Top 5 Lessons an LMFT learned in her 20's

I think reflection is always a necessary piece of growing and as I approach my 30th birthday, I decided to reflect on my 20’s. As I think back to where I have been, I started my 20’s in college at La Salle University. The experiences I gained in college ran the gamut of emotions from confident and successful to hurt and confused.

I sat comfortably in my mid-twenties at a salaried position in the pharmaceutical world. Truth be told, it was the only industry at the time willing to hire someone fresh out of college as it was the end of the recession. I also needed a job while I went to grad school at night. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I made enough to pay my half of the rent of my first apartment. I shared the apartment with a friend and we had a blast making dinner, going to happy hours, and ultimately living for the weekend.

The later portion of my 20’s I spent in two of my own apartments (one year after the other) where I lived by myself and I got my first dog, Bailey. Friends came over often on weekends and I was still in grad school and working full time so I was busy throughout the week. I realized that many of my friends at that point had settled into relationships and some even were getting married. I started to think that maybe I could balance a relationship and put myself out there in my late 20’s.

In the past three, almost four years, I have shared my life with the man who stole my heart. We bought a house together, got married, and are sorting out all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle we call life to create one beautiful picture for us. I graduated my graduate program and established myself as a licensed therapist.

Even reflecting on these moments it feels insane that I have been through all of that in 10 years. Ups and downs, happiness and sadness. I have created some of the most proud memories in my 20’s and some of my least favorite. Your 20’s is a time of discovery and there are lessons that I learned through that discovery.

Lesson #1

I can change. For a very long time, I have defined myself as someone who struggles with change. Starting back to my first day of high school, I became incredibly anxious at the thought of creating a new schedule and routine for myself. My 20’s has forced me to change my routine and change it often. Graduate school, budgets, friendships dissolving, new friendships starting, new jobs, new career, getting married, buying a house. All of these moments that occurred during my 20’s pushed me out of my simplistic routine and opened me up to the concept of change being good. My 20’s tested my anxiety and it got the best of me sometimes, but overall I see a much stronger person in the mirror who is ready to take on life’s constant changes.

Lesson #2

What you think you want is probably not what you will end up having or needing. I went to college intending on being an event planner in public relations. I enjoyed every aspect of the classes I took and excelled at the details involved. Once I graduated with my bachelors, I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. My parents always taught me that it doesn’t matter what I become, as long as I am the best at what I become. I researched graduate schools for public relations and interpersonal communication and consistently Marriage and Family therapy courses came up in my search. I realized then that a topic I had never even known about was being placed in my path. It felt natural and the process fell into place. I signed myself up for the Marriage and Family therapy program with no second guessing. I learned that I need to remain open to what life puts in my path because usually that is something you need in your life. You just have to be open to seeing it.

Lesson #3

Friendships are relationships and sometimes you need to “break up” with a friend. One of the harder lessons I learned from my 20’s was regarding friendships. I learned in college and living with a variety of different roommates that not everyone is meant to be your friend. I always wanted people to like me and I can tolerate a lot of drama just to keep the peace. I discovered that sometimes in order to help yourself, you have to walk away from certain friendships and certain people. At the time it felt like I was being a b***h, but now I know that that is how life goes. You meet new people at a new office or in a new class and you can maintain certain relationships, but others dissolve. Some relationships and friendships need to end because they no longer fit into your life the way they had before. It can be painful to lose a friend, but in the end, it is important to have supportive people around you.

Lesson #4

I am responsible for the relationship I have with myself. Becoming a therapist, I took many courses related to the topic of “person of the therapist.” These courses aimed at having us gain insight into our own trauma, our reactions, our past, our future, etc. in order to help us manage the emotions that arise during sessions. Basically, if someone says something that reminds me of my past, I have to know that I am being triggered and to manage my own feelings before I react in session. While learning about myself, the program stressed the importance of self-care. I learned that I need to take care of the person I am: my mind, body, and soul. I learned to build a relationship with myself and how to maintain that relationship. My relationship with myself is still a work in progress, but it has become one of the most valuable relationships in my life.

Lesson #5

My family is my foundation. Growing up, my Mom used to tell me and my siblings to not fight with each other and that one day we would see that the only people who will really be there for you is your family. My 20’s was full of emotional relationships and incidents where I learned that my family will without fail stick up for me. One of my favorite qualities about myself is loyalty and I learned that from my family. My family has consistently shown that no matter how I feel, I can turn to them and they will help me work through it. I feel blessed to have such strong people to look up to and to model my actions after. Families understand each other and even though each family has their own dysfunction, I have found comfort in the fact that each of my family knows the person that I am and my values. Even when I mess up, they are able to help me see that and guide me toward a solution. Adding a new person into my foundation has been an additional blessing and I believe together we will build an amazing addition onto the house that is our life together.

What are some of the lessons you have learned over the last 10 years of your life? What about the last 5? Taking some time to reflect daily will help you realize you are more capable than you ever thought.

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