The first time I heard the song “Quarter Life Crisis” I cried.
The first time I heard “You’re on Your Own Kid” I sobbed.
I’m working my way into my mid-20’s and feel like I have evolved so much as a person since age 18.
I have graduated with one of two degrees (still pursuing the other), found a career I love, got my first “big girl” car, any many more blessings have been bestowed upon me.
However, on the path to these things I learned many lessons. Some of them brutally hard and downright painful. But, some of them were just a page needing to be turned in my book, nothing more.
**Trigger Warning: This post discusses mental health and eating disorders in great detail. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the National Eating Disorder Association or 988 Life Line.**
Lesson #1: Your body will not be the same body it was when you were 16. I have struggled with body image, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia since my early teen years and have finally gotten to a point where I can say I’m 60-ish% recovered. Nonetheless, in becoming as recovered as I am now, I have learned that my “woman” body is ever so different than my teenage body.
Weight gain in your 20s is normal and it IS NOT BAD. Your body is changing and growing into an adult, as is your soul. The first time I realized I was no longer a size 00, I burst into hysteria on my closet floor. Part of me wanted to start a new crash diet/fast; the other part of me wanted to rip up those jeans because deep down I knew they/their size didn’t define me.
The “jean epiphany” took me a while to accept. But after years of starving my body to the point of irreparable damage, a change had to come if I wanted to live past 21. Months of wearing clothes that were baggy and didn’t hug my newfound curves ensued. Months of learning to not look at the nutrition label for calories, carbs, fat grams, etc. Months of crying as I took bites of food that would only help to save my life and heal my broken down body. Months of trying to deprogram my mind to lose all the memorized calorie counts of common foods. Months of everyone saying how healthy I look compared to months prior when I looked sickly with thinning hair and pasty skin. These months were the hardest. Hardest because I knew that no one could fight this battle or embark on this grueling journey but me.
I would say I’m a solid 2 years into “recovery” and it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably will ever do. There were a few signs of recovery that I will forever hold dear and I use as motivation when relapse attempts resurface:
- The first time I felt hungry in the middle of the day and had a banana as a snack because my body asked for fuel. This was not planned and the guilt I felt was monstrous. I sat in my room for a few moments and acknowledged the guilt and anxiety I was feeling knowing it would pass sooner or later. It did pass and each subsequent time I honored my hunger cues it got 1% easier.
- The first Thanksgiving dinner I didn’t skip meals before dinner, tirelessly workout the day before, and didn’t have to have my mom make my plate because she trusted me to eat enough. The best part was, I trusted me too.
- The first time I wore skinny jeans that fit my new, healthy body and felt confident. My thighs and backside have curves and I finally can wear women’s jeans without having to buy a belt from the kids department.
These are were just a few memorable signs that my own personal war against myself and my body were starting desist.
Lesson #2: Not everyone you meet, coworkers included, will be your best friend (and that’s OK). I love people. I love conversation. I love learning about others and their interests. As a girl who had been homeschooled all her life and lived in a town where mostly retirees live, I was oblivious to how friendships worked. When I first started working straight out of highschool, I was stunned that not everyone likes everyone. I know now this sounds so naïve, but it was true at the time.
My 18 year old mind thought, “Sure, we’re all different, but we can get along and be friends!” I’ve come to know that this is not a sentiment a lot of people share with me. Most people learn this life lesson by elementary school, I guess I was a late-bloomer. Seeing other people I thought were my “friend” invite others to a party and not me; seeing conversations cease when you enter the room; having people ignore your comments made in a discussion as if you aren’t even there, this all hurts and it happens amongst adults just like kids and teenagers.
As I grew up the corporate latter in the “white collar world,” I discovered that you will work some amazing, talented people. They will probably be civil and say “Good Morning” and a “Good Night,” if you’re lucky. They will only discuss work with you and when your both in line for the coffee machine, there will likely be silence where you wish there was conversation. This doesn’t mean they dislike you, although I personally struggle with this conclusion thanks to my autogenous insecurities and anxiety.
I am not going to lie when I say I’m guarded with friendships now. My cruelest awakening was from someone who I worked with daily, helped to train them in the field, and called my best friend. We decorated each other’s desks for birthdays, shared snacks and photos of our dogs. One day, a promotion was given and the friendship was gone. I was even sent an email stating this was how things have to be from now on. It wasn’t a promotion that was above mine, but it gave a sense of authority and power which was the demise of our friendship. I remember crying myself to sleep that night as if I’d just been broken up with, and in a sense I had been. All for what? I’m not sure. It still hurts, but from the bottom of my heart, I wish this person well. I hope they succeed, find happiness, buy that dream house, have that dream wedding, and go on that dream honeymoon they always talked about. I’m grateful for the brief friendship that occurred. The genuineness of it all is something I will never know and I am OK with that. I know at least 50% of it was.
Lesson #3: Adventure awaits. Everyday. I used to think that I had to have someone with me to go on an adventure and that adventure had to be extravagant and “social media worthy.” This is inaccurate to say the least! I’ve learned that I can take myself to a bar and buy my own drinks and sit alone 100% contended. I can explore a new detour on my drive home from work. I can try a restaurant that no one has heard of and there’s no online reviews to substantiate my decision to dine there. I can take myself to a museum on a Sunday afternoon or go to a yoga event and stay as long as I want.
Adventure can be had alone or with others. Each day is an adventure if you make it one! I always try to try new things or go new places at least once a week (schedule permitting). Even if the restaurant wasn’t good or the detour road ended up being full of potholes, it was still a different experience than I would have had should I have chosen to follow the status quo, and that is what makes an adventure an adventure.
Adventure can be found at home, too. I enjoy baking recipes I have never tried before or watching a movie or series that is not in my cinematic wheelhouse, per se. This gives a refreshment to my soul and makes me happy to experience something different and new. It doesn’t have to be fancy or anything big, if it brings you joy and it is something different than what you’d typically do, it’s an adventure in my book! As it has been said, “Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien
At first, it may feel weird at first to do certain things alone. But I promise you, by the fifth time you take yourself out for sushi and half-price cocktails on a Sunday afternoon, it will just come naturally.
I’ve wanted to write this for a while and I contemplated if this would be a blog post or a journal entry. I decided on the former because my blog is like my journal and some of you have been following my little corner of the internet for years. You’re my friends without a doubt and friends share things. These are just a few that I wished to share with you; more to come…
Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant to provide any medical advice or opinion. I am not a medical professional. Please contact a licensed medical professional for any medical advice.