Dear Twenty-Somethings: Pay attention, this is important stuff!

My world is full of twenty somethings. All of my children are in their twenties, both the ones I gave birth too, and those who just needed some extra mothering and spent some time living at my house. Many of my friends, co-workers and fellow students are all twenty-somethings.

I may be pushing fifty, but I love living in a world filled with so many of you. I love your energy, your passion. You all amaze me with your talents, but sometimes you do really stupid stuff! Occassionally, I feel the need to offer some advice gained from my extra years on the planet. This is important. Pay attention.

You are not invincible. You do not have all the time in the world.

This is the lesson so many of us learn too late and I think its one of the most important ones. When we are young, we often believe we have years to figure it all out. We put off being truly happy. We put off our dreams. We put off the things that really matter, the things of substance, for things that may entertain us in the moment but don’t last, don’t really mean anything, because we believe we have all the time in the world . . .

And sometimes you take risks, things you do that you shouldn’t, but you think you can handle it, you think you’ve got this.

Then you wake up one morning and find out that the beautiful, talented young woman you went to high school with died of cancer, or that friend you played T-ball with in elementary school hit a tree on his way home, or that another one of your buddies from the military took his own life.

Or you wake up in the middle of your life in your fifties and think “wait, how did I get here?”

You spent years saying, “I’ll get my act together soon” or “I’ll be happy when this or that happens.” When you have finished college, or paid off your student loan, or got the job you really wanted, or when there is less pressure and more time, or when you’ve found that perfect relationship. It’s okay if things aren’t great now. I will be happy THEN.

But THEN sneaks up on you when you aren’t expecting it, and sometimes, THEN doesn’t come at all.

I know you’ve heard it before, but that’s because its true. We all thought the same way once. Even those old folks you make fun of, who sit on the benches downtown all day. They had dreams. They thought they had all the time in the world to get their act together. They thought they were invincible too.

“…inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” Terry Pratchett

And this, this is the advice I want to make sure you listen to. You only have YOU and you only have NOW. No, that is not an excuse to blow all your money and live recklessly. You are better than that. An amazing life awaits you. Yes, “you only live once,” so make it a life of substance. Make it really count.

This is a call to embrace your life, to find that thing you are passionate about, to find what you are meant to do in this world and grab onto it, with both hands. Find what you love and grab onto it and don’t let go. Find who you love and dive in. Stop worrying if it’s the “one.” If you are lucky, you’ll have many who were the “one” for that time and space in your life.

Stop numbing your feelings. Instead, find those things that terrify you. They terrify you because they are important, they matter. Find those things that make you FEEL something and embrace them.

Sometimes, I think its our fault really, my generation. You grew up seeing problems solved in a half hour by happy TV families who were always beautiful and funny. You watched movies where everyone always lived happily ever after. Sometimes I think you aren’t satisfied because you expect your lives to look like that. That’s our fault. I’m sorry.

Life is harder than that. We should have been more honest. Maybe we should have prepared you more.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

One thing I made sure I told all of you that still holds true, YOU are capable of anything. I believe in you. But you have to do it. You can’t sit around waiting for the stars to align or for someone else to do it for you.

Need a nudge in the right direction? Message me. We’ll have coffee. I also have the numbers of dozens of folks smarter than I and I’d be happy to put you in touch with them: a pastor, a counselor, a lawyer, an artist, a crisis worker, or a yoga teacher. You name it. We’ll get you what you need but you’ve got to get it started. Take the first steps and the right doors will open from there.

No, its not all perfect, and it never will be. Yes, people will disapoint you but the pain is just as important as the joy. Let go of the images you have in your head. Let go of the myths about the perfect life and the perfect family and the perfect love and see what is in front of you right now, because it is awesome!

You are not invincible. You do not have all the time in the world.



Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.