There’s nothing special about 23. The only claim to fame we get is the Blink-182 song that declares “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.” Is it true?
I always thought 21 was the big birthday to look forward to. There were finally no more restrictions. I would be a “real adult” — whatever that means. While it’s great being able to legally order a glass of wine with dinner, I would have never guessed how defining 23 would be.
For many of us, 23 means we are in the post-college, pre-actual adulthood phase. Sure, there’s your typical overachievers who are already financially stable homeowners who seem to have it all figured out. But that’s not the norm. The rest of us are eating tortilla chips straight from the bag and calling it #TacoTuesday while we dream of what our lives could have been if we stuck with a STEM major.
But seriously, 23 flipped my world upside down in ways that no one prepared me for. All this time I was led to believe you were supposed to get all of your soul-searching and self-discovery out in college. In reality, it’s the period directly following college that proves to be much more pivotal.
Here’s what 23 taught me:
Go after what you really want. 22-year-old Taylor just wanted a job. She wanted security that upon graduation she would still have a purpose and would not return home unemployed while buried in thousands of dollars of student loan debt. What she should have known was to be pickier and to really go after her dreams.
Cue the end of me talking in third-person. What I’m trying to say is that I was scared. I thought that if I came home without a job after college it meant I failed. I thought that if I risked moving out to Los Angeles and didn’t find work right away it meant I failed. I thought that after all this time of talking about needing to do something I was passionate about that if I didn’t get a job in my field it meant I failed.
Now I know how wrong I was.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to support you. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t adding value to the world around you. I’ve learned to just keep doing the best you can while being the most authentic version of yourself. That doesn’t mean you should let anyone push you around. It just means that in the professional world, you need to learn to pick your battles and not take things personally. It’s challenging, yes! But it will make you a better friend and team member and overall person.
Trust your gut. Man has this one been a tough lesson to learn! Part of the reason for that is that you have to differentiate trusting your gut from picking the easy way out. Whether it’s a job, a big move, a relationship, or whatever, it’s important to take a step back and figure out why something doesn’t feel right. Don’t let “trusting your gut” be a cop-out.
23 served me with some pretty big decisions in various areas of my life. I am a big picture person. With any big decision, I need to weigh the pros and cons. I also need to play out all of the possible scenarios because they have rippling effects. But at the end of the day, I do believe there is something in “trusting your gut.”
I don’t believe it is necessarily an instinctual process that just somehow knows what’s best for you. Rather, I think it’s more likely that it has to do with your collection of experiences. Even if you can’t exactly pinpoint why you feel a certain way about something, on a subconscious level you’ve already mapped out all of the possibilities.
You don’t know until you know. In high school, I was pretty sure I knew everything. I didn’t understand why adults used phrases like “the real world” and “wisdom comes with experience.” I thought, well, if I’m not in the real world, where am I? And I know a lot of stupid so-called adults.
I played John Mayer’s “No Such Thing” on repeat, and I hated it when adults acted like I had so much to learn about the world. Now I know, part of maturing is recognizing that you don’t know everything and that you always have more room to grow as a person. Maturity and wisdom by definition come with experience.
And finally, fact or fiction: nobody likes you when you’re 23? At times it felt like a fact. There were moments when I felt like I didn’t measure up or I wasn’t enough. It was simultaneously one of the best and one of the hardest years of my life.
I’ve grappled with a lot of identity issues. I am no longer a college student. But I don’t think of myself as a full-fledged adult either. I don’t have a mortgage, or a kid, or a husband. And maybe those are outdated measurements of what qualifies to be an adult. Still, I have this nagging feeling that I’m caught in this weird in between.
But at the end of the day, Blink-182 had it dead wrong. If anything, Taylor Swift’s 22 is a more accurate representation of most of our twenties.
22, 23, 24 what’s the difference? We’re still too young to drive a rental car or run for president, but we’re old enough to stop wishing we were older. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling… what’s my age again?