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advice for the angsty 20-something self

I remember writing here that my 20s were a real pain in the ass because there were so many UNDECIDED things? Like, I could decide my whole career. Where I'd live. Who I'd marry. It was now time. I couldn't screw up my life by taking the wrong class in high school, all those decisions are so minor. But my 20s felt full of decisions that mattered.

In one way I'm glad to be out of it. In other ways, I tell myself that the decades past that are even scarier because I now have the option of the non-decision. As in, I could have this same career in this same town FOREVER, or do I need to change something? Will I regret laying back and just letting this river take me on its direction? Should I be living in other places? Is this a mistake?

Last week I read a lot of this book...

Mistakes I Made At Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out Of Getting It Wrong

Overall it's a good book but the vast majority of the 25 women interviewed are in journalism, media, publishing, writing etc... I had to dig for STEM voices that applied to me. So that's my one sentence review (beef) of the book.

But my favorite quote to highlight was author Joanna Barsh:

I've noticed that young people are often afraid of "living the wrong life." Every decision becomes momentous because they just haven't made many of them! They become afraid to decide anything, which can be a mistake in itself. Instead, start with what you really want to create and if the decision takes you a step forward, go for it. If you don't know what you want to create, focus on gaining a skill.

I'd send this back to my 25 year old self, for sure. Don't worry. You can't live the wrong life.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC)
I often feel absolutely paralyzed with indecision. I'm 29, when is it going to get easier? Even the tiniest things seem to stun me. And the big things... forget about it. So 4 months ago I was dead set on living in NYC after I graduated but now I'm starting to waver and think, 'well you know London could have many of the same advantages...' NO BRAIN. STOP. STICK TO A DECISION, GODDAMIT!

Edited at 2015-02-27 11:39 pm (UTC)
Feb. 28th, 2015 12:22 am (UTC)
You are not alone in analysis paralysis :D

Mar. 1st, 2015 04:16 am (UTC)
you can always move to London later. :) decisions can be changed. :)
Feb. 27th, 2015 11:44 pm (UTC)
I basically need to repeat this quote to myself like a mantra for the next X number of years.
Feb. 28th, 2015 12:26 am (UTC)
This sounds like a good book. Now that 40 is on the horizon, I can say that my decision to leave the public library was the best I ever made (at 20!) to take a chance on this new thing called the Internet. It was so exciting to be on the ground floor of the newest thing :)

The 30s are a wonderful place to be :)
Feb. 28th, 2015 02:08 am (UTC)
that's a great quote--I needed to read that at 25, too.
Feb. 28th, 2015 08:10 am (UTC)
Perhaps I'm just too laid back. I don't ever remember of having really, _really_, fret over anything called "future" before.

I'm not all that ambitious either. The only 2 reasons I even try for a promotion are:

1. Money (what else)
2. Getting more interesting stuff to work on (make things less of a bore)

Yep, that's it... and I'm not really sure just how much I care about BEING too laid back or unambitious EITHER.
Feb. 28th, 2015 02:27 pm (UTC)
I think STEM is hard for undecided folks because it demands a fairly long chain of skill acquisitions, and if one gets off the train, it's hard to catch it again. Most of us in those fields stayed on the rails for quite a long time; some have never really left them, although in this age of layoffs, that's less common than it was a couple of decades ago. Most career advisors for young people (high school guidance counselors, for example) are very focused on the rails, so people don't know what to do when there isn't at least a strong hint of a direction for them.
Feb. 28th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
Huh. I'd have to spend some time thinking to see if I ever felt like that in my 20s. Certainly nothing springs to mind -- maybe because my early 20th birthday present was receiving admission to my preferred grad school a few days before my birthday. (When you get an email from the chair of the dept. and it says "Happy Birthday", you know it's a good sign.), so by the time I'd hit my 20s, I already pretty well knew my trajectory; my career was mapped out, that summer I started dating the man I've now been married to for 10 years, and grad school keeps you in one place for a long time, and after that, you go wherever the jobs go.

In our case, things took a bit of a turn when we left the programme we were in mid-way through, but we had three options of where to move and of the three, it was easy to see which one dominated the others (how much it did, we didn't know until retrospect, so we were quite quite lucky, but it was still an informed choice), so we moved to Amsterdam. Basically every move or decision after that has been our only option, and now we're both successfully employed in our respective fields with permanent positions, in the country we hoped to end up in, in a city where we knew a lot of people in the area before we even moved, about to buy the house we hope to die in.

I've always worked under a principle of "Things Will Work Out". It isn't exactly fatalism, but rather a deep-seated feeling that I have hard to provide a rational articulation of, one which influences the choices I make and which is self-fulfilling in various respects.

I guess I'm rather glad I missed out on all that angst!
Feb. 28th, 2015 10:45 pm (UTC)
I'm the angsty 20-something now. In fact, everybody I know is angsty. Our whole generation seems paralysed by indecision.

you can't live the wrong life - that sounds like good advice and something I will try to remember in my angstier moments haha. thank you.
Mar. 1st, 2015 07:49 am (UTC)
Ugh oh, I am almost 24 right now and I'm experiencing the same concerns...
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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