I turned 29 years old last week — on the exact day that a historic snow storm hit the East Coast, which I am choosing to believe was an auspicious sign. I've done a lot of cool things in my 20s. I've worked as an editor at various magazines, including my own. I've met and interviewed some incredible people, like Issa Rae and my teenaged self's hero, Meg Cabot. Now, I get to talk about books on Bustle every week. Overall, not too shabby. But I'm not always the first to admit that. Spoiler alert: being a twenty-something is hard. But I had a quote from Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series to turn to anytime it got overwhelming. And if you're in the beginning, middle or even, like me, at the very end of your 20s right now, I don't think there's a better time for you to turn to it, too.
There have been more moments than I can count that I have wondered what the hell it is I'm doing. Some days I feel like I am still at square one with everything, from my career to my relationships. We all have these grand ideas of what we'll have accomplished by 25, 28, 30... if you're lucky maybe you knock everything off the list. If you're human, though, there will probably be more than a few things left undone. There is still so much I want to do. It can be unbelievably difficult to feel as if you're so far from what you want, or who you want to be.
And so you might find that you start to hide away a little bit. Keep your ambitions to yourself. Stop taking as many risks because you're just "getting to old for that" and, in the end, unwittingly holding your happiness back for some other time, when things are "right." At least, that's what I've found myself doing, time and again throughout the wild and weird trip that have been my 20s.
But with her 2011 book, Sisterhood Everlasting, in which Brashares returns to the lives of Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen 10 years after the events of her original Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, Brashares managed to help shape the mindset for my entire 20s with a single quote. When this book was released I was only 22, a year out of college, trying to figure everything out. I definitely still haven't managed that feat. But anytime I've felt down, unmotivated, or unsuccessful, anytime I've wanted to hide from the hard parts and wait patiently for the good, I've been reminded of Brashares's words.
Written by Tibby in a letter to Lena, she begins, "You don't have time, Len. That is the most bitter and the most beautiful piece of advice I can offer...
“If you don't have what you want now, you don't have what you want. Maybe you think you'll be entitled to more happiness later by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn't work that way. Happiness takes as much practice as unhappiness does. It's by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it.”
Over and over again, this quote has resurfaced in my mind over the last eight years. And every time it finds me at a moment of transition, or fear, or disappoinment, or failure, and it reminds me that now is the time to get out there. Now is the time to make mistakes, to take risks. To be afraid out of your mind, but do it anyway. To fail, and fail better, so that you can make room for the success. It reminds me that, yes your 20s are hard. Maybe your 30s and 40s and 50s will be, too. But right now is all we've got. So I hope Brashares's words encourage you, too. It's time for all of us to stop waiting, and start living.