On Surviving Your Late 20’s


I'm an adult.
I’m an adult.

I am part of a very small and special minority. No, I’m not referring to the fact that I’m gay, Polish, or that I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I’m part of something, and what I am part of so desperately needs a confident spokesperson.

I’m Tanya, I’m twenty-eight and I own a domesticated house cat. I rent a place with two of my friends, and I am currently unemployed. I don’t own a home, I’m not married, and my ovaries are probably shriveling up as I type this. I have debt, a Master’s degree that I don’t use, and I’m so horrible at dating that I just avoid it completely. My Facebook newsfeed is an endless buffet of engagement announcements, gratuitous pictures of babies, wedding albums, and friends informing me that they’re hanging out with their “boo-ski’s.”

Maybe my life at 28 doesn’t look like the picture I had in my head growing up. I thought, in some respect, that I’d have my shit together by this point in time. That my days of a ramen noodle diet and a fridge that’s empty with the exception of beer would be a thing of the past – something reserved for your early 20’s; when it’s cool to be single and penniless and only shop at thrift stores.

In a matter of years, everything changes. Your friends start to care about things like whether their crown molding matches their baseboards, or if they’re ovulating. They like to go out to restaurants that they read were “trendy” somewhere, and take an hour an a half to drink a glass of Pinot Grigio. They always ask you if you’re seeing somebody and when you tell them you’re not they assure you that you will meet someone soon as if that’s the most important thing in the world. Like a relationship is something you need to be an actual legitimate human being, like I don’t exist unless I have someone else to assert my worth in this world.

What, you didn't believe me about the party wigs?
What, you didn’t believe me about the party wigs?

I have my days, you know – the ones where I compare myself to my friends, question my path in this life, and over-analyze what I did and didn’t do. But when it comes down to it, and I honestly mean this: I am more than okay with my life. Maybe I’m nursing a beer instead of a baby, and maybe I have a collection of party wigs instead of fine china, but I’m happy. I don’t need pity and while I’d love the reassurance I won’t always be living paycheck to paycheck, I don’t need that either. I’ll get there, and in the meantime – I’m doing just fine.

Surviving your late 20’s is easier if you just own it. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Switch from beer to whiskey, you’re an adult now.

2. Try not to go insane – keep your therapist’s number on speed dial and never let your Prozac prescription run out.

3. Have solace in the fact you’re not alone. Do you think you’re the only person in their late 20’s who lives day-to-day on the brink of the next existential crisis? That you’re the only one stressed about paying your bills, finding love, and a job that you don’t utterly hate? You are not special. Like Tyler Durden said in ‘Fight Club:’ “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. you are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.”

28 and still getting fake engaged to friends
28 and still getting fake engaged to friends

Okay, so that was slightly cryptic; but I really like any excuse to quote Chuck Palahniuk whether it’s truly relevant or not. Seriously though, we’re all constantly losing and finding our minds depending on the day. Some of us just don’t feel the need to hide it as well as others.

4. There are more important things than finding your soul-mate. I can’t even find my keys half the time so finding the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with? It’s probably not in the cards. Sometimes I can be really melodramatic and unreasonable and I’ll fling myself on the couch and complain about how I am doomed to live in relationship purgatory for the rest of my life and say the most action my bed has gotten recently is when I changed the sheets. Then after I think about it, really think about it, I realize: “I don’t give a fuck.” I only complain about not getting laid because that’s what people who aren’t getting laid do. I don’t actually care. I like the single version of myself and dating is kind of terrible. Pretending to be interested while someone talks about how ‘The Nanny’ was their favorite TV show growing up and how they found Fran Drescher’s laugh endearing makes me want to kill myself. Sometimes the best company you can have is yourself and something that operates on double a batteries.

I feel like this is a time about figuring out who I am, what I’m about, and what it is I potentially want in a partner. Half the time I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and wonder who the beastly, drool stained, crazy-haired woman in front of me is. We are creatures of change, and I feel like a lot of transformation is constantly occurring within us. 21-year-old Tanya is very different from 28-year-old Tanya, in fact – I wouldn’t even want them to meet. Some people say “don’t wait until you know who you are to get started,” but I think I might because it seems pretty rational.

Your Mom goes to college.
Your Mom goes to college.

5.) You’ll find a job that fulfills you someday, that day might not be today. Maybe you got your Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then inevitably realized that despite the hefty price tag of attending a liberal arts school and the hours you spent studying in the quad, that it didn’t really mean shit. That’s okay. If you need to serve burgers for a while while you figure out what’s next – that’s perfectly acceptable, and maybe you’ll even enjoy it. However if you are still working at Urban Outfitter’s in your 30’s; then it may be it’s time to reassess your potential. Even though your parents act like there is, there’s no need for a mad rush to your destiny.

6.) You need a Mr. Miyagi. You absolutely do and if you pay attention to any of these gems I am laying out for you, please pay attention to this one in particular. You don’t need to find a dojo, or anything like that, but you will benefit from a spiritual guide. Mine is a Ms. Miyagi, her name is Jennifer Fisher and we’ve got quite the kinship and the span of almost a decade between us.  Therefore when I call Jen in one of my “Who the fuck am I and WHAT is my life?” moments, not only will she bestow up me the honor of her wisdom she acquired on her journey, but she also “normalizes” my experience – which is inarguably more important. I could call her and tell her I went to a strip club, chatted up a girl with a peg leg, drank whiskey out of her peg leg all night, and then woke up wearing a three piece suit with four more cats than I had when I went to sleep and she would say: “Oh please, is that it? You should hear what I was doing at your age.” I’m not sure if she’s being honest or just trying to make me feel better, but ultimately I don’t really care to know which is the case.

My Miyagi.
My Miyagi.

7.) In a similar fashion, surround yourself with positive people. You’re not seven-years-old and forced into friendship with your peers because your Mom’s want to drink wine together. You choose who you spend time with, so stop hanging out with douchebags – if that’s a thing you’re doing.

8.) Get off your fucking phone when I am talking to you. YOU’RE AN ADULT AND YOU DON’T NEED TO BE PLAYING CANDY CRUSH RIGHT NOW.

I think the most important take-away here, is to have a sense of humor. Life isn’t so bad, and if it is – they have all the episodes of ‘Saved By The Bell’ on Netflix right now. The way I feel about surviving my 20’s is kind of like how I feel when I’m running; I think everyone is staring at me and judging me. And just when I think I’m doing a good job, an entire high school track team blows by me, followed by an 80-year-old man. But screw it – I’m out there running, I’m getting where I need to go and I’m doing it at my pace.

I’m not mad that my day began with a fresh cup of coffee, peaked with an afternoon tarot card reading, and ended with cooking myself dinner for one. Now I sit here; processing, writing, reflecting and feeling not only okay, but truly grateful for the life I live. I could worry about tomorrow, and maybe I should, but for now I’m more concerned with just living. I’d like to end with an exert from my entry pertaining to the great carbon monoxide incident of 2013. I did a bit of ruminating on what was important to me during this time and it ended with what I think is my life mantra, even though it’s like a paragraph long. Did I mention I’m not a woman of few words?:

Kiss your friends goodbye every time you see them. Don’t be afraid to love passionately or recklessly. Be completely who you truly are, 110% of the time. Smile when the urge hits you, and sit in that moment for a minute before moving on. Meditate on what makes you happy, and accept the things that don’t. Laugh as much as humanly possible. Enjoy each cleansing breath that makes its way into your lungs and breathe it in deeply like it’s your last. Don’t worry about what other people think of you, or adversely what you think about yourself. Fuck money, and if you have something to say – just say it already. Be content with the sheer fact you’ve had the chance to engage in living. Don’t fixate on finding your soul mate, your dream job, or waiting for the other shoe to drop – just be. Take chances because you might not get another one. Surround yourself with positivity and remember every day is new. Know that you can only start from where you are and not where you’d like to be. Be patient, and most importantly, compassionate with yourself. Have gratitude for everything, even when you hate the world. Appreciate the opportunity to experience the good & bad. Be grateful for having obstacles to overcome, pains to struggle through, and pieces of yourself to fix. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Let your friends and your family know how much they mean to you. Follow your heart, do the things you want to do.

We’ve all only got one shot at this, and life is too short to spend comparing yourself to the other runners. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be.

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