I AM LOST: The Struggle of Being in your 20s.

On a hot summer day last year, I turned 20, and I was not happy; I was miserable. I did nothing, and I had nothing. I had dropped out of college and didn’t have a job. It felt as if the moment I turned 20 and started living independently, I should have already achieved something significant. I should have been a CEO, had investment packages, a cryptocurrency wallet, and been a source of motivation for others, boasting about “How I made my first million at the age of 18.”

I’m not entirely sure where all these expectations came from. Perhaps it was my parents, my own overachieving nature, or the internet telling me what I should be. The pandemic hit and distorted my perception of time. One minute, I was 17, and the next, I was 20, expecting to have won this success bag.

Why am I already stressing when I’m just 20?

Scene from the movie “Frances Ha”. (Source: https://thelmaandalice.com/2019/08/28/revisiting-frances-ha/)

Comparing my success to others.

Sitting in class, I see someone eagerly raising their hand to answer a question that I didn’t even understand. Others are applying for spring investment week or discussing their upcoming internships at Goldman. It’s easy to question if that’s who I should be. Am I just a placeholder? Am I not trying hard enough?

In an era dominated by social media, it’s practically impossible to avoid comparing oneself to others. Witnessing young influencers leading seemingly perfect lives, jetting off to picturesque destinations, and indulging in luxuries simply because of their fame can be disheartening. However, it’s important to remember that we only see their polished facade. They, too, may face their own struggles, and there are likely people right next to them who are equally lost (like me!).

While this year has been challenging, I’ve learned to stop being so harsh on myself. Life is not a race; it’s a marathon. Instead of focusing on outdoing others, I’ve learned to focus on surpassing my own personal best. Last year, I was back home, feeling deeply depressed, stuck in a job I hated, and utterly lost. Now, I may still be searching, but I am studying in Milan, making friends, trying new things, and finding enjoyment in life. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll have a clearer plan?

Scene from the movie “Into the Wild”. (Source: IMDB)

Not having a clear vision of your life feels like a failure.

When I was 6, I wanted to be a fashion designer. At 12, an architect. At 15, a psychologist. When I should have been becoming more certain about my career path, I found myself lacking clarity. At 17, I ended up applying for the major my parents chose for me. The pandemic disrupted my education, and now, at 20 turning 21, I am still clueless about what I should make of myself.

People around me are discussing their elaborate 10-year plans, while I find myself without a concrete plan for the upcoming week. The pressure to make crucial decisions, such as pursuing further education or entering the job market, is catching up to me. However, I’ve made the decision to take things at a slower pace. I’ve come to accept that achieving the ambitious goal of being a CEO by the age of 20 is not realistic. Instead, I need to explore new possibilities and constantly remind myself that I am only 20 years old, with ample time to discover my true passion. I came to university with the intention of gaining clarity and exploring various options. I am in the process of learning and self-discovery. For example, this year, I finally started writing, despite years of fearing it like a death. It has been an empowering experience. I remember that career paths are rarely linear, and setbacks are stepping stones to growth.

Scene from the movie “Little women”. (Source: IMDB)

What to do with my money?

Financial independence becomes a pressing concern, leading to stress and uncertainty. I go out and see a sick pair of jeans, but before buying them, I calculate that I would be left with only 10 euros for the last week of the month. Separating wants from needs is a stressful. In addition to managing my finances, there’s also a strange reliance on my parents. Twenties mark a transitional period between adolescence and adulthood, as a legal adult, you feel the burden of asking for money from your parents. As a legal adult in my twenties, I feel the burden of asking them for money, even though it’s challenging to attain the financial stability of having my own apartment, a secure job, and a stable bank account at this stage of life.

The only way to learn money management is through moving out. I’ve been living away from my parents since I was 16, so I’ve had time to become better with my money. There were times when my parents were my sole source of income, and other times when I was self-sufficient (except for rent). I analyze where my money goes and divide it into different accounts. I allocate funds for necessities such as rent, food, subscriptions, and more. This leaves me with money that I can spend on personal enjoyment. Occasionally, I find myself with only 10 euros left, but that’s okay. Being a young adult is all about learning independence. As for my parents, I anticipate being able to spoil them in the future.

Being in your 20s can be tough, but it’s all part of growing up. So don’t stress too much. Take a moment to relax, try new things, stumble a bit, and then pick yourself up. Those challenges? They’re chances to learn and become stronger. And remember, you’re not the only one going through this crazy time. Take it easy on yourself. The struggles you face right now will shape you into someone amazing and bring you a life full of purpose and joy. So hang in there and keep going!

Written by Aini Yeskhozhina