Last night I was asking my boyfriend about certain types of girls and if he found them attractive. I asked if he wanted me to be cookie-cutter pretty if I should straighten my naturally curly hair, lose a few pounds, learn how to properly apply makeup. I was spiraling down a rabbit hole of insecurity and setting feminism back ten years, and he had to reassure me repeatedly, “I like you for who you are.”
That’s when I really broke down. Because I don’t know who I am anymore.
When you’re in your 20s, a lot changes. You learn that you really are the only person you can rely on, that no matter what you do, you can’t make everyone happy, and that no matter how hard you try, at some point you will still fail. You learn to accept the setbacks, the rejections, the loss of people you once loved. You scroll through social media and find out your old classmates are married, pregnant, dead. It’s a scary time. Everyone has gone their own way and here you are, on your path to who-knows-where. You experience life so differently from many of the people who you were once closest to and you may discover that you’ve drifted apart from them, and from who you used to be.
Sure, you know who you were and maybe you have an idea of who you want to become. The hardest part is figuring out who you are now, and where to go from here.
It’s frustrating, being stuck in limbo, not knowing if some parts of you are temporary or if you’re always going to be this way (or if maybe, you always have been this way). Have you grown up yet? Are you really as mature as you think you are? As self-aware? Are you doing as well as you’re supposed to? Is it enough to secure a better future for yourself? Are you clinging on to old habits (or people) that you’re sure won’t lead you down a good road, but maybe, just maybe, they’re not so bad? What if we’re interested in a bit of everything but not truly passionate about or good at anything at all? What if we’re not sure if we’re pursuing the right degree, working the right job if it’s too late to start over, and what even is self-care beyond bath bombs and good food?
I’m here to tell you that I understand your frustration. The truth is, it’s okay to feel lost and confused. It’s okay to feel disappointed. Of our six basic human emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise – four of them could be labeled as “bad”. It’s in our biological nature to feel as we do. It’s human. And the fact is, as life goes on, you’re going to feel more human than you ever have. And that’s not a bad thing.
I know you don’t believe it right now, but you’re doing just fine. You’ll figure something out in the end. Maybe not now, but you will. Maybe you have friends who have found their calling, who you think are successful and happy. Good for them. But that doesn’t mean you need to have it all figured out now too. Take your time, and have faith. The important thing is to just start somewhere. This is your chance to experiment, to have a little trial-and-error, and learn what truly brings you joy. Don’t worry about not knowing who you are, focus on the life you’re living. Look forward to every day and every experiment. Take mental pictures of the good times and learn from the bad. Always come from a place of good intent. In time, you’ll learn where your priorities are, what truly matters to you and who will be right by your side along the way. It might be a while, but that’s okay. And you will be, too.