9 Ways Life Gets Better After 23, Even If It's Hard To Believe Right Now

We all know how life supposedly gets worse after 23. You've left the beautifully insulated bubble of your college campus, or you're long enough into the working world where you're more often bored than you are nervous. You're finally coming into the crux of adulthood, and it seems to only be begging the question: Is this all there is? The answer to which is, of course, yes — but this is more than enough.

It's really unfortunate that not knowing "how to adult" has become cool. Every time someone pays a bill on time, they post in celebration that they are, in fact, "adulting." It's sad for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that we are so evidently ill-prepared for basic, day-to-day functions that they're seen as accomplishments, and also that we perceive this elongated stasis of immaturity to be cute. I'm really not here to lecture on the ins-and-outs of why this weird cultural trend exists or why it's bad, but I am here to say that we can let it go, individually at least. It turns out, there is more to life than death and taxes.

And if you don't want to believe there is, that's fine — but you'll be making your bed. The reality is that everything is hard, if you want to focus on that. It's hard to have love, it's hard to not have love. It's hard to accomplish your goals, it's hard to not have accomplished your goals. You choose your hard, and you do so by what you focus on. So if you're in need of a little reminder as to why life past your immediate early 20s isn't so bad after all, here's a refresher.

Overall Reported Levels of Happiness Increase With Age

If you had the strange idea in your head that life was fun when you're young and then miserable as you get older — thankfully, you're wrong. This is because adults have the cognitive processes that are pillars of happiness: the ability to be grateful, objective, fulfill their goals, and so on.

You Can Finally Be Autonomous In Your Choice-Making

We mentally enslave ourselves to jobs or expectations or what-have-you so intensely at this point because we subconsciously realize that we do not have the affirming, validating structure that once made us feel safe. The reality is that we are finally autonomous — by virtue of paying our own bills, or being out of school — and that means we can start to choose the kind of life we want.

You're Young Enough To Be Wide-Eyed And Curious, And Old Enough To Not Be A Complete Moron About It

If you want to travel, you can take off work and save up money and do that. You can go out and party and not have anybody but yourself to answer to. Basically, you can live the life of your teenage fantasies, before the burdens that come with the other things you want — a family, a home, whatever — prevent you.

You Start To Cohere A Real Identity That's Not Going To Shift In Six Months

When we're young, our identities move as fast as our lives do — it's because we haven't fully stepped into ourselves or our "permanent lives" that our ideas about who we are shift from grade to grade, and year to year.

You Start To Care More About Style Than You Do Fashion

You're no longer interested in keeping up with trends as much as you are feeling comfortable with how you express yourself each day.

You Generally Start To Care Less About What People Think

I know you were convinced the day would never come, alas, it has: the older you get, the more you realize that your ideas of what other people think of you are projections of your own judgments and assumptions about your life. They never had anything to do with anybody else, and what's more is that most people are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about their lives to really focus on yours.

You Can Start To Have Fulfilling Sex With Partners Who Are Actually Emotionally Ready For It

Not to mention that you also have grown enough to know what you like, what you want, and how to engage in something that's more than just a race to an orgasm.

You Understand There Are More Important Things Than Being "Pretty" And "Cool"

Things like wanting to look like yourself, and being comfortable in your skin, and only hanging out with people who appreciate you for who you are. You know, things that... matter.

People Start To Take You A Bit More Seriously

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with trying to take yourself seriously in your early 20s is the realization that nobody else does all that much. It's a sad idea — that we age with years, rather than experience — but some people really can't shake it. You don't have to "pay your dues" forever though, and eventually you'll realize that age isn't really a number, but a mindset.

Images: Giphy (4); Unsplash