Hopefully by now, you’ve read the first part of this three-part series. If you haven’t, you should.
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.