. And if you're unsure of switching directions completely or you just want to explore your hobbies and interests, find ways to do them on the side. You do not need to limit yourself based on a decision you made back in high school!
You Don't Need to Have It All Figured Out!
Your 20's are a decade of figuring out who you are, what you value, and how to navigate new responsibilities. "Adulting is hard," (cringe) but these challenging experiences will help you grow and find your place. For now, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, ask lots of questions, and do your best while you're figuring it out.