I was reading Esquire on the flight home to visit friends and family last week when I came across this bit of insight from the actress Helen Mirren:
The hardest period in life is one's twenties. It's a shame because you're your most gorgeous and you're physically in peak condition. But it's actually when you're most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don't know what's going to happen, it's frightening.
The quote provided interesting foreshadowing to the rest of the trip, where I was fortunate to reconnect with many friends, some I’ve known since childhood and others I met in college and grad school. While our relationships vary widely, we were all in the middle of navigating life in our twenties, a topic that dominated much of the week.
A vast array of lifestyle diversity exists among us. One friend is a married homeowner with a very young daughter and another child on the way. Another lives unemployed in a starter apartment with her boyfriend and talks of figuring out the next chapter of her life, whether that includes school or a new job. One is single but owns a home that ties him to his fairly remote locale, while another unmarried couple purchased a sizable home together nearby. One put plans for single-parent adoption on hold while he readjusts to life with a partner, and another reconsiders his next step after ending a years-old relationship. One attended a house warming party for a childhood friend, as she moves back in with her parents for the summer before heading to graduate school in the fall. One feels tied down to a poor investment in a condo with her husband, while another reassess life after some false starts.
Certainly any age bracket will hold stories of lives in disparate places, but life in one’s twenties seems to be, so far, particularly jarring and unsettling.
Those who move for school and jobs may look to their friends with homes and children with a bit of envy, longing for that patina of stability and certainty. Of course, those with obligations tying them to homes or partners or children may feel they lack some of the freedom that their single, renting friends enjoy. What ties seemingly all twenty-somethings together is the uncertainty in our decisions, the second-guessing that we are on the right paths to adulthood.
One’s twenties feels as though the control over the future that was once taken for granted is gone, replaced by a series of choices that may have dramatic consequences on one’s life or may have no bearing on it whatsoever. It’s that uncertainty, the unknowing, that can make so many of the choices seem impossible. Ultimately, choices will be made and the consequences dealt with, and perspective will illuminate the path behind us. Until then, those of us living in our twenties make a deal with ourselves that we won’t worry too much about the choices we make, believe fiercely that most of the time things work out in some way, and enjoy the opportunities that we’ve earned for ourselves and those that have been given to us. If life is this complex in our 20s, who can imagine what 30 brings?