In November I turned 25.
And even though I was a whole half a decade into my twenties, there was something about 25. Something bigger.
Suddenly there they were: my twenties. Loud and clear. And I was smack dab in the middle of them.
After spending the past five years graduating from college, moving back to my tiny hometown to live with my parents, serving a year in Americorps, getting into grad school and putting down two deposits and changing my mind, going back to my college job while I figured my shit out and gave myself space to explore, almost moving to New York City.....
after all that, it was like a light bulb went on.
Aren't your twenties supposed to be the time of your life?
I'd spent the past four years since college decidedly not having the time of my life. They were really hard years spent getting to know myself and discovering what it was to feel good and leaving behind negativity and misery that no longer served me. I stuck it out in a really undesirable job while I did this, knowing it was a safety, and a temporary one at that. It was big and it was huge and it was exactly how I needed to spend the first half of my twenties.
But this idea of "your twenties" and all that that connotes was getting to me. It was intriguing me. I decided to do some research.
First I watched seasons one and two of Girls. And then read Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? That was fun. And highly educational.
Then I found Meg Jay's Ted talk entitled "Why 30 is not the new 20." After reading about her and watching the video a couple of times and trying really hard to convince myself to believe her, I realized I didn't need to -- because I disagreed with her. A lot.
She makes a few good points, like claiming that your twenties is one of the most transformative things you can do, and that the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt by 30 and so your twenties are very important.
But then it starts to get silly -- since all this development happens in your twenties, whatever you want to change about yourself must be done now. She calls the twenties "the defining decade of adulthood" and claims that 80% of life's most defining moments happen before 35 (and that's "fact," not opinion). She discusses the love lives of her past psychotherapy patients and refers to them as playing musical chairs -- and when the music stopped at age 30, they just sat down with the closest chair. She even cites a patient who was living with an abusive boyfriend, just to save money. Um, what?
Twentysomethings clearly don't get much credit in her book. At all. And that got me pretty angry.
From there the ball was rolling strong. Since when did we need "twentysomething experts" to tell us about ourselves? Since when was there any one type of a decade we needed to have? And since when did somebody else get to decide (and project) how we be ourselves?
I'm generalizing here too, but this got me thinking even harder -- I can do whatever the hell I want with my twenties. And my thirties. And my forties, and my fifties, and my sixties. And so can you.
Because we have our own power. We can create our own lives. No expert or celebrity or elder can take that away from us.
So I decided to embrace 25. And suddenly it was staring me in the face everywhere I went. I had a dream that I was creating a project for twentysomethings because that's what was lacking in my world (especially my online world) and I kept repeating, "It's what's missing, it's what's missing, it's what's missing."
And so I woke up and created it.
I wanted to know what so many other strong, wise, beautiful women would say to themselves in their twenties. I wanted my own twentysomething self to take in their words like medicine, healing and soothing. I wanted to be in touch with these younger versions of ourselves and send out messages of love across time and space, healing our worlds in reverse (but healing all the same).
And as their contributions have come in, my heart has been so happy. Gorgeous words spilling onto the screen that I'm so excited about. Poems and letters and so much wisdom. I can't wait to share them with you.
I'll be publishing letters every Wednesday, introducing you to one incredible woman per week. It's going to be a pretty great line up, including Susannah Conway, Nisha Moodley, Hannah Marcotti, Dyana Valentine, Alisha Sommer, Maya Zaido, and more.
I'm starting today with my own letter, to my 23-year-old self. This is truly a lesson in vulnerability for me, but I know she needs to hear it. So here goes:
Dear 23-year-old Ruth,
You can do this. You’re doing it right now, because you’re alive.
You just need to breathe. And trust. Trust me.
You’re still living at home and you’re still working at daycare but that doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t even matter. You will never feel as terrible as you’ve felt this year. Just breathe. Open your heart. Soften. Expand. Let your body feel it.
This is not the time for resisting and fighting and holding your breath. Just let it out. This is your life. This is your life. Expand into it. It’s okay if it’s messy and it’s okay if you change your mind. And it’s okay if it doesn’t look how you always imagined it would or how other people think it should look. It doesn’t matter who you may let down. What matters is that you love you.
You need to be there for yourself. The most important thing is that you have you, and it may not feel very good and it may not feel like you have anything to give yourself but you do. You have infinite love for yourself and for all beings. Infinite, literally. And it doesn’t take a ginormous shovel to dig down into it and locate it. Just open. Ease, softness, breath, expansion. Trust.
You are a million times stronger than you can even imagine right now. And you’re only going to get stronger. It’s incredible that you are alive right now. And two years from now, you are thriving. You’re not just surviving, you’re thriving. You’re almost a completely different person. You have re-grown your actual bodily cells so many times that they’re actually becoming different. You’re starting to feel different. You’re becoming a different person.
But your heart is still there. Your heart that is inside you right now as you’re curled up in bed in the fetal position is the same heart that’s in me right now and it’s the same heart that will be in you, me, us, twenty/thirty/forty years from now.
Right now I’m sending you love across the ethers and I know you can feel it. Trust this tiny breadcrumb of faith and take the next step forward, even if it’s the babiest of baby steps. That’s all you can do. That’s all you can do.
I love you so much. The amount of love that I feel in my heart right now is insane -- it’s so deep that you can carry it with you across time. Trust that it will get better.
It will get better.
I love you.