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  • Writer's pictureMegan Erin Lai

Another Year as a Twenty-something

I turned 23 last month, which might make it sound like I should be over it by now and focusing on something besides my new age -- and I am -- but it's also my life and I have good reason to still think about it.


Leading up to my birthday, I found myself thinking about how 23 is such a strange age. I've heard people say "nothing really happens at 23," "23 is a boring age," and the classic, "no one likes you when you're 23." The lackluster criticism goes on and on and even if you don't think much of it, it still creates an idea that 23 is one of those years that doesn't matter. How disheartening, right? On the other side of the spectrum, there are some people who believe that your twenties are simply a time of fun and freedom and you don't have to worry about anything... which is not entirely true either.


In my mind, 23 was odd for different reasons, such as being an even clearer separation from the undergrad years. I started thinking about where I fit in socially. I generally feel too young when around people in their late twenties, thinking they seem so much older and more experienced than I, but I sometimes feel too old when around college underclassmen because of the changes I've gone through since senior year. So does that mean my "group" is confined to people between, say, 20 and 25? That doesn't seem right.


The Defining Decade
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

Oddly enough, around this time I stumbled upon a book called The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter - and how to make the most of them now. The author, Meg Jay, addresses issues faced by people in their twenties and how the way you live your life in your twenties has a significant impact on the rest of your life.


Finally, I thought, a book that will echo my thoughts and help me frame this time in my life.


You see, one of my biggest fears in life is being stagnant, and after graduation, that fear was creeping in more than ever. I had a day job to help me save up to move, but it was not the inspiring environment I'd had in college; I went to some auditions and tried to get myself seen, but it felt sporadic. I was trying to keep sight of my goals and keep working toward my dreams, but I worried that I wasn't doing enough.


Well, I finished reading The Defining Decade a few days ago and it turns out I'm doing just fine. The author's main point is to live your twenties with intention and invest in your adulthood, and I was doing that. I was encountering a few bumps along the way, as any recent grad would, but I was still making progress even if it didn't feel like I was at the time.


Being a recent graduate can feel like being thrown into a lake with your diploma as your only floatation device. If you're a swimmer, that analogy probably doesn't work for you, but hopefully you get the idea. I felt like I'd acquired a breadth of skills in college and had a lot to offer, but I wasn't sure how to get my foot in the door, or even how to locate a door. However, the fact that I was actively searching for opportunities was a sign of progress and intention.


I haven't gone through a miraculous, eye-opening transformation since turning 23 -- shocking, I know -- but I do have a better appreciation for the work I've done so far because, as they say, "hindsight is 20/20." You're not able to view your journey from an outsider's perspective when you're in the midst of it all.


In life, there are times of clear growth and momentum, and there are times of working hard in quiet progress. I believe both periods are necessary for longevity. It's easy to keep pushing when you can announce obvious advancements, such as a promotion or in my case an acting contract, because then you'll get a bunch of likes and comments on social media showering you with praise. The tough part is doing the work in private -- the work that isn't recognized, the work you do every day when people aren't cheering you on. That's the most important work because it sets the foundation for all of your achievements. Taking time to read plays and books, writing draft after draft of an original work, or practicing monologues in my room may not seem like much to other people, but they're all actions that will help me on the path to a career in the arts.


So although I don't have everything figured out (honestly, who really does?), I can confidently say that I'm doing what I can to live with intention and discover what life has to offer so that

23 is not just another year of simply existing.


Another year as a twenty-something is another year of working toward the life I want and the life I know I'm capable of living.

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