What I Wish Someone Had Warned Me About My Late 20's

I remember when I was just 20 years old, sitting on the couch of a potential employer for a nanny gig, bouncing her infant son on my knee, looking around her meticulously decorated suburban home, and thinking, "I can't wait until I have a life like this."  I was fresh out of my most recent break up, halfway through college...and clueless.

When I learned she hadn't met her husband until age 27, I smiled and silently exhaled a sigh of relief. I've still got time.

Fast forward 7 years, two degrees, a handful of serious-yet-failed relationships, varied career explorations, and a life-changing experience abroad later...and my dreams could not be more different.

I wish someone had warned me about how strange I would feel in this phase of life.

In many ways, through painful trial and error, I'm more myself than I've ever been.

And yet, somehow, even in reflection of who I once was, I'm still trying to figure out who I'm going to be.

On Sunday, I met up with one of my college best friends for brunch.  We hadn't seen each other in over four years. As I walked to the restaurant, an old boxy blue Volvo coughed and sputtered up to the curb next to me and I was flooded with memories of adventures with this friend of mine in her similarly decrepit vehicle ("Blue Betty"), back in the good ole days when 30 minute drives into "the city" for Taco Bell at midnight during finals week wasn't lunacy, but genius.

Heartburn was a foreign concept, calories didn't count, and sleep deprivation was as much a part of our normal life as teeth brushing, nail painting, and MTV marathons. I wish someone had warned me that my spontaneity would one day be trumped by a need for details, a fear of hating my life the following morning, conflicting work schedules, and the added complications of long-distance friendships.

It wasn't until after brunch that I learned my friend had donated good 'ole Blue Betty and upgraded to a more "Family Friendly" vehicle...which was totally an appropriate move seeing as how she now has a husband, two dogs, and a child.
I love this picture of Oliver and I because he looks just as confused as I do. Seriously kid, where did you come from?
I wish someone had warned me about RSVPs for wedding invitations, especially when you know your ex will be in attendance with his new fiancé, meanwhile your single self will waste countless hours worrying about whether or not you will have found someone by then, only to end up pitifully bringing a blind date to the event because you'd rather show up with a complete stranger than face your "friends" alone.

I wish someone had warned me that if I didn't really care about politics when I was forced to learn about them in high school, I probably still wouldn't care about them even when our government shut down. (Dear Future Children: I apologize in advance, as I'm certain some day your well-meaning teachers will send you home from school to ask for personal testimonies about the Iraq War, Obamacare, and the Government Shutdown for some school project, and your very loving but under-informed mom will respond with, "Wanna hear about this amazing social media app we used to have called Instagram?")

While I knew about cellulite, I wish someone had warned me that it is possible to get stretch marks without ever being pregnant.  Similarly, I wish someone had told me about the steady increase in unwanted chin and neck hair that begins somewhere around age 24 and ends....never?

I wish someone had warned me about living arrangements and this bizarre place where some of my friends are married and multiplying, others are buying houses, and a select few of us are still throwing our money away towards renting crappy apartments in epic locations and desperately trying to straddle that line between youth and adulthood (and most often paying for it the next day).

I wish someone had warned me that hikes would be followed by trips to the chiropractor, which means paying a copay, which means painstakingly attempting to decipher the pages of tiny print describing the benefits your company may or may not offer you under the assumption that you already understand them.

I wish someone had warned me about the pressure to figure my life out early, so I could "set myself up" for the future. I had no idea my starting salary determined my wages for the rest of my life.  I'm not even 30 yet, how can anyone realistically expect me to think about, much less plan for, my retirement?

I wish someone had warned me about my waistline, and how - without warning - it would magically start to mean something to me when I went to buy jeans.  I swear this happened overnight. All of the sudden, the fog lifted and I saw those little low-rise jeans I used to adore so much for what they really are: ridiculous.

I wish someone had warned me acne doesn't end with adolescence, and that gray hairs and pimples can, and do, co-exist quite well together.

I wish someone had warned me that witnessing my friends transform into wives and mothers would cause unpredictable tears of pride and joy, all the while forever changing the dynamics of our entire relationship. And I wish someone had warned me that this is both a beautiful and difficult thing. It would have been nice to know that true friendships are strengthened through these life transformations, thereby sparing me all those silly tears I wept in solitude when I foolishly convinced myself my best friend was going to replace me because - in my mind - married couples only spent time together and with other married couples, and I could never catch up.

About a year ago, I found myself so burdened by the sense that everyone around me was growing up and moving on that the only way I could combat my irrational fear of being left behind was to scrawl out the names of my few single friends onto a post-it note and stick it to my bedroom mirror, that way I would be forced to look at it every morning and remember I wasn't alone.  I was quite proud of this solution, actually, until I shared it with someone who quietly asked, "Natalie, what are you going to do when you have to cross one of those names off?"

You see, even in that moment of desperation, I still hadn't learned that life is not a race, but a beautiful, messy, tearful, chaotic, and surprising adventure to discovering your future.  

I wish someone had warned me that the dreams of my early 20's were limited, but I know I wouldn't have listened. None of us ever do. I've yet to meet a single person whose life turned out exactly as they dreamed...

...and thank God for that.


Anna said…
This is a great post, Natalie.

My life is nowhere close to what I thought it would turn out like. Some days it sucks and some days I have to just relax and let life be.

I know that you will do great things in life - you are one of the most unique & amazing people I've met!