My Twentysomethings: Embracing the Learning Curve

I’m only twenty-two years old, and I am thoroughly exhausted. Fittingly, most days I rise to the occasion, while other days I find it to be more of a personal challenge — like Michael Jordan braving the flu and scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Extraordinary. This is the year of my 23rd birthday — my Jordan year. And this era, for many of us, is our “Flu Game.” For the first time in our lives, it seems, we are bombarded with choices that we must make. No big deal. I’ve always had to choose between one thing or another anyways — green or blue as my favorite color, socks or no socks with my Sperrys, shorts or jeans in the winter. Those choices no longer hold the same weight. Now, there exists a shadow that conjures up the coldest breeze when one least expects it. The choices I’m faced with these days are larger, more elaborate and blatantly complex. Suddenly, it’s cash or credit when I have neither to my name, fish or chicken when I’m too stressed to eat and yes or no when I somehow miss the question but my pride gets in the way of me begging anyone’s pardon.

Recently I applied for a study abroad program that would have given me the opportunity to travel to Rio de Janeiro to report the 2016 Summer Olympics. I wasn’t selected. But I feel it taught me a valuable lesson, one I felt I had already learned as a child time and time again. Things won’t always go my way. Up until execution, a plan is just that. I was saddened by the thought of rejection, but not as much as I was disappointed in myself. Although I was awarded two scholarships, solely for the purpose of studying abroad, I could not shake the feeling that I was not good enough. But unlike some of the twenty-somethings I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing in one of their know-it-all rages, I can — and I will — admit when I’m wrong. I took some time think it over, and I came to the conclusion that I think sports are cool, but I am not as invested in them as the Skip Baylesses and the Stephen A. Smiths of the world are. Maybe I am accustomed to forcing things upon myself, and I just know I’m not alone. I now realize that something as equally as exciting and new to me will circle back around — except next time around I won’t be stuck jamming a square block into a circle. It’ll just fit.

Difficult life choices are manageable, and disappointment blows over. But the true test of one’s tenacity is in the testing of personal limits. On my 21st birthday I had my first beer in public. I didn’t have to sneak around with it. I didn’t have to pour it into a Solo cup. I drank my Ghost River Golden Ale from a glass, in a busy bar. That was the moment I realized that it was up to me how many I would drink that night. I had to set my own limit. True enough, my server would have cut me off once I began to exhibit signs of intoxication, but being dragged out of a bar is not something I’ve ever been particularly interested in. And that’s all the reason I need to set limits in all areas of my life. Setting limits isn’t just about stopping at a few beers or pushing the plate away when popping is a legitimate concern. The limits I find myself setting have everything to do with the people I meet. “No,” “don’t” and “hell no” all become necessary. “No, that’s not my name.” “Don’t touch me.” “Hell no, I don’t have any money for you.” I will admit that this is one of the better facets of being a twentysomething adult. I get to set the kind of boundaries children dream of setting, if it weren’t for adults convincing them that they have no idea what they want.

On top of everything else, we can’t call our parents because sometimes they just won’t understand. And why don’t parents understand? They’ve been twenty-two before, haven’t they? When my parents were twenty-two, they had me to love, to feed, to figure out. And babies are sweet, but they are no piece of cake. Perhaps our parents, or any of the older adults in our lives who seem to be afloat, are the rule book — but our twentysomething eyes and ears are not yet equipped for watching and listening to the things we should be. If I knew for a fact, I would say it must be a glitch — a manufacturer’s defect. But there is no one to ship this problem to. There is no formula for working it out.

People fall everyday. And people get back up everyday. Several people I trust have said that life got better for them after their twenties. It’s not until those moments that I realize I won’t be twentysomething forever. Twentysomething has claimed better men and women than me — Amy Winehouse, Tupac Shakur and Jimi Hendrix, just to name a few. But I am stubborn. I won’t voluntarily quit anything when I know I have such a long way to go. There is probably no switch to flip that will inspire anyone to go on, to move forward. One of my personal favorite catalysts for getting off of my ass is a poem titled Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley in 1875. The last two lines read, “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.” Suit up and get in the game. All anyone has to lose is a spot at the top of the learning curve — however steep.

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