Today is a digression from my usual advice column post - which will be back next week. Why the diversion from answering questions about twenty-something life? Because I want to share about my evolution from a 20-something with no answers about my life to an early 30-something offering answers about 20-something life.
For the past five years, my life's work has been dedicated to "transforming the 20-something experience" -- starting with my own. At 25 years old, I was working as an agent in Hollywood. It was my dream job complete with fancy business suits, an office in Beverly Hills, and so-called "power" lunches -- all the things I expected as I slaved away as an assistant. What I didn't expect was that I'd hate my job - the job that was supposed to be my passion, but everyday felt more and more like punishment. At 26 I quit, with no real Plan B. After all, Plan A was supposed to work. For the first time in my over-achieving life, I felt like a complete failure. I went into massive debt, developed a body image disorder (if I couldn't be perfect, I darn well better look perfect), and sunk into a deep depression when I no longer had external successes to cling to.
The silver lining was my relationship with my live-in boyfriend. At least I had love in my life and when we got engaged I thought perhaps there was finally something to celebrate. So I didn't have the fancy, powerful career I was supposed to have - at least I had the ring and the date. But that twenty-something fantasy also fizzled when six months before my wedding, my fiancé broke up with me.
So there I was at 27: heart-broken, broke and on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Sure, my problems were minuscule compared to what others endure in a lifetime, but in my private world, they were huge. I felt like I was having my mid-life crisis at 26. A "quarter-life" crisis was my self-diagnosis.
I distinctly remember a day when I realized I had two options: put my tail between my legs, throw in the towel on my life in Los Angeles, and move back home with Mom and Dad to mend my broken heart and tattered wallet; OR, figure out how to get myself out of my "Expectation Hangover." Option A was a heck of a lot more appealing, but something inside of me knew I had to give Option B a shot.
How I did it became the stuff of my first book Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything and inspired my career as a life coach, speaker, author and expert on the twenty-something experience.
I never could have imagined that the years of misery spent on my career path working relentlessly toward a goal I really didn't want would eventually lead to this destination. I wake up everyday to do something I love and feel incredibly grateful I get to do it. Never would I have thought that strained family relationships and health problems would lead to healing issues I had ignored for years. Today I am closer to my family than ever and healthier than I was as a 20-something. And I absolutely would not have guessed that being dumped and deplaning a wedding would force me to finally learn how to love myself enough so that I could love someone else in a way that would lead to marriage. In February, my husband and I will celebrate our two-year anniversary.
My story is just one of the many stories that may offer encouragement, motivation, guidance and hope to 20-somethings during this life-defining decade -- and one of my current projects is to bring more inspirational stories to young adults. I am honored to be co-authoring Chicken Soup for the Twenty-Something Soul with Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (HCI Books, 2008) which will be a collection of stories about the 20-something experience.
Some may say 20-somethings are in need of a hard-Knox dose of reality. Others may say the Gen Y and Millennial Generation bask in a sense of entitlement and they don't need any more encouragement. But from my point of view, I unequivocally believe they do. With stories about twenty-somethings like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton topping the headlines, it's no wonder that this generation has lost some perspective on what it means to be a 20-something.
I'm inviting you to be a part of this project by contributing a story from your 20-something experience or about a 20-something who has impacted you. You do NOT have to be in your 20s to contribute. Any inspirational, moving, or funny story about 20-something life (career, relationships, family, money, life lessons, fate, travel, risks, acts of kindness, challenges, coincidences, tragedies, and so on) is welcome. A Chicken Soup story will touch the souls of the readers and make them laugh, cry, sigh or just say, "Wow!"
I believe in the power of sharing our stories and in the impact we can have on each other when we do. Each time I tell my own, I am reminded of how life is often a series of questions - it's how we answer them that determine whether or not we arrive at our own "Happy Ending."
If you are interested in sharing a story for Chicken Soup for the Twenty-Something Soul, go to my website to learn more.
Please send me your questions by posting them in the comments section below. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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