On navigating my mid-twenties

15th June 2019

While I’m aware you could probably say this about any age, your mid-twenties (which I’m currently experiencing) are a strange place to be. If your early twenties are the care-free/fun era and your thirties are when you’ve got your shit together, as the age that straddles the two, what exactly are your mid-twenties?

At this age, it’s likely you’ve got a ‘proper’ job, hopefully somewhere you want to be. But you’re the youngest on the team, alternating between fighting to prove yourself and make an impression and experiencing severe imposters syndrome, waiting to be ‘found out.’ On the other end of the spectrum, there are those of us who still don’t have a clue what they want to do. University cradles you for three years, inviting new experiences and people into your life before spitting you out, leaving you stumbling around in a daze, wide-eyed and panicked. Sure, you might feel comfortable enough riding this out for a few years but then there’s this sinking sense of desperation that really, you should probably know what you’re doing by now.

Not counting Uni, I’ve ‘lived alone’ (Matt doesn’t count sssh) for nearly four years now but I’ll still frequently ring my mum for the silliest things that I should most definitely know by now. ‘How do I make Spaghetti Bolognese?’ ‘How do I descale my kettle?’ Frankly, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I entirely trust myself and that’s considering the facts that I can keep a sausage dog and Swiss Cheese plant alive. Maybe it has something to do with still, even at 26, feeling like a child. I am the youngest at work, the younger sister, my mums ‘baby.’ And I can’t lie, I like this role. Frankly, I’m terrified of getting older, so yes, I relish feeling ‘young’ when I can.

On a positive note, there is so much I have grown curious about in my mid-twenties. As you may have noticed if you’re a frequent visitor to Musings & More, my blog content has changed. Where once I would natter away about my favourite lipstick, I now use the space for examining my psyche and trying to understand the things I do and why. Sure, it’s uncomfortable at times and I will never not hesitate before I press ‘Publish’ on such posts but they have become entirely necessary in ever so gently helping me dissect myself and at times, society.

It’s safe to say I look at a lot of things differently compared to how I did just a couple of years ago. Like many of us, I still get a huge amount of enjoyment from social media and while I don’t expect it’ll ever be something not present in my life, I am a whole lot more wary about the impact and hold it has on me. When we got engaged last year, I held off on announcing it immediately on social media, as I might once have done, as I wanted to let this amazing thing that had happened soak in and to enjoy the moment. There was something lovely about just our immediate family knowing, a secret if you will, however short it lasted. It’s most definitely a work in process but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. I know I want to cut down on my phone use but I wrestle with FOMO (fear of missing out). I pride myself on being someone who is fairly in touch with both pop culture and current affairs and my phone allows me this privilege. But at what cost?

I’ve noticed my time has become a lot more precious to me too. I’m less indulgent about frittering it away. I think this stems from my irrational fear of the passing of time and my determination to achieve what I can, as soon as I can. While this does my ambition the world of good, I’m not sure this is necessarily always a positive. I’ve spoken before about how I struggle to relax and while I simply don’t want to while away my time binge-watching all eight seasons of Game of Thrones back to back, I am aware of the importance of self-care and acknowledging when my body or mind needs to rest or recoup. It’s a balancing act, what can I say?

Making friends is really quite an odd one at this age. You might have a core group of mates you’ve always had but adding new ones to your ‘tribe’ isn’t as easy as you may have thought. Long gone are the school or Uni days where you made friends without actually having that much in common. You spend so much time with your work colleagues already that seeing them at the weekend too seems a bit wrong, however much you like them. If you’re anything like me, going out to a bar is a thing of the past (I ain’t complaining!) so no longer do you pick up the type of pals you bond with in the sticky club loos. And if you don’t have kids yet, the common denominator of a screaming toddler at baby groups or hanging around the school gates isn’t there yet. It’s just all a bit awkward.

While certainly not something I think exclusive to the mid-twenties (after all, we all move at different paces), it’s hard not to notice that every time you pull up Facebook, someone is announcing buying a house or a marriage or a pregnancy. Which y’know, great! Circle of life and all that. But for most of us, it’s hard not to instantly compare yourself and where you’re currently at in life. I think we’d all be lying if we said we didn’t have the vaguest sense of hitting certain life goals at certain ages. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s totally normal. But in your mid-twenties, with the big 3-0 feeling closer than ever, there’s this overwhelming sense of pressure. Personally, I put this down to the stigma of being 30, where you’re ‘supposedly’ meant to have your shit together. Your mid-twenties are seen as the groundwork, the work you put in so that when you reach 30, you can look around smugly, a rock on your finger, a five-figure salary in your bank account and an angelic cherub kicking away quietly in his Moses basket. Now this whole picture is pretty outdated when you think about it and times have moved on. Yet still it’s seen as what to aspire to and more importantly, if we don’t have this idyllic lifestyle yet, what does that say about us?

And I think it’s this that is the biggest problem of all. The moment we all stop aiming for what and where we think we should be, the simpler we’ll make things for ourselves. The easier it’ll be to just enjoy the ride, whatever stops you make and wherever you end up. Because most of the times, we are the ones piling on the pressure on ourselves. And it’s this I’m trying to remember now as I sit plonked in the middle of my twenties, making mistakes, constantly learning and eventually, finding my place.

Emily>