As you may know, I turned 24 this month. Sometimes I look around me — online or IRL — and see other women (and men) my age and I can’t help but compare my life to his/hers. I don’t get out as much as her, I don’t have as many friends as they do, I am not able to go on vacation like a normal person. And I guess this is kind of hinting at what’s known as FOMO (fear of missing out).
I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, but it’s sure as hell easier said than done when you see posts on social media of your friends going to live in other countries, or getting a big promotion at work, or starting their own businesses. And it’s not jealousy, per se, because you’re happy for and proud of your friends. It’s just comparison, which, unfortunately, can only lead to feeling inadequate. How am I supposed to find direction and clarity and meaning when I’m feeling inadequate?
Because of these feelings I’ve been experiencing, I decided to ask some friends and family members of mine to tell me how their lives were going when they were 24 years old. Some of them provided lessons they learned; others told me how hard life was for them back then. Almost all of them said it was the start of big turning points in their lives. But most of all, their stories made me feel human, and that feeling this way is just a part of life. Their stories made me feel like I’m doing something right.
Here’s what 9 of my female friends/family members had to say:
1. “At 24, I thought the world would always be good to me, that love would last forever, that commitment is easy when there’s love, that reading books was the only real way to really relax my mind, that walking in the rain is good for the soul, and that drinking straight from the carton is okay … and I still do.”
2. “My 24th year was a big year for me. It was almost half my lifetime ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the year I chose to turn a page and take charge of my own life. I was a young mother with two small children in an abusive marriage. I was becoming increasingly agitated and torn with decisions that had to be made. I’d put things off, made excuses for inexcusable behavior and ignored red flags for years but, I woke up one morning and the clarity about my situation was something that could no longer be ignored. I felt a panic setting in, it was an overwhelming sense of dread that I couldn’t shake. Throughout the day I found myself operating on auto-pilot; doing laundry, changing diapers, cooking, etc. I made a decision that day to take control of my own life. I knew in my heart that if I continued on the path I was on, my children would grow up thinking that that behavior was normal and the idea of allowing that to happen was something I just couldn’t live with. I wanted my children to know that the behavior they’d seen was unacceptable and the only way to send that message to them was to remove myself and them from the environment we were in. That decision was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made but, here I am, many years later and I can recognize it for what it was, a major turning point in my life. Whenever I hear stories about women who stay in abusive relationships and I hear people say, “Why don’t they just leave?” I know why, and I try not to judge them. There are many reasons people choose not to leave abusive relationships. I look back at this time in my life and I am grateful for the support of my family. I believe it’s important to try and find a balance in life. Remember our past so that we don’t allow history to repeat itself but at the same time, don’t allow ourselves to dwell on it.”
3. “I turned 24 in August 2010, I was going to college online to complete my BA and earned a promotion to the day shift with my current company in Logistics. I previously was working 12 hour night shifts 3-4 days a week tracking the location of semi -trucks. Little did I know, the age of 24 was the start of my professional career. I quickly knew I wanted to stay in Logistics when I grew up. I was given a sizeable monetary raise and handed accounts with which I already had familiarity. I learned how to be professional, tackle and handle issues on my own, and forged a great relationship with my customer. That position opened my eyes to a world of possibility and helped me move into the path I’m on today. Not much happened in my personal life aside from figuring out my small circle of friends. My professional life helped with this because I had goals of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I realized that I was completely different from one of my childhood friends who was 2 years younger. While she wanted to play Nintendo 64, eat and get high all the time, I wanted something more. I never partook in getting high and don’t bash those who do (legalize it!), I just realized that aside from playing Mario Kart we had nothing else in common. We became two different people. I was out on my own (admittedly with a roommate) navigating the world and she had yet to start (which is ok because she was only 22). 24 was a good stepping stone year for what ages 25-27 brought.”
4. “I am no longer twenty-four. That year I’d been a college graduate of forty-eight months. That was the last year I’d live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I would leave behind four part times jobs, one I’d held for the same amount of years at a local pizzeria. The others, a vacation rental representative, hospitality specialist, and late night/early morning laundromat cleaner. I’d leave each of these experiences behind when I moved to Greenville, South Carolina in June 2012, to another job as a portrait photographer. My husband would propose one year later.”
5. “I felt like a big fat failure. Being a Nanny didn’t work out. The family wanted me to be on call 24 hours a day, so I was watching kids at my mom’s house. When I was 25, I moved to Eureka, SD.”
6. “When I was 24, I was the manager of a two screen movie theater. It was built in the 1940s and had a lot of really cool features like a neon marquee, an old, closed down balcony, and access to the roof where my friends and I would go to smoke cigarettes and drink after-hours. I was way too young to be managing, but I loved my job and that building. That year, Saw 4 or 5 came out and a big group of us came to pre-screen the movie after-hours. It was a 35mm film print and, in those days, they came in canisters of four or five reels and someone had to manually splice them together with actual splicing tape and a cutter. It was a long, but relaxing process that I genuinely enjoyed. However, sometimes the reels were mislabeled and we had to watch the movie to make sure that it made sense before we could show it to the public. I was obviously not supposed to invite anyone to come and screen movies but it was a Saw movie and I wasn’t going to watch it by myself. I invited as many people as I could to come and watch it after-hours. There were probably only seven or so people that actually made it out and we watched it. We squirmed and laughed at it. It was a terrible movie. I had a lot of fun, especially afterwards smoking cigarettes outside at 2 in the morning.
I was breaking the rules and it was great. I grew up really sheltered and was not rule-breaker. So having a little bit of power over a building and over my choices was pretty exhilarating. These small incidences of rebellion, of course, led to bigger and more intense rule-breaking. A lot of those had some pretty serious consequences. I think, had I recognized it sooner, I wouldn’t have broken quite as many rules and hearts. I’m really grateful for that part of my of my life and the ability to experiment. At the time, I thought I would never get that desire to break rules out of my system. It’s exhausting being a rebel because some of those rules and norms are there for a reason and it takes a lot of work to not get caught, and even more work dealing with the consequences. Now, at 32, I can honestly say I’m really glad I don’t have to do any of those things anymore.
Except building 35mm film … I really miss that.”
7. “I don’t think I want to remember being 24. Working long, horrible hours at WIPP and being totally responsible for two small boys. It was hard.”
8. “When I was twenty-four years old, I had been graduated from college for almost a year, was stuck in a job I didn’t like and was living back at home with my parents once again. I was restless and disappointed that I was back where I had started before going to school- this was not the path I had envisioned for my future. Then, almost out of nowhere, it seemed like my prayers had been answered- a relative of mine in Kansas City, Missouri reached out to me and asked if I would want to intern with him at his company where he did animation and graphic design. I was ecstatic! Finally, I felt like something was going right and I would be doing something that pertained to my interests and be able to learn from someone with a lot of experience. So I did what any unsettled young adult would do… quit my job, packed myself and my two cats up as quickly as possible, and ran away farther than I ever had before.
Moving to a big city is as daunting and exciting as anyone might think- my only experience with a “big” city was Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it had nothing on this sparkly new place I would be calling home for the next two years. But, like with any new adventure, there will always be both the ups and the downs… and the downs is what I seemed to experience right off the bat. The thrill of being in a new place seemed to wear off real fast when not even a few months later my “internship” fell through and I was stuck scrambling for a full-time job to pay the rent. I picked up the first thing that came along, left my part time nightmare of a job and my failed internship behind, and for the next two years, I realized that I was right back where I left off in Artesia- just in a bigger, unfamiliar setting.
Now, don’t get me wrong- there were some positive points in there, I swear! It’s just that those positive points don’t always seem as apparent when they’re happening as they are in hindsight. My positive experiences in Kansas City may have been slightly few and far between, but I do not regret the decision to move there one bit. Moving over thirteen hours away from my home, to a place where my only familiar faces consisted of distant cousins who I hadn’t seen in more than ten years, forced me to really mature and take responsibility for myself and the space I called home. I was once again rediscovering how to make new friends, of which I did make a good few of them that I still talk to now. I also experienced the toil of emotions that come with losing friends that weren’t just created by distance. I experienced my first real auto troubles that I had to take care of by myself, along with the woes of funding said troubles. For the first time, I was completely independent on paying for all of my living expenses with money that I made myself and had to learn how to be smart with my money and budget (in college I did work, but I mostly lived off of my scholarships!). I also learned the hard lesson that, when the idea of something sounds too good to be true… sometimes, it really actually is. My time in Kansas City may not have gone exactly the way I wanted, but I grew a lot from it. I don’t regret it. I’ve learned from it, and with that, I have moved on to my next adventure in life and can’t wait to see where it takes me!”
9. “By age 24, I’ve been married to my best friend and graduated from college for over two years and nefariously a smoker for four (not to mention the tattoo I acquired just days ago–I’m a real heathen). I’ve moved cities, switched jobs, purchased a home, seemingly beat my 8-year-long struggle with chronic depression, met my lifelong goal weight, changed the focus of my career, completely shifted my belief system, and managed to keep up with old friends while making many new ones.
At 24, I’m stronger, more whole, more uniquely me than I’ve ever been, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I no longer weep for friendships past or dwell on my former mistakes. To put it simply, I resonate with The Avett Brothers’ “All My Mistakes.” Its chorus reads, “But I can’t go back, And I don’t want to, ‘Cause all my mistakes, They brought me to you.” “You” is myself, you is my husband, you is my best friends, and you is my family, with whom I’ve never been closer. By age 24, my life has seen more hard emotions and high joys than I ever thought possible, and I can’t wait for another 24 years of them.”
What was your 24th year like? Let us know in the comments.