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Am I Doing My 20's Right?

By Marissa Rotolo

Last weekend I woke up in a frenzy as I reached for my half-crumpled water bottle on my bedside table. I wiped crusty mascara from under my eyes and picked up my phone. Memories of the night before screamed at me in the face the second the screen opened; my own personal Pandora’s box. All with the intention of never doing that again, joined with the knowledge that I’m definitely going to do that again.

This is the experience of so many 20-year-olds. The “Sex and the City” days of our lives: going out with the girls, being a little messy because you can afford to be, glitter eyeshadow, morning debriefs coupled with bubbles and orange juice – the whole nine yards. Through all the allure, I have found myself asking: am I doing all this right?

“Emerging Adulthood” is a term coined by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, and has since become an accepted stage of development. This period is marked by exploration, instability, in-betweens, self focus, and endless possibility. Coupled with a still-developing brain and the challenges of emerging adulthood, the feeling of “am I doing this right” ends up becoming a question that many 20-year-olds ask themselves. We find ourselves battling with two ends of the spectrum: living up to the expectations of “the best years of our lives,” and also planting valuable stakeholders for our futures. 

So the question still begs – am I doing it right? The answer is both psychologically-based and human experience-based. According to an NCI Article, ”no stage in life, other than perhaps infancy, experiences such dynamic and complex changes on the personal, social, emotional, neuroanatomical, and developmental levels.” The changes we face as 20-year-olds are so dynamic that feeling lost in the fray is more than normal. 

While I would love to give expert advice on where to go from here, I am no expert. I reflect on this data with the knowledge that there really is no way to “do it right.” There is no syllabus that tells you how to balance exploration and stability amidst societal expectations and personal aspirations. The only thing I am doing wrong, for lack of sounding convoluted, is continuing to question myself. By setting personal parameters upon myself I am leaning into unattainable standards. Balance is paramount. We get so caught up in the thought process of what we’re going to do that we forget to actually do it. We do not end up actually applying to our dream jobs, and sometimes we don’t even look into it. We spend hours making to-do lists and then close our laptops because the thought of moving forward is overwhelming. 

There is beauty in the unknown, and in our 20s we are experiencing a plethora of unknowns. The real challenge is not figuring out if we’re doing it right, it's choosing not to place so much emphasis on our own self imposed standards. 

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