I’ve been told I am lucky a lot lately, and I know that it’s true. I feel extremely lucky/blessed/all-around happy these days, because things are good. I have a job that I really enjoy, I live in a great place, I’m getting married in five and a half months, and I have family and friends that love me.
But it hasn’t always been sunshine and lollipops. No one told me that your twenties are hard! I am the kind of person who can’t help but reflect on my year every new year/birthday, and for a pretty good chunk of time there, my friends and I would look back and agree, “Well, that sucked. Last year kind of sucked a lot.” Work sucks, being poor sucks, dating sucks, breakups really suck, even friends can suck sometimes.
What I realized in my twenties was that it really just matters how you deal with all the extreme suckage. There are very few things you can do to stop it or prevent the suck from happening at all, but what you can do is change how you react to it. Here are some options:
- Wallow in it. Whine a lot, eat some ice cream or other comfort food, and just let the suckage surround you in a blanket of sad.
- Pretend nothing happened. Bottle the bad stuff up like a nasty home brew and continue being awesome. Beware of this tactic though, as it can result in major emotional issues and really awful tequila-fueled cryfests weeks or months down the road.
- Acknowledge the suckage and then choose to focus on happy things. Remind yourself that the suckage isn’t all there is in life, and you can overcome it. You can deal with whatever it is, I promise. Some people find their zen with yoga, some center themselves with church, some find a new perspective rallying their friends for some support. I personally love getting out and doing something new and fun. Take a cooking class. Try a new restaurant or bar. Bonus: awesome levels go up 50% every time you use this tactic.
So I guess now I can get to my own story of overcoming the suck and enjoying the good times in my twenties. (Most of what makes up my quarter-life crisis is career-related, so that’s what I’m going to focus on, but just imagine that throughout this story there are some horrible dates and fun winery trips with friends sprinkled in.)
After college, I went to the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU because I thought I wanted to be a book editor. Turns out, I was wrong.
I hated New York City, but I still wanted to be in a big city with some hope of a publishing job, so I ended up in Washington, DC. I was unemployed for about a month and contemplating a temp job at a circus (no joke) before I got a call from a publisher. I went to two interviews at the same company on the same day–one in marketing and publicity, and the other in production. I could have chosen either one, but I was encouraged to go with publicity. What can I say? I’m a people person.
That job didn’t just teach me the publishing world is not where I wanted to be, it sparked my career in something broadly called “communications.” Thanks to my next couple of jobs in non-profits, I ended up doing everything from pitching reporters over the phone to designing ads to some really technical website work. That kind of environment can be a good thing and a bad thing, but what I tried to do was learn as much as I could and try my hardest to focus my time on things I was interested in and/or good at.
I can also tell you that I went into every job I’ve ever had with high hopes in the beginning and left every job thinking that my departure was overdue. Some people more cynical than I would say that your twenties are when your enthusiasm and naivete start to wear off, but I haven’t found that to be true. I hope I never stop being excited and hopeful about new opportunities and changes in my life, even if things turn out to be different than I expected or hoped for.
My last job was wearing me thin. My mantra has always been “work to live, not the other way around,” but my job was consuming me in a way I was not comfortable with. I was job searching, applying like mad, even getting interviews, but ultimately getting rejected. Man, does that bring you down. I wanted to find a job that focused on digital media and internet marketing but was finding that the competition in DC was so tough that unless you had specific experience with the exact skills that the job required, you weren’t getting anywhere.
I needed to kick the problem-solving skills into overdrive. I started to blog about digital media, I asked a friend who has her own company if I could manage their social media, and I fleshed out my LinkedIn profile. I talked to my fiance more about moving to Chattanooga, TN, which is where he’s from. We had always planned on ending up there one day, but I became more and more convinced that there was no need to wait. We both started applying for jobs down there and talking to some contacts, trying to see if we could get jobs lined up before we made the move.
Ultimately, we just had to jump.
Yes, it’s scary. Yeah, some people told us we were really dumb to move somewhere without jobs in this kind of economy. But I saw an opportunity for a fresh start. The skills and background that made us just another job candidate in thousands in DC could make us big fish in a small pond in a place like Chattanooga. Plus, Chattanooga is a beautiful, fun city that is really growing and making some exciting changes.
It really just goes back to assessing your options when you’re faced with some major life suckage. I knew that I was in a job that I didn’t like. I knew that I had been applying to job after job, and even the ones that seemed like easy slam dunks for me were passing. I also knew that I had been in DC for five and a half years, which was double what I had expected. I never planned on living in DC forever. And Chattanooga is our happy place. My fiance’s whole demeanor changed every time he visited, and I was pretty much sold the first time I went. His family is there, he has friends there, and we’re getting married there. So my choices were to keep sticking with what I knew and hoping that something would change (isn’t that the definition of insanity?) or take a leap and change my circumstances.
So my fiance and I packed up and took everything we owned (including a very whiney cat) down to Tennessee. I must have done something right in my life, because two weeks later I was starting my new job–in internet marketing. Exactly where I wanted to be. I’m at a sort of unicorn of the working world: small, young company full of fun, smart people who really care about each other. I also can’t tell if it’s the south in general or just the people that I’ve met so far, but everyone is genuinely nice. I felt weirdly suspicious the first time I submitted something and the only reaction was “great job!” which is now kind of embarrassing to admit. For the first time, I actually feel like I know what I’m doing and I’m good at it. I finally feel like I’ve gotten to where I wanted to be.
Jasmine Zick is an Internet Marketing Analyst at Full Media, a web design and internet marketing company. She blogs about all kinds of things at It’s Getting Ridiculous and can be found on Twitter at @jasminezick.
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.