At the end of 2015, I started to list everything that was happening in my life. On the surface, everything seemed to be well resolved – the equivalent of having everything in your 20s. I was doing well in my career, had a lot of friends, knew almost everyone in town and liked the homemade feeling I had created. The search for a relationship wasn’t stressing (as it usually does), and I was seeing my family more often than I could in the past. It all sounds as incredible as an unprecedented birthday party.
seemed incredible. My life seemed to be off axis. How did I know? I wasn’t happy most of the time. The stress made me explode. It was like carrying a heavy backpack with me all the time, and I could never get it off my back. The seeds of a problem piling up were so imperceptible that I didn’t notice them for months. But as a new year began, I began to make a colour-differentiated list of what I wanted to achieve in 2016, in various aspects of my life – health, personal life, social, career, and so on. This was not something entirely out of the ordinary. But this time, the very size of the list was.
I discovered how many things I was leaving outstanding. IMPORTANT THINGS. It’s easy to put things off at blackjack, right? You feel like you have a lot of time. You walk into Procrastination Station, rip your shoes off your feet and decide to stay there for a while. You go to college. You spent years buried in your books. You hit your foot on the concrete and found your career. You deserve a rest!
The problem is when you’re taking the wrong rest – the kind that means you’re getting stagnant. This year, at 24, I’m perfectly aware of the passage of time. It happened suddenly, as soon as I realized how much I was standing still and undone. I also decided that 2016 would be the year for me to really grow and put my life in order (for not only
the Ms. Resolved). To get on the right track, I called some great psychologists to ask them to guide me in the task of setting goals, to point me in the direction we should all be focusing on now and until the end of our 20-and-a-half years. It worked:
Do you have a doctor who’s watching you? Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to approach a doctor who will be the caretaker of your well-being, as Karla Ivankovich, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and co-host of Life and Love says.
on iHeartRadio. Ask your friends a little bit older if they like their doctors or, if you are still seeing your pediatrician because of sinusitis (it happens), you can ask for a referral. You won’t want to blindly trust a stranger if something devastating happens. Ivankovich says you should make annual or regular appointments with your health providers to begin developing these long-term relationships.
Start with your clinician, a dentist or ophthalmologist, but don’t limit yourself. I just made a list of personal health goals for the year, and thought of who could help me achieve them, such as a dermatologist to finally resolve adult acne, an occupational therapist to help me avoid food traps that lead to digestive symptoms, and a nutritionist to help me plan healthier meals.
It’s easy to date without thinking too much when you’re about 20. In fact, some people even like it! Enjoy it, yes, but while doing that, take advantage of your single time to define what doesn’t pass, as Ivankovich says. “Even as young as you are, you already have preferences regarding the characteristics you seek in a partner”, she says. “Make a list of things you can’t tolerate, but also ask yourself: why is this a red light for me?”
Ivankovich says some preferences come from parents, or even friends. It’s time to meditate on what you want from a possible long term partner, not what someone else wants. And then date according to that – which is also not something you just have to do once. What I wanted two years ago (beautiful, charming, emotional mountaineer) is not what I want today (emotionally stable, pragmatic and mature). If it’s not working with a sequence of people with similar personality traits, take note. Perhaps what you need is not as shiny as what you want.
Ah, two words
easy sense to remember, right? According to Ivankovich, there should be two central goals in young adults’ relationships: Communicate their needs, and commit to ensuring that both are as happy as possible. “People get tired very easily of those who only adhere to the ‘my way or no way’ attitude,” Karla insists. “The ability to commit allows you to get
Have you ever felt like you had to offer a smile, accept to embark on every adventure and act as if life was always a party? You’ll get caught up in Instagram after all, and you want to look nice. “It seems that the
are always encouraged to show the best expression, something that often also encourages falsehood,” says Ivankovich.
“Nobody is smiling and overflowing with happiness at every moment of the day, as social networks lead us to believe”. Life is not acting. Try to respect the reality of your life, your moods, your activities, Karla emphasizes. “Friends and family are looking for the real you, not whom you want society to see in the hope that they like, favor or retwit you,” she says. Forget about the facade.
And that means winning him over, Ivankovich says. “Believe in yourself, but understand that demanding respect is very different from demanding it,” she explains. “Hard work should be rewarded with recognition, but develop humility instead of waiting for others to applaud you because you walked through the door.” Go above and beyond, knowing your own worth and respecting that of others. Plan your mother’s 50th birthday out of appreciation – don’t be just a guest. Lead the project without expectations of an award, and allow the boss to recognize your efforts. People will begin to admire who you are rather than pour praise on what you do – which is much better, and will bring greater benefits in the long run.
According to Markman, your brain is in the best shape now, so take advantage of that. “People in their 20s and 20s are at their cognitive peak, which means it’s easier to learn new skills at that age than it is later. As you get older, success becomes based on what you know, so developing a knowledge base at 20 is a great way to maximize the chances of success later on”. Read novels. Find tutors. Ask questions. Go to events that take you further. I recently went to an astronomy lecture and a business talk about success. I’m going to a mental health conference in the spring. Although not everything is immediately relevant to me, the more I explore, the more I can see the world a little differently.
Honestly, there’s nothing like 20-and-a-half to make a traveling adventure. Even if you don’t have the money to leave by jet right now, Ivankovich says you should make the trip to Thailand a goal for which you can start preparing immediately. “Make a list of five places you want to see in life, and then explore what each of these cultures has to offer,” she says. “Ask yourself what you need to do to enjoy the holidays in that destination, and start working on it.”
You can start saving while you research what you’d like to see while you’re there. It’s a process. The goal is to continue exploring throughout your life, and discover global destinations that can become a second home. Ivankovich suggests trying to travel, even if you are homely and feel insecure. “Your favorite place to eat pizza is your favorite place because you once tried it,” she insists. “Stop to think about what your next favorite place might be.”
Our 20-and-a-half decade is so beautiful
difficult. We are gaining all this newly discovered freedom – and, let’s be honest, sometimes it crosses the line. Ivankovich tells me that our attitude should reflect on three things: humility, gratitude and accounting. Respect those who came before you; make your own choices, but bathe yourself in their knowledge. Never expect gifts, work hard and make your own decisions. “Nobody is right all the time,” says Ivankovich. “Bad decisions are always made, but understand that few are the things that cannot be undone.” Work to fix the mistakes you made with the boss, your friends, yourself, she explains. When you assume, learn from the mistakes and make them less in the future. Forget the image of perfection. Be beautifully, humbly human.
As for me, I’ve already covered a few months of the 2016 Project: The Year of Exploration and Personal Development. Verdict: it is the most liberating gift I have ever given myself. In my whole life, I was the girl who had it all sorted out. I never asked for this title, but I felt encouraged to honor it anyway. It’s exhausting, but I’m here to admit that
. None of us are. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be incredible – and I’d much rather be the girl who’s just trying to figure out the best way to be herself.