You know how they always say “No matter how old you are, you always feel the same age?” In some ways, I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I look in the mirror and expect to see the same freckle-faced 11-year-old or angst- and acne-ridden 19-year-old, and often I’m surprised by my just-past-30 grin, so different and yet still just as me as I was back then. But the truth is, there are some major differences in who I am since trudging all the way through my 20s. And despite the fact that I’ve already hit that dreaded, “adult” milestone of the big 3-0, I can honestly say that there are quite a few things about the late 20s that aren’t actually that bad.
1. I have fewer friends—wait, what?
That’s a good thing? Well, kind of. In my teenage years and early 20s I was so eager to be liked and have a huge Taylor Swift-sized gaggle of girlfriends. But it was exhausting. I never took any time for myself, rarely practiced solitude and just couldn’t seem to get a handle on authentic, deep relationships because I was always too busy being “social.” Now that I’m older, I’ve moved around and many of my friendships have naturally faded. But the ones that remain are true and lasting. The newer friendships I’m forming are different too. So many of the people I forge relationships with now are different than myself—I’m not looking for an army of pals who are just like me. Instead, I’m interested in really loving people, for who they are, whether we’re similar or polar opposites. And while I may have less blackout days in my social calendar, I’m pretty darn happy with the way relationships in my early 30s are fleshing out.
2. I’m not afraid of myself
For so much of my 20s, I was busy curating an image of myself and trying to fit my ‘persona’ into what I thought I should be. For years I tried to convince myself I was an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs test, when in reality I don’t quite think that’s true. I always wanted to be the “life of the party,” but actually I prefer hanging with just a few close, trusted friends. I thought I was boring by preferring small groups to crazy ragers, but I’ve realized that it’s just who I am, and there’s nothing at all wrong with it. And while I used to shirk any and all routines and structure, I’ve found that I actually thrive on predictability. Sure, I’m still up for traveling and adventures, but I love waking up each morning to the same coffee mug, doing my morning chores in the same order, and getting on with my day in the largely same way. It’s Friday night and I want to go to bed at 9 p.m. after playing board games with my husband? Cool, that’s what I’m gonna do! I am who I am, idiosyncrasies and all! And I’m 100% okay with that now.
3. My faith is my own
I grew up with Christian, church-going parents who sent me off to youth group every Sunday and mission trips every summer. Heading into college, I really reevaluated that part of my life. I had to ask myself what I really believed when no one was waking me up on Sunday mornings, and my summers were finally all my own. I explored other faiths and deeply questioned what I believed about God, foregoing church for a few years while figuring it all out. After years of searching and learning, I realized that I actually desired relationships in a faith community and with God. The years of doubting, reading, and wrestling through my faith gave me a solid foundation of having a faith that was not an inherited one, but truly one of my own.
4. I’m doing what I actually want to do
I majored in music in college, and spent six years teaching choir and general music to middle schoolers. The work was rewarding, but incredibly hard, and I always wondered if I could do something else. When I had two kids and quit teaching to stay home with them, I got a serious itch to write. While I studied journalism a bit in school, I didn’t have much professional experience with it. But hey, why not try it? At 30, I jumped into a freelance writing career with basically nothing to lose. And while I’m not a famous reporter, I’m actually making it work and doing something that I genuinely love doing, and can see myself doing this for a long, long time. Something I definitely couldn’t say about those first tough years in the classroom.
My 20s were complicated and full of figuring stuff out, and while I’m far from having completed that task, I do feel like I’ve come to a place of acceptance—of my life, my dreams, myself. Transitioning out of the 20s has been much better than I anticipated. So if you’re about to edge out of your “beloved” 20s, take heart, grab some eye cream, and get ready because some of the best years of your life are (hopefully!) ahead of you.