You’re not failing. How to accept being twenty-something and ordinary

I never really understood the appeal in being ‘thirty, flirty, and thriving’ in the 2004 film, 30 Going on 30. I was too pre-occupied with the notion of actually turning thirteen.

Then, thirteen arrived, and not long after it seemed, so too did sixteen. 

And then sixteen turned into seventeen, and seventeen was a forgotten wasteland to eighteen. By the time I stopped to think, I’d graduated university and made it to the promise land called your twenties. 

Only, as with everything, turning 21 was not the same as it is in the movies. Not even close. Besides, of course, mixing drinks and having no recollection of the birthday party.

So, how do we navigate our 20s, find fulfilment in the prospect of a 9-5 (for the next 40+ years), and avoid comparing our filter coffee to the filtered lattes on our screen? I don’t think we can. Not fully. But I do think it helps to have a routine.

For me, routine is found in the mundane. My 7:30am alarm. My morning cup of tea, and my afternoon coffee. The post work workout. The 30 minute walk on the treadmill, a time to listen to music and scroll aimlessly.

Outside of these things (and work) exists the rest of my day. The wasted hours on social media. The YouTube videos I choose to watch instead of TV. The books I started months ago, gave up on, and will probably never read. The manuscript I plan to write. The blog posts I plan to schedule. The vitamins I don’t always take. All of it takes up space in my brain. And yet, all of it cannot fit into a single day.

Recently, it dawned on me that I hadn’t achieved much of what I’d hoped to achieve at thirteen, sixteen, or eighteen. The most I had to show was a couple of degrees, a blog I rarely contributed to, and a few manuscripts you’ll likely never read. It wasn’t enough. Not for the past version of myself, and certainly not for twenty-something me. I wanted more. Whatever more even means.

This lack of fulfilment isn’t anything new. I think I’ve felt this way since I first graduated in 2018. But the way I think about my life now has shifted. The way I view the concept of ‘more’ has too. Because more doesn’t have to mean everything. More might only ever mean some things. More, in reality, will likely only ever be a half completed to-do list, and a loosely established routine.

When I started my new job as a social media associate three months ago, I opened my The Inspired Stories planner and began to write daily checklists. Each day, I’d find myself motivated by the chance to tick another box, satisfied by the notion that I’d ended the day with another completed list. But as time moved on, and the lists got longer, it wasn’t always possible to achieve everything in a single day. I had to be content with the concept of eventually. The acceptance that comes from not achieving everything within a 5hr window of opportunity.

Now, I’m not saying we should all stop believing in our potential to do more and be more. Nor am I saying we need to plan our everyday lives to an unwavering degree. I just think there is a stark difference between setting out to achieve something as a teenager and actually treating it as a priority in your twenties. It’s okay to set the bar lower than before. Being successful doesn’t equate to constant productivity. We have to accept that maybe, in this season of life, and every phase of adulthood that follows, failure will become our norm. And I don’t think failing to amount to every idealised version of ourselves is a bad thing.

'We Move' Monday Uncategorized

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