The things we experience in our twenties are for the books. The twenties are one big heroic, comedic, action-filled loved story all rolled into one, the makings of any great Blockbuster, or at least a sub-par reality t.v. show.
One thing I’ve been realizing in my twenties tale lately is the parallelism between dating and the job search. As someone who is still figuring out both, let me tell you it ain’t easy.
There are many people on the road to success in career and love, but not everyone succeeds. So what separates the victors from those who fail? Here are a few tidbits of wisdom that I have stumbled upon in my pitfalls and successes:
1- You need to know YOU first
This is the most basic piece of advice I would give my younger self. There will be a lot of offers out there and many of them will look appealing. As far as dating, there will be the football player in high school. The serial dater pre-college. The first love in college. And countless others. Not every guy who comes your way is worth your time or attention. Not every guys who steps up to bat is going to hit a home run.
It is so important to figure out who you are first. What are your standards? What kind of person do you enjoy spending time with? What are your deal breakers? The commonality in all the above questions is ‘you’. You have to know who you are and what you want before you go looking for someone else. Otherwise, you will always look to another person to complete you. On the job front, there will be many job/internships out there. Don’t just go grabbing at what you see. Before you know it, you will catch yourself settling. First, you need to know your own interests, talents and career goals. Money will never make you happy in the long run.
So do the work. Figure out who you are. How you say? Dabble. Dabble early and dabble often. Experience brings knowledge. It was only through writing and reading a lot as a young girl that I figured out that writing was the career path for me. This, of course, did not happen without me first dabbling in a number of other activities. Growing up, I played soccer, ran track, did ballet, played cello and sang in my church choir. A wide array of experience gave me the knowledge of where my talents lay, who I was and who I wanted to be. Same goes with dating. While I don’t think you have to date a number of people to figure out who you are, I do think it’s great to mingle. I have a number of male friends who I admire and respect so much. If not guy friends, try family. My dad, godfathers and brother have really helped me build a picture of the kind man I will be with.
Don’t settle for that job offer or the guy just because it or he is there. Be patient. Take your time. Dabble. Travel. Take chances. Learn. Figure out who you are and the rest will fall into place. Trust me that job with the big, fat paycheck won’t look so appealing 6 months later when you are hating your life. Neither will that guy once he gets a beer belly.
2- Patience is key
The waiting game….we all know it well. It is not my favorite place to be. It happens when you apply for a job and do not hear anything back for months. It happens when the guy you like seems to be stringing you along. Both places are no fun. Not fun at all. What I’ve learned is the beauty of time. Without getting too cliche here, time tells all. If that job or that guy is meant for you, it will be yours. Word to the wise, don’t be desperate for any job or person. Desperation is a bad scent that can be detected from afar. The more desperate you are the more unattractive you become. Just give it time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your success be.
3- Rejection is redirection
Another way I have heard this is, “Rejection is God’s protection.” So you didn’t get the job. After months of waiting, creeping profiles on LinkedIn, and endless emails, you got the news. They decided to hire someone else. Or, the guy, the one you were dead set on, he turned around and broke your heart. He led you on and then finally the truth came out. He is dating someone else. Or maybe things between you two just didn’t work out and the ending of the relationship was mutual. The lose of that job or relationship has left you feeling rejected. Well, good news. There is something or someone else out there more fitting for you. So don’t get too down. Your time will come. (Don’t forget Step 2). Sometimes the loss of something can seem like the end of the world, but it isn’t. Get back up. Keep your head in the game. Sometimes we loose now only to win big in the end. Whether you face rejection in the job search or the love game, just know that perhaps this was a platform to prepare you for and propel you on to something else, something better.
See I told you. Dating and the job hunt have so much in common. Just keep your head up and don’t get discouraged when things get hard. Tomorrow is always a new day.
Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds, but kind of.
Here’s the story: So my summer in New York, myself and another intern came up with a project for all the interns. We wanted to put together an online blog where we got to tell our experience to readers. Great idea! Even better, the editors liked it! We were set to go. We rounded up all the interns in the office, got their stories, edited them and met with the online team (very grown up, if I do say so myself).
Last, but certainly not least, it was photo time. We needed images of ourselves to go along with our project. I ransacked my closet looking for the perfect outfit. A girl needs to look good, right? Well, out of the 50 or so dresses I own, I couldn’t find anything to wear. I wanted to look mature in my New York state of mind. After all, thousands of online readers were going to see this, but more importantly, people back home would see it. When I say “people back home,” I mean person back home. A guy. There was a guy back in Oklahoma still pulling on my 20-year-old heart strings and I needed to catch his attention.
Well, what caught my attention was a red dress that one of my roommates had bought several weeks before. We all agreed, as an apartment, how great she looked in it. I had in my mind that if I was to win this guy back, I had to look killer in this online photo. Not only did I need to look great, I needed THAT dress.
So I asked. I knew the dress was new so she might be a little hesitant, but she had worn it already, once or twice. Maybe she’d throw me a bone. Also, out of the four of the roommates, I was the second most responsible, after her. We let each other borrow things. We exchanged flat irons and shoes from time to time. This was my thought process as to why it would be okay to borrow the dress.
Imagine my disappointment, when I asked my roommate and she hesitated. Let’s be honest, it was basically a no, but I only heard “I’m not really sure about that.” I think I may have said, I’ll check again with you in the morning and see how you feel. Well, the next morning came, and my roommate wasn’t awake when it was time for me to leave. I waited to ask her, but I had to go (or I may have left early to miss her). So I took the dress and brought an extra change of clothes. Fast forward about 30 minutes later, my roommate was awake and was fully aware of the missing dress.
As I sat at my desk, reading her reprimanding messages, I felt so guilty. I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. I apologized profusely and told her I would go change right away. What had brought me to this? Why had I twisted a series of events in my head to tell myself that something that was clearly wrong was right? I felt terrible.
I brought the dress home later and was so embarrassed that I couldn’t say anything to her. After a few days of awkward silence, when the tension had reached its peak, she eventually confronted me about it. In my embarrassment, I listened, shook my head and agreed with her as she said “I don’t want this to turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be.”
Fast forward two years later, I am glad to say that I have matured since then. In summer 2011, I wasn’t able to be honest about my real motives. I had convinced myself that I really liked the dress and just wanted to look nice. The truth is, I took it to impress a guy. Lesson learned: Never work so hard to impress someone else that you end up doing something outside of your character.
My roommates and I pre-Dress Debacle 2011
My old roommate and I still talk from time to time via text, but I cannot say that the friendship is exactly the same. Every time we do talk, in the back of my head, I am thinking, “She hates me! She thinks I am the worst person alive!!” I just recently came to the realization as to why I really took the dress and was able to own my insecurities. I randomly decided to share my “Oprah aha moment” with my old roommate in a text message a few weeks ago. Another lesson learned: Bringing up old wounds (especially for which you have already apologized) probably isn’t the best idea. It’s okay to stop apologizing.
Here’s also what I learned: It is possible that my roommate may never forgive me. It is very possible that my reputation and character in her eyes is forever a little tarnished. I get it. Yes, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I chose to do something that was wrong, knowing that it was wrong and did it anyway. I disregarded someone’s property and boundaries. I messed up. But am I terrible person? No.
While my roommate may have long been over the dress debacle of 2011 and me bringing it up two years later was awkward, I have held onto it all this time. I now know that there is something more important than getting people to forgive me and that is learning to forgive myself.
Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
I am 22 years old. I have made a lot of dumb choices, and the truth is, I am probably going to make a few more in this lifetime. No matter how embarrassing, awkward and messy they may be, mistakes are necessary to help us learn. The dress debacle of 2011 was a wake up call. 20-year-old Stephanie had some growing to do. I needed to get to the root of why I was chasing some guy and so eager for his attention that I would hurt a friend. Here’s my truth: I took someone’s dress to impress a guy. Here’s the catch: HE PROBABLY NEVER SAW THE PICTURE! (Joke is on me!) And even if he did, it wasn’t worth it.
I messed up. I own that and, as I type these words, I am laughing at my bad choice and cringing with embarrassment. We all make mistakes. The only way to grow is to face them head on. Own your mistakes, every last ounce of them. Say, “Yes, I did that. I made that bad choice. I hurt that person. I told a lie.” Then, you can start digging a little deeper as to why you made that choice in the first place. You will find that the answer isn’t because you’re a dumb or bad person.
Don’t walk around for two years, carrying the shame of a bad choice. We’ve all been there. Show yourself a little forgiveness and grace. After you have messed up, realized your mistake and said your most sincere apologies to those involved, forgive yourself. Stop apologizing. Move forward. And now that you know better, do better.
P.S. Apparently, taking someone else’s clothes to impress a guy isn’t new. Watch this clip from one of my favorite shows: The Cosby Show.
As I loaded heavy trash bags onto the dolley and rolled them and several (hundred it seemed) boxes to the not so rosey smelling garbage drop, I could only think in my head, “This can’t be the end of my story. This has got to be the part where I am sweeping floors and serving people like Cinderella, but there’s got to be more.”
Feet aching, back sore, feeling defeated, I finished performing the closing duties at my part-time (on the verge of full-time with all the hours I was working) second job at the Mall of America. Working two jobs and having barely enough energy to do anything but sleep wasn’t my ideal post-college life. I had done everything I was supposed to in school. Dreamed big. Worked really hard. So what was the deal? Why did I find myself waking up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for work and getting home at 11 p.m.? Why was I sick almost every day of the week? Why was I too cranky and tired to want to hang out with my roommate and her friends? Why did my heart break every time I wrote a check for the rent or bought groceries? This couldn’t be my story. There had to be more. Right?
Here’s the thing that I have learned. Life takes work, often really hard, grueling, painful work. So often we want the green pastures and rolling hills without actually doing the work. We, you and I, have to put in the work to get where we are going and after we have done everything there is to do, we wait. Life requires a lot of time and patience I am learning.
At 22, I often find myself imagining what my life will be like at 30. House, husband, kids, amazing career. I envy 30-year-olds sometimes. They seem so poised and confident. They seem to have it all together. And then I stop and I wonder if maybe 30-year-olds look at us 20-somethings the same way. Maybe they look at us with envy, thinking “I wish I was her age again, carefree, passionate, the world at her fingertips.” Then I stop and the whole “the grass isn’t always greener” metaphor suddenly makes sense. Maybe what I, and anybody who is going through a season of change, growing pains and hurdles, need to do is stop and smell the roses as we wait.
Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“Good things come to those who wait.”
What I am finding is that so many people, including myself, want the fairytale ending but forget the part where Cinderella, and all of her princess counterparts, had seemingly insurmountable odds to overcome. There is no such thing as an overnight success or instant fairytale ending. But do you know what is a fairytale? Your story. My story. The hard days and the good days, they are all a part of the magical fairytale you are telling. They are a part of the master plan God has for you and I. They are a part of the blueprint to shape you and make you into a better person.
Sometimes I sit and imagine what my life will be like. What kind of man will I marry? How many children will we have? What magazine will I work at? What kind of movies will I write? Will I get the chance to move back to New York? Will I ever have the coveted zip code 90210? Will my husband and I settle down eventually in the south? Will I get to check off everything on my bucket list? Will I see all 50 states and travel overseas? Will I be able to take care of my parents? Will I make an impact on young women? Will I make a difference?……….I hope reading that didn’t give you as much of a headache as it does when I think like that.
What I am learning is the importance of trust. For me, my faith is in God and trusting that He has a plan for my life. I have hope. In the hard times, I believe that I am being shaped and molded into a better person. During seasons of loneliness, I trust that I am learning to stand on my own two feet with independence and confidence. In times of confrontation and strife, I believe I am learning how to better communicate, listen and speak up for myself. In times of change, I believe I am being thrust into the world to grow. In times of quiet and stillness, I know I am learning to trust and wait.
So stop trying to rush through life. Stop trying to get the fairytale ending without first doing the work and the waiting. Nothing will happen before it’s time. After you have busted your tail to earn your dreams, breathe. Your time will come.
Here is a perfect song with that message: Daley- Those Who Wait. Enjoy!
I’ve heard time and time again that there is nothing new under the sun. (Actually one of my older posts was exactly about this topic: https://stephkt.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/nothing-new-under-the-sun/)
One word of wisdom that I am realizing the importance of is about living with your arms wide open. You know that saying, “If something or someone is yours, let it go. if it is meant to be, it will come back to you.” My dad once gave me this wise bit of advice, and I let it fall by the waist side at the time. Knowing me, I probably disregarded it because as a twenty-something of course I KNOW EVERYTHING! (sense my sarcasm please)
In my 22 years of life, I have had a number of things pass me by. Whether it be relationships, friendships, jobs, colleges I was applying for, in my life some things, well a lot of things, have seemed to slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to hold onto them. Being the control freak that I formally was (and am currently growing out of), I tried to force things and people into my life that weren’t meant to be. Looking back, the harder I tried to fight for these things, the more they seemed to evade me.
Here’s what I have learned: Life is just as much about holding on as it is about letting go. It is important to balance the two and to know the difference. While you are fighting and struggling to hold onto that relationship, maybe you are missing the lesson you need to learn from it. Instead of holding onto to that friendship that seems to be falling out, let it go and open the door for new friendships to take its place. Instead of seeing not getting that job or into that university as rejection, just know that there is something else out there for you.
A truth that I want to live by is to love well and live my life with open hands. I want to show up every day, pursue my passions, love others well, give my all and be willing to let go. This is not an excuse to not fight for things. I fervently believe in fighting for family, friends and love, but I also firmly believe in loving with arms wide open, giving my all and being willing to let go.
Will you join me and live this life with open arms and open hands?
Here are two great songs about that topic: