A Letter To 20-Somethings

I have always had a passion for playing the guitar.

In the past 5 years of my life, I’ve completely forgotten this. I was so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of everyday living that I also forgot about the things that I actually found joy in and added substance to my life

Yes, we are young. The majority of our friends are in college or have recently graduated. I moved down to Florida 5 years ago for college and spent most of my time studying, working part-time jobs, and drinking like an insane person. I have now upgraded to the glamorous post-grad lifestyle of working two jobs while barely being able to afford a full tank of gas. Though recently, after delving into the possibilities associated with this era of uncertainty, the age of 22 has evoked a series of changes in my life (or at least have started to).

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

1. Newton’s law of inertia is not a joke

There are so many thoughts, plans and ideas inside of us that are waiting to be acted upon, and I have yet to find any solid reason as to why they should remain merely thoughts, plans and ideas.

We are so young. Younger than we think and feel we are. Ironically, graduating college does not make us feel this way. We feel rushed to jump into the first 9-5 we can find and as well as an immense pressure to have our lives “figured out” (whatever this means). We want to show everyone that we are good to go. That we’ve made it. To some degree, it is healthy to feel this way. However, it basically involves jumping from point A to point Z with our eyes closed and our fingers crossed. It also involves figuring out what “making it” even means because I don’t think that is actually a real thing. The key here is to keep it simple. Put one foot in front of the other. If you keep waiting for the “right moment” to make significant changes in your life, you are only letting the roots of stagnation secure you deeper into your current situation, maybe even to the point of comfort. This is dangerous. I know and see too many people stuck here. The secret is to accept that there is no “right moment” and that the Universe is never going to put its hand on your shoulder and say, “Today is a good day to start.”

Newton’s first law of motion says this: That an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. So start today. Start right now. The sooner you identify your source of unhappiness, the sooner you can begin to make the changes necessary to move forward.

2. Be uninhibited (to a certain extent)

Emerson once said, “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” I resonated deeply with this, being that I was probably reading it while sitting at work plagued with the anxiety of my future (just like any typical day).

If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself “What do I want?” It’s that simple. And then once you know, go get it. Yes, you still might feel unsettled, being that “getting what you want” isn’t as easy as it sounds, but let yourself bask in that unease and soak it in. It will probably be there for the rest of your life. Learn to embrace it.

So be uninhibited. Life is short. Move wherever you want to live. If that fails, move somewhere else. And if that fails, move home and start over. Do exactly what you want to do. If that involves dropping everything to move across the country, do it. There is always time to start over, but you won’t know until you’ve tried. Take advantage of the opportunities you are given. Be uninhibited with your life, but especially with your emotions. Start your search for whatever you’ve been looking for and do not settle until you know you’ve found it.

3. Keep in the sunlight

This “it” I mentioned above is different for everybody, and probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to explain in my life, so this might be pointless. To put it simply, I think that we are all looking for something pertaining to a sense of meaning, or even looking for this “meaning” itself. We see this in a lot of thrill-seekers. For me, this meaning has never been found but is encompassed with the greater things of the universe, such as the stars and nature. For you, it could be something as small as the details in a grain of sand, but the thirst for gaining clarity of the enigma of this universe we’re stuck in is all the same. Meaning is meaning, whether it is surface level or five-dimensional. And now I realize that I either sound like the aftermath of an LSD trip or am just weird in general. But I think that something we can all relate to is that the search for this meaning will fill us with a sense of it. A more annoying (but true) way to say this is, “the journey is the destination.”

When I say keep in the sunlight, I mean to keep in those brief moments of clarity in your search; those moments that fill your soul with a greater sense. For me, it is sometimes the night sky on a cold night, the shadows on my walls from the 5:00 sun, a certain note in a song, and running as fast as I can. Like I said earlier, it is different for everyone. Maybe for you it is something bigger like falling in love or religion, but maybe it is in a sense our own religion. That “something more” that we feel and believe in but can’t see. And maybe we’ll never know because then what would be the point of death? Is heaven the tangible embodiment of this sense? Maybe this yearning for fulfillment is so unearthly that the Universe is smirking at us, saying, “Guess what? You don’t know. That’s the whole point.” 

And once again, we remain unsettled.

4. Practice gratitude

In the midst of the disarray of our present-day lives and society, it is hard not to sweat the small stuff. I get like this on a daily basis; so caught up in minuscule problems that it requires an “ah-ha!” moment to refresh my perspective. Taking up yoga has helped lessen that occurrence. So does drinking a few glasses of wine, but that’s messier. Take a quiet moment out of your day to give thanks in any form. We really don’t know when our last day on Earth could be, and the reality of this should be inculcated into our minds every single day. To have friends, family and loved ones in our lives is a blessing too often undervalued, especially when we are young and seemingly invincible. We get caught up in the little things. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is submersing yourself so far into that insignificance that you live in it. I could go on about this insignificance, but I trust that you know what I mean because we have all been there, and will probably be there again in a few hours.

I wrote something last year that was mainly a personal introspection following wine and a bubble bath, but I feel that it applies. We have these moments (usually late at night) where out of nowhere comes a familiar memory. Music especially provokes this. We remember a vague period of our lives and we see these times as “better”. This is most likely a false reality that our minds have tricked us into, being that we tend to only remember the positives while the negatives hide away in our subconscious. We considered ourselves “truly happy” in these times, and wish we could go back. We were so caught up in figuring out who and what we were with people doing the exact same thing that those relationships consumed our entire world. We remember these times as “the good old days”, when in reality those days probably weren’t all that great and are probably happening right in front of us and we don’t realize it. And in the next 5-10 years we will find ourselves back again, in the bath tub with that song playing in the background, thinking of these times. The ones that we are living right now. And I know it seems cliche, but it takes willpower to realize these moments as they are happening. It actually takes training. We’re too busy looking back to find gratitude in the moments that are right in front of us.

So here’s to those moments. Find your yoga. Find what roots you. Find a mantra that you can repeat. Instill a sense of gratitude so deep within you that your thoughts may never meander their way around it. Practice something that acts as “zoom-out” button and forces you to take a step back and smile at the beautiful, messy picture that is your life, and take it in as it comes.

5. Play the guitar

Don’t actually play the guitar if its not for you, but find out what is. If there’s anything I can prove to be true, it’s that there is so much joy in simplicity. In the little things. So play the guitar. Play it as loud as you can even if it sucks. Open the windows. Take a trip to the mountains and see the northern lights. Explore. Find friends to love and things to look forward to. Buy candles and sit near fireplaces that remind you of Fall. Find your home or a sense of what home is to you. Work towards your happiness and do things that contribute to only that: happiness. Find poetry and acoustic songs and lots and lots of red wine. Enjoy moments of clarity and more bubble baths. Continue your search towards what you’ve been looking for; that “something more” that you’ve always felt. I know that we don’t know what this is, but who cares. Our existence might also be a bizarre coincidence so why not enjoy it?

So if you’re feeling stuck, think of Newton’s law of inertia. Take the first step of your forward motion. Be uninhibited. Keep in the sunlight. Practice gratitude. And most importantly, play the guitar. Do these things in order, and you might find that life as a 20-something isn’t actually the insane, anxiety-filled conundrum that we all feel it is. Take it day by day, starting today. Start by pouring yourself a cup of coffee and taking a seat outside with something to read. When you can sit down for awhile, reach for your coffee, look out the window at the sky or the birds on the trees, then back down at your book, everything might feel right for the moment. Maybe these moments are all we have.

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