My late teens and early 20s were an overwhelming few years. I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted through an intensive period of trial and error, which is a normal part of growing up, but it wasn’t always fun. It was a time filled with chaos, constant change, and a continuous succession of firsts and new experiences.
I tried two different college majors before I settled on politics at 22. I lived in Sydney, and then I moved to London. I flitted through more part-time jobs than I could count, and just as many shared apartments. I experimented with my style and wore outrageous outfits daily. I dated different people and made and lost contact with all kinds of friends and acquaintances.
The problem was, every time something didn’t work out, or I lost touch with someone, or stopped enjoying a job or a hobby, I became disheartened and disappointed. I wondered why the friends I’d met at 20 were no longer people I resonated with at 23, and I began to believe that I was the problem.
Finally, in my mid-20s, when I was feeling particularly lost, a mentor of mine explained the concept of the “Age of Temporariness.” Basically, during the ages of 18-24, it’s common for friends, jobs, romantic relationships, and life circumstances in general, to be fleeting. People, places, and things just don’t tend to stick around, so this time in our lives can often be defined by how temporary everything can be. Suddenly, everything I was feeling made sense.
I can’t explain the relief I felt when I first heard of this concept. I finally felt normal and for the first time in a long time, I was able to look back on my early 20s without shame or regret. I realized that the sudden changes in my life and the lack of stability and foundation were perfectly normal for my age.
It wasn’t because I was crazy, chaotic, or lacked discipline. There wasn’t anything wrong with me for losing touch with friends who weren’t right for me, it was just a necessary part of finding the people I do connect with. Everything that didn’t work out gave me more clarity on what I truly wanted.
Those years of my life were a time for me to try everything, with no judgment or expectations as to the outcome. How else would I know what I like and what I don’t? How else was I meant to grow? I realized that rightly so, I had made the priority of my early 20s getting to know the most important person in my life: myself.
In hindsight, I understand that the key to navigating this temporary state of being, in order to avoid the sadness and disappointment I often felt, is simply to work towards acceptance. I began to practice gratitude and detachment through journaling, meditation, and mindfulness. In particular, introducing journaling into my life has been a godsend and allowed me to find clarity in times when it felt like so many things were coming and going. I learned to view rejection as redirection. I began to feel grateful for everything that came into my life, but also for everything that left too.
I learned to look for the lessons in different situations and not to stick around if something doesn’t feel right. I no longer force friendships or relationships if I don’t feel a connection — it doesn’t matter how long I’ve known someone. I’m allowed to change and move on, and so are they. I accept where others are on their own journey and I send them love or a prayer and let them go.
I lost some great things during these years and also encountered some not-so-great things, but the opposite is also true. I learned to get comfortable with goodbyes and countless new beginnings and found joy and faith in the belief that I’m endlessly creating my own life. I realized that there’s no time for shame, regret, or second-guessing.
Now, I am grateful for everything that comes my way and I have learned to say a big, wholehearted “thank you, next” if and when it leaves again.