In the words of my girl, Taylor Swift, your 20s are “miserable and magical” all at the same time. Actually, they’re about 70 percent miserable and 30 percent magical if you want the honest-to-God truth. But, thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone. Recently, my pretty New Zealand friend living across the pond, Micaela, tweeted pretty much the same sentence that has been running through my head since college graduation.
“No one tells you how hard your twenties will be.”
Kindred spirit, right? And that’s what brings us here. For the next three Wednesdays, Micaela of The Underground Micaela and I will be opening up and sharing our personal trials and successes with Careers, Dating, and Finances and offering a few tips along the way.
Life as a 20-something is messy – let’s not sugarcoat it. But it’s also that moment in your life where anything feels possible and you haven’t quite let go of your invincibility. It’s full of heartbreak and mistakes, but also full of those friends that are more soulmates than anything else. So maybe it’s more magical than I thought.
We hope you enjoy this series and can relate in some way. Make sure to comment, share, like, tweet, eat cupcakes, or whatever strikes your fancy.
On Thursdays, I struggle. It’s when I’ve not only hit my productivity level for the week, but I’ve surpassed it. Which should be cause for celebration (celebration here meaning the weekend), but there is still one more day to go…
And that’s when I get whiny and subsequently lose all sense that I’m 24 years old. It’s at some point between the compulsive Amazon shopping and wild, emotional tantrums about my job and everything wrong with it that I begin to realize the problem.
I simply need to slow down and calm down.
I can’t tell you how often I have to tell myself this, but I can assure you that it’s daily. Truthfully, I had an idealistic perception of adulthood when I graduated college. I was sorely disappointed to find that it’s not the “ice cream for breakfast/travel the world/get rich” image I was relying on. I had unrealistic expectations for work, as well, and because of this I developed a lot of poor habits and approaches to life as a “careerwoman.” Luckily, the Lord is really good at shaking some sense into me. If the image of Jesus shaking me violently and telling to chillax offends you, so be it. Because Jesus knows that I’m stubborn and a bouquet of “persevere” balloons does not work for Samantha Jo Berry. What He has taught me in three years of the workforce has been invaluable to me as a professional and, also, as a person.
1) Stop seeking approval
The majority of our lives up until adulthood has been full of constant feedback. That’s what grades are! Good or bad – it is someone always reviewing your work and telling you what you’re doing right and what you are really screwing up. Work is not like that. In fact, you will rarely be called into your supervisor’s office for a praise session. This was really hard for me to overcome. I’ve blogged about my attention addiction before, and that issue manifested in my career with some pretty intense bitterness because I felt like all of my hard work was going unnoticed. It wasn’t going unnoticed, but why on earth would anyone make a big deal out me doing what I was being PAID to do? The powers that be hired me with the notion that I would do a good job, and that, in and of itself, is a compliment for someone to invest in me like that. My advice? Pack your ego away. Your position and work is important to you, but don’t expect it to give you importance in the eyes of others. Surround yourself with uplifting people who believe in you and your work. And on days that you need encouragement, be an encourager to your coworkers. They are probably needing it as much as you. Cupcakes help too.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
2) Limit the negativity
I love to whine. I’m good at whining. Get me started and I will whine for days… or a year. Yep. I whined all the way through my first year as a professional. Negativity is a sneaky foe. He plays the part of a good listener and comrade, but he’s destroying you from the inside out. He is planting seeds of bitterness and entitlement while dressed as your biggest cheerleader. He is not your friend. In the same way, don’t surround yourself with those that have clearly made friends with him. And don’t think that you are going to be that uplifting person that changes everything for them. Did the lifeboats on the Titanic stick close to the sinking ship? No, they got as far out of the way as possible to avoid being sucked down with it. Be uplifting – from a safe distance. And don’t let circumstances rob you of joy. Carrying that unhappiness from work on your shoulders will impact your personal lives. Friends and family are always there to listen, but even they have a breaking point. Negativity will destroy your relationships. Shut that jerk up with a cupcake.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
3) You’re only human.
And humans have needs. One of my biggest mistakes as professional, and one that I still make frequently, is ignoring my body, mind, and soul for the sake of my job. You will get sick, and that is OK. Don’t push your body to the breaking point of sickness – physically or mentally. In the same turn, take steps to avoid physical and mental breaks. I have a few rules that I do my very best to abide by. I’m a teacher, and one of the blessings of that is a shorter work day. But if I always take advantage of that and leave right at 3:40, I will have to take work home. I make a special point to keep my work and home lives separate. So, I stay at least an hour later most days, but I leave at a reasonable time. Doing so frees up my evenings for friends, family, relaxing, etc. Eat well and exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Another rule is I admit when I need help. This rule/practice has come about within the past year, but I’ve seen my professional life transform. Be transparent before your boss and coworkers. If anyone understands your struggle, it’s them. Ask for help. Weakness is not a crime. I encourage you to take the time to set your own limits that will help you prosper professionally and personally. And have a cupcake.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Work is not easy. Adjusting to work after college, high school, etc. is not easy. Being a 20-something professional is not easy. But it’s worth it. This is the time in our lives where we have very few strings holding us back. Listen to that call of adventure beating within your soul. Don’t let responsibilities or career-pursuits keep you from experiencing life. Be joyous. Be honest. Take care of yourself.
And eat cupcakes. I swear they help. Especially on Thursdays.