After seven years of blogging, I was turned onto the idea of creating email newsletters in an effort to reach more of my audience more often with more content. MORE MORE MORE! That’s right — as if I don’t promote myself enough already, I’m adding a newsletter to the mix.
This is a whole new endeavor for me and something I’m formatting completely on my own via MailChimp (AKA Mail Kimp?). It’s a work in progress, but I’m really excited to correspond with you all more closely in a different way. So, sign up! Please! And be on the lookout for my first newsletter by the end of this week. 🙌🏻
I would like to formally apologize AS A 30-YEAR-OLD for the delay in part three of my “Decade in Review” series. The birthday celebration started over the weekend and spilled into the beginning of this week, rendering me basically useless for sitting down and focusing on anything but what meal or drink was next. Now that all that’s behind me (and on me, namely in my stomach and thigh areas), I’m ready to complete the third and final chapter in this series of life lessons.
In part one, I covered my early 20s (from losing my virginity to not knowing how to do laundry). In part two, I covered my mid 20s (from depression to discovering my career path). For part three, I’m happy to report that my lessons aren’t nearly as heavy, and you know why? Because basically all of your 20s suck, so by the time you get to 28 and 29, things are finally starting to level out and you’re more ready than you ever imagined to roll into the next decade of your life. That’s why.
So let’s finish this shit up, shall we?
AGE 2️⃣8️⃣: Nice isn’t enough.
At 28, I had a nice boyfriend and a nice job. It was all very… nice. Not great, not bad. Just nice. But I realized, I don’t want nice. I want a lot more than nice. I want exciting, amazing, fun, passionate, interesting, challenging, hilarious, intense. ANYTHING BUT NICE. But it’s where I was for the moment, so I accepted it. At first, it was easy. I made peace with feeling content. Why should I ask for anything more? Why shouldn’t I just be happy knowing I even had a boyfriend and a job and a few good friends? Why was I so ungrateful and chronically unsatisfied? What was wrong with me?
The further I settled into my relationship and job, the more the “niceness” of it all ate at me. Sure, I felt secure and taken care of both professionally and romantically, but it was all missing something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. An X factor. From the outside looking in, I’m sure things seemed peachy. I was crushing it at my new job, in a good relationship with a non-asshole, and having fun in between it all as any normal 28-year-old should.
But soon, the niceness began suffocating me. I wasn’t being challenged by anyone or anything. I could do no wrong at work or at home, and that’s not fun for anyone. I began to realize my boyfriend was SO nice that he literally refused to even attempt confrontation in the name of keeping our relationship alive; that there was little to no passion to sustain between us and that any time I pushed for it, he was standing by with broom in hand and the rug picked up off the floor. I started to see my job for what it was: a very nice path to a surefire dead-end. I didn’t want to give up on it after having not even been there a year, but the draw to work somewhere not as nice and better suited for me was too magnetic to ignore.
So, that August, after one more passionate attempt at getting over the nice hump that seemed to be stunting my relationship’s pathway into the type of love I wanted, I broke up with my very nice boyfriend. Have you ever broken up with nice? If so, you know it’s the absolute fucking worst. Breaking up with nice is painful. You find yourself wishing they had cheated or abused you or killed your dog or SOMETHING ANYTHING TO JUSTIFY BREAKING THEIR VERY NICE HEART. But sometimes there is no other reason besides it was nice, but you don’t want nice — you want so much more.
Next came my job. My coworkers and I got along swimmingly. My boss loved me to death. I was making mini waves where I was, but those waves were only nice and manageable and ones I could easily surf with little to no wipe outs (GNARLY, BRAH). I wanted big waves. YUGE. Crashing tsunamis that knocked me around and disoriented me in the best way. So, I got a new job and left.
And all of this — the breakup and the job-leaving — was sad, but right to do. Because sometimes (most of the time), nice just isn’t enough.
AGE 2️⃣9️⃣: THERE ARE NO RULES.
I don’t think it’s uncommon to have set loose rules for yourself by certain ages. Whether you do it consciously or not, you more than likely have goals for yourself (or at least I hope so?). You know, things like get my savings to X amount by this age or be married by this age.
The closer I got to 30, the more I began to internally panic. Was I doing it right? Did turning 30 with marriage and babies nowhere even kind of on my horizon mean I had failed? If I wasn’t living a certain way with certain checkmarks in certain milestone boxes by 30, was that it for me?
The answer, obviously, is no. Because there are no rules. There is no right way to evolve, to pace, to experience. Some people have what you might consider a “normal” path, while others all over the place. During your 20s (and all throughout your life, but the 20s is my focus here), you might take three steps forward one year and two steps back the next. You might think you’re in a good place by age 26 and have never been so miserable by 28. You could be content at age 29 and decide to go back to school and change your entire career path by 29.5. And you can do that, because there are NO RULES.
Life is not a straight and narrow path. It doesn’t all have to be figured out before you’re 30. In fact, it shouldn’t be. The 20s are your time to be miserable, confused, excited, insane, dumb, surprisingly insightful, fucked up, bored, depressed, elated, hopeful and, most importantly, open to experiencing it all. Have shitty jobs, date awful people, make a fool of yourself more times than you can remember but always keep in mind that nothing that happens in your 20s means it’s the end of world. It just means you’re going to love turning 30 that much more and have so many stories to tell when you look back on your life. You’ll be able to more easily relate to your own children’s trials and tribulations while saying things like, “Hey! I survived! And you will, too” and that’s something you can’t create out of thin air. You have to live it to know it.
All that said, I would never ever for any reason ever do my 20s over. Not for a second. Not even one year of it. They were what they were when they were happening, and they’re over now. I learned so much, experienced so much, and had enough anxiety about it all to talk and write about for a lifetime. Would I do some things differently? Absolutely. But if I did, even in the smallest of ways, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am today and that would suck. So I’m glad they panned out as they did, and I’m even more glad to be moving on from them. So long, 20s. You were the worst 10-year long anxiety attack I’ve ever had, but I love you for it.
To recap what’s going on: I turn 30 in exactly five days, so to commemorate this past decade of my life, I’m writing up the top life lesson from each year of my 20s. For ages 20-23, I covered losing my virginity, laundry learnings, best friend roommates, and college boyfriends. For this second chunk of time, we’re diving into the mid 20s (AKA: THE WORST). Buckle up.
Age 2️⃣4️⃣: Don’t SLEEP WITH or DATE coworkers
Hey! ANOTHER cliché. But one that is of vital importance if you’re trying to make it as a professional with minimal hiccups or added stressors along the way.
At age 24, I was working at a company that was made up of roughly 80% millennials and 20% executives. That, paired with the fact that office relationships were not only okay but encouraged made NOT falling into bed with a coworker pretty difficult. If you were a millennial, single, and relatively attractive, you were going to find yourself in at least one office romance whether you meant to or not.
Being freshly single and inexperienced in the realm of real world dating, I was the perfect prey and boy, did I get GOT.
There was initial interest sparked, primary flirtatious conversations had, numbers exchanged, and dates setup. I fell for this coworker hard and fast because that was the only way I knew how to fall for anyone. His words and actions made me confident in my decision to break the cardinal rule of no inner-office romance. I trusted it, so I trust-fell right into that shit: the infatuation, the courting, the dance around sex, the having of the sex, the songs being written for me, and then the sharp demise. Why? I don’t know. But I was in shambles for six months following our short-lived tryst. This was the first guy outside of college I had been with, so naturally my reaction to it not working out was off-the- charts-dramatic.
From where I sat, I could see the back of his head. So every day, I watched it. I watched that bald head carrying on without me, treating what we had like it was nothing, and worst of all, DATING LIKE 5 OTHER GIRLS IN THE OFFICE WHILE I HAD TO SIT BACK AND WATCH. It was hell. A total nightmare for an emotional gal like myself to have to witness, all the while wanting to run around the office scream-warning all his unknowing victims. I’m proud to say I only cried at my desk maybe two times? Outside of work was a different story, though. I cried/talked about it for a solid half-year following. So.
He ended up with the front desk receptionist (like, they got married) so good for him, I guess. But my feelings about dating coworkers is the same as my feelings about breaking up with your college love: if you don’t know with every fiber of your being that this person could very seriously possibly be it for you, don’t even go there. Working every day from 9-5 is depressing enough as it is; adding romantic drama to the mix is just not worth it.
Age 2️⃣5️⃣: IF YOU HAVE NO PASSION FOR WHAT YOU DO, CHANGE IT
This is gonna be shorter because it’s a boring thought that everyone knows is true, but rarely act on because honestly? It’s hard to do. And scary. And I’m not suggesting I’m a stronger, better person for having changed my career path midway through my 20s. I just knew how miserable I was NOT writing and had to figure it out before I ended up getting fired from every job for my painfully obvious uncaring attitude. The truth of the matter is that, at the end of the day, a job is a job is a job. Whether you’re working within a field you’re passionate about or not, it’s a fucking job. And once the glamour of it wears off, it’s the same level of monotonous misery across the board. The difference is the saving grace of knowing you’re doing the thing you’re apparently passionate about rather than taking a job to take a job.
Toward the end of my 25th year of life with nothing but my blog and an assortment of pieces I had written for local publications, I decided to try to convince any advertising agency in town to hire me as a copywriter. Somehow it worked, and about a month and a half before my 26th birthday, I moved into the world of advertising for what I had no idea was going to be a very unpredictable ride. Since, I’ve worked at a solid handful of agencies and have written words for exciting projects, boring projects, sexy projects, completely pointless projects, but all I’ve ever cared about is that I’m writing. I go into work and my job is to write and it’s hard to ask for more than that when you’re talkin’ 9-5 grinds.
So, in short, it probably isn’t ever too late to change your career path, but it also probably definitely takes a lot more work than it did for my certain situation. So… good luck.
AGE 2️⃣6️⃣: Depression is very real and very scary
Full disclosure: I’ve always had mad anxiety. From the moment I felt feelings, I have felt anxiety. However, I hadn’t ever dealt with true depression, which I considered a win since the two so often go hand-in-hand. It wasn’t until I was 26, had just started on a new career path, and things seemed to be going my way that I experienced my first bout of depression.
To this day, I’m not exactly sure what triggered it. Chances are it had always been sitting there patiently waiting, and a perfect storm of events inspired it to finally act. Was it that I had had my first (and last) one-off sexual encounter and was quietly beating myself up for being disgusting, dirty, and cheap? Was it hearing supposed friends’ real thoughts on me? Was it the intangible but crushing pressure I was putting on myself to deliver in my new job, one I felt (deep down) that I didn’t deserve? Was it just one, ugly quarter-life crisis at its finest? Who knows. But it clicked on and suddenly, I found myself listless and numb. When I wasn’t sad, I was nothing. Horrible thoughts — dark and disturbing – began filling my brain every second of the day. I couldn’t escape myself and started to feel out of control, which scared the living fuck out of me.
My existential fears were winning. I was consumed by them, unable to function or find much reason to even try. Knowing I couldn’t handle this alone (nor wanted to), I threw what I could into my car and drove to my parents’ home (25 min north) and stayed there for two weeks. I still worked; the commute was just much longer. I still talked to my friends; just in shorter, more clipped sentences. I was a whisper of myself, and it made me angry because I had NOTHING to be depressed over! But that’s the whole thing with depression. That stigma. The thought that it should only happen to those who have every right to feel that way. No. Absolutely not. Anyone can feel anything at any time for any reason. No emotion is off-limits just because you don’t fit someone’s criteria, and don’t ever forget that.
It was a really shitty time, but! I got through it (obvs). In my worst moments, I didn’t think I would; or rather I didn’t think I would ever feel 100% like me again. When you’re that down, the ability to conjure up what you used to feel like is next to impossible. You can’t for the life of you remember how it feels to not feel this way. I can’t exactly remember when I came out of it, I’m just grateful I did. Which leads me to 27…
AGE 2️⃣7️⃣: GETTING FIRED IS PRETTY SHITTY
A year and a half into my first agency job and completely past that depression, I was canned. Out of the blue, too. Blindsided. When I turned the corner to go into the last-minute meeting I had been invited to and saw the ECD and head of HR sitting in the room, I began to black out. The reasoning was ludicrous, but I was an immature junior who I suppose was earning her rite of passage into agency life. Everyone says getting fired is just part of the job, but you certainly never assume it’ll happen to you. You know what’s cute? I’d always told myself I’d be a hardass if it were to ever happen to me. To stay strong, cold, and stand my ground. Pretty sure I looked like this that morning in the room:
Calling your parents after getting fired is the worst part. It’s what I would consider the most shameful moment in a young adult’s life. The level of disappointment you feel in yourself and KNOW they feel but are masking for the time being is overwhelming. If they’re good parents, they’ll console you. They’ll hear you out, take your side (if only initially), and tell you everything is going to be okay. They’ll sit with you and go over why it happened and help you come to peace with it. That’s what my parents did, and I am grateful every day that they did.
It was a really crappy time filled with hustling, emails, resumes, interviews, freelance, frustration, and being really poor. I was angry, tired, lost, and felt a bit like a loser in my worst moments. But, I prevailed. I bounced back. Because that’s all you can do. Getting fired or let go doesn’t define you. In no way does it mean you’re a bad person or shitty employee. It just means it didn’t work out. I like to think of it in terms of getting dumped; getting broken up with one time doesn’t mean you’re unloveable, a terrible catch, or won’t ever find love again. It just means it wasn’t meant to be, that you two weren’t a match. It’s also an amazing opportunity to look back on the relationship (or job) and analyze what you could’ve done better or differently. It’s a key moment for introspection.
That said, it still fucking blows. So take the time to freak out, be upset, and complain about your newfound, shitty situation. Then say fuck it and fuck them, dust yourself off, and start hustling.
Okay, guys. That concludes ages 24-27. Come Monday, I will post 28 and 29 and then… on Tuesday… I’ll be 30.
Me. 30. I still don’t believe it. In no way does it feel like I’ve graced this world with my presence for 30 FUQKIN years. It seems like such a big number when, in reality, I still feel about 26. I really didn’t think I’d make it (jk, of course I did), yet here we are. I survived, you guys. I made it through my 20s and have lived to tell the tale (which I will in full when I start writing my book).
I’ve accrued too many stories over the past 10 years to do justice via a single blog post (thusly, again, why I’m writing a book) (y’all hold me to that), therefore I’ve decided to highlight one learning per each year of my 20s. When I sat down to start writing this piece, I mistakenly assumed it would all fit nice and tightly into one big blog post. Silly me — I forgot an extremely verbose writer is attempting to cram 10 years worth of lessons into one post. Therefore, I’m doing us all a favor and breaking my lessons into age-chunks: 20-23, 24-27, and 28&29.
So, without further adieu, let’s dive into the first three years of my 20s.
Age 2️⃣0️⃣: Sex is tight.
I was a late bloomer, losing my virginity at 20. Call it morals, being raised in a stricter household, or sheer terror of what I know my emotions are capable of, but I steered clear of P in V until college. I was proud of this accomplishment until I woke up one day and realized I was a 19-year-old virgin (who COULD drive). All around me, my experienced college friends were fucking like rabbits while I was perfecting the hand job and dry-hump-to-completion. Suddenly, losing my innocence by age 20 became a focal point and something that needed to happen no matter what. Lucky for me, my first college boyfriend entered the picture in January of 2007. We met in a photography class (like with old school cameras and dark rooms and everything (so college)), and the attraction was immediate. He was innocent like me; he wasn’t a virgin, but he had only had sex three isolated times, all of which were terrible incidents. After a few months of intense dry humping and enough hand jobs to last him a lifetime I’m sure, I decided it was time to knock boots but not without one major stipulation. “I can’t have sex until you say you love me,” I told him. Yeah, I really said that. And yeah, I really thought it was okay to say. Years later, I would realize that wasn’t me talking but my mother. Long story short, I basically forced my first real boyfriend to say he loved me as a person but wasn’t necessarily IN love with me yet, decided that was close enough, got really drunk at a pool party, and spent roughly an hour figuring out how to do the sex. Once it happened though, I was like OMG THIS IS SO COOL for a good six months before realizing we both were really terrible at it, and I needed to move on and sex other people to figure out what good sex was.
Age 2️⃣1️⃣: Farbic softner isn’t detergent.
Huh? What’s that? Oh, you already knew that from a young age because you’re not slightly off in the head? Well, GOOD FOR YOU because I sure as hell didn’t. Allow me to explain.
We didn’t use fabric softener in my household, ok? It wasn’t a thing. Marry that with the fact that I was living with a girl the summer of my 21st year who ALSO didn’t now the difference between fabric softener and detergent (how two of the same type of idiot ended up in a household together, I don’t know). So, you’d understand my surprise and delight when my roommate at the time came home one day with a delicious smelling new detergent for her laundry. I was obsessed with the scent and immediately ran out to get my very own bottle in which I would wash EVERYTHING. During this time, I was on my second, long-term, college boyfriend who I had MUCH better sex with and often. It had been going swimmingly until I started randomly burning down there almost every time we did the deed. My first thought (of course) was: STD. I insisted we both get checked, but once the results came back negative, I was equal parts perplexed and depressed, submitting to the idea that I was just going to have a burny vag for the rest of my sexual career since no one could seem to find the root of the problem. Cut to August with a new semester and new house on the horizon. A new house meant new household supplies, so a trip to Walmart with one of my best friends was in order.
“Oh!” I exclaimed while passing the detergent aisle. “That reminds me. I need more laundry detergent.” As I confidently moseyed down the aisle and grabbed my beloved detergent, my friend stopped me.
“Emma, that’s fabric softener.”
“Huh?” I responded, confused.
“That’s just fabric softener,” she carefully explained, realizing I was maybe slightly touched. “You need a detergent, too.”
“No,” I retorted. “This IS detergent. And maybe fabric softener, too? In one?”
“No. That is incorrect. They’re two different things,” she insisted. “Let’s ask someone.”
Right then, a kind older woman who looked like she’d done some laundry in her day was walking past us. “Mam, could we ask you a question? Are fabric softener and detergent the same thing?”
“No, they’re different,” the helpful patron explained. “Detergent washes your clothes and fabric softener, well, softens them!”
We stood there frozen as the epiphany washed over both of us.
“Emma, have you been washing your clothes with ONLY fabric softener this entire summer?” My friend asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yes. Do you think that’s why…”
“YES. OBVIOUSLY. YOUR CLOTHES AREN’T CLEAN AND YOU’RE BASICALLY SHOVING IT UP YOUR VAGINA CONSTANTLY. IT’S LIKE AN ALLERGIC REACTION!”
Yeah, guys. I know, ok? I know. That day, I went home, washed literally everything I owned in REGULAR DETERGENT, lit the fabric softener on fire (not really), and my vag almost instantly went back to normal. A hard lesson to learn, but a vitally important one.
AGE 2️⃣2️⃣: DON’T EVER LIVE WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND.
Clichés are annoying because they’re typically true, and this one is the truest cliché I’ve ever lived out in my entire life.
DO. NOT. EVER. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. EVER. NEVER. LIVE👏🏻 WITH👏🏻 YOUR👏🏻 BEST👏🏻 FRIEND👏🏻. NEVER.
My bestie and I had been thick as thieves since age 16. Seriously, we were practically sisters. Every massive phone bill and subsequent berating by my father was caused solely by the incessant amount of texting her and I did on a daily basis. We talked constantly, did everything together, and were each other’s go-to for just about everything. Then, we moved in together. Having gone to separate colleges, we figured it was a no-brainer and something we owed ourselves to play house our first year out in the real world. WRONG. So wrong. Between our clashing domestic attitudes, the fact that her and my college boyfriend (who ended up moving to Dallas, but we’ll get to that in a second) got off on the wrong foot, and how we were just two very lost and very intensely dramatic 22-year-olds… well. You can imagine what it was like under our roof.
Once we moved out after those 12 months were up, we didn’t speak for two full years. I missed her engagement and her wedding — that’s how severe the break was. Not to mention that we shared a best friend between the two of us who was essentially forced into being the middle man those two years, which took a serious toll on her (sorry, K). The only good that came out of that year was that I weighed 115 pounds and was a size 0, because my anxiety about living, working, and being in a relationship I didn’t want to be in was so outrageous, I basically wasn’t eating.
Moral of the story: if you’re considering moving in with your best friend, DON’T. I’m very happy to report that our aforementioned mutual best friend got married, forcing us to reconcile and we’ve been back to normal for four years now. I didn’t miss the birth of her baby, she hasn’t missed any of my ludicrous drama, and we laugh daily about what a terrible idea moving in together ever was.
Age 2️⃣3️⃣: If you don’t love your college boyfriend in college, you won’t love him out of college
Look. I get that some people meet their true love in college, and that’s fine. Good for you. I’m glad you haven’t been subjected to the utter HELL that is real world dating. You should celebrate that.
However, for a lot of us, college is a time to date around (read: sleep around), explore (read: have a lot of sex), and fraternize with lots of different people (read: basically, be a big ol’ whore). Now, some of the time, one of these seemingly casual college flings may turn “serious.” I put “serious” in quotes because, come on. I hardly think drinking beer 24/7, eating pizza for most meals, and fucking like rabbits constitutes being in a “serious” relationship. Fun, yes. But not “serious.”
My junior year, I started dating a guy and didn’t stop dating him come graduation although I knew even in the most conscious part of my heart that he was not by any means my forever love. In fact, I’m not even sure if he was any sort of love. I think maybe I thought he was, but looking back, when you’re getting oral almost every day during a part of your life in which you consider getting dressed up for frat parties a date night, it makes sense that you’d label love incorrectly.
Instead of being mature and breaking it off at the end of my last summer in my college town, I decided to do what any fresh graduate would do — DRAG THAT SHIT OUT. And drag it out to the point of helping your college boyfriend MOVE TO YOUR CITY because “if we don’t try this in the real world, I’ll never know if it’s meant to be.” HEY, 23-YEAR-OLD EMMA. YOU ALREADY KNEW, YOU STUPID LITTLE GIRL.
But listen. I don’t beat myself up too much because transitioning from college to real world is brutal, so grasping onto any residual whisperings of my college life was pretty natural I think. I wasn’t ready to fully let go of that irresponsible, carefree, I’m-not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman lifestyle, so keeping my college boyfriend close was a part of that. However, I knew as soon as he moved here that it had been a terrible idea and broke up with him a month into his new life in Dallas. Don’t worry — it lasted two weeks before we got back together. But then I broke up with him again. But then we secretly got back together (because my best-friend-turned-worst-enemy roommate and family were so against our coupling). And then we gave it another go for real before I finally called it off for good. But then we hooked up six months after that. But then, for real, I was done.
It was a wild ride and one I would never do again. The bottom line is this: unless you’re sure with every fiber of your being that there is NO ONE ELSE out there in the world for you come graduation day, CUT IT. Even if you’ve had the best time together and you love him as a person and you have grown so used to him and you’re going to miss the simplicity of having sex all day and drinking all night — that shit is ju-ve-nile, you need to CUT ITTTTT.
And that concludes ages 20-23. Check back tomorrow for lessons from age 24-27!