Several weeks ago a young woman I know asked via Facebook, “Women in your thirties and forties, what advice would you give a woman in her twenties?” I didn’t answer the question, because I wasn’t sure what advice I would give. After taking some time, I found I do have advice.
When you grow into young adulthood, take time for yourself. Figure out your own identity. An identity independent of familial influences, societal pressures, and occupation. Your career is what you do, not who you are. Although, it may have some influence on your identity. Work on being fully financially independent. Save your money. Working on being able to live by yourself, completely, not even with a roommate. Do not set goals based on what others think you should do, or what you think you’re supposed to do. The ultimate goal is not always to find a husband (or wife), get a job, buy a house, have some kids, build the dream house, etc. It’s what we see in movies. It’s what our parents tell us. As a woman, I think we feel this pressure more than men.
I went to college. I met my husband there. All of my friends were getting married, I thought that is what I was supposed to do. We got married. I was twenty one; he was twenty-three. The past 17 years since we’ve been married, have basically been me checking off boxes of what I thought I was supposed to do. I didn’t take time to form my own identity. I didn’t take time to become financially independent of my parents, before I became financially dependent on my husband. We both had jobs when we got married, but I would not have been able to live on my own if we weren’t together.
Identity is so important. Taking your twenties to figure out what makes you happy and thrive is what’s meaningful. Becoming financially independent of your parents and living on your own is self-satisfying. I am financially independent of my parents but not of my husband. I am not satisfied. I feel owned. Full financial independence allows for a woman to develop her own identity. She can set goals for herself without taking others into consideration. Your twenties are a time for you to be selfish. Romantic relationships will come later, and when they do, you’ll know it’s 100% your choice. Not, some outside force having you believe this is how life works.
I didn’t think when I was in my twenties I would wake up one day staring forty in the eye, and think, “Who the hell am I? Where have the last twenty years gone?” I did all the things I was supposed to do. I have achieved most of what society tells me is desirable. I’m married, with two kids (wouldn’t trade them for the world), and I live in my dream house. Now what? I’m a stay-at-home mom with no real job prospects. I am fully financially dependent on my husband. I am floating through life. I know it isn’t too late to figure out my identity, however, I probably wouldn’t have spent the better part of my thirties depressed and directionless, if I just would have taken the time in my twenties to worry about me.
In short, my advice is, “You do you. Be selfish. You’ll be the better for it.”