In a few short days, I'll be turning 26. My early twenties will be behind me, and I'll be entering into this phase of adulthood that's an awkward cocktail of engagement parties and baby showers, mixed with late nights at dive bars that we're just young enough to still enjoy. And while the internet has some big ideas about the things that I should have done, or avoided, or stopped doing -- or places that I should have traveled to, or moments I should have experienced, or types of hummus I should have tried by this age, I can tell you that in my almost 26 years of life, there is only one truly important thing I have learned.
The only thing I know at 25, is how to be grateful.
And when you're spending, what's supposed to be, the most formative years of your life and career in a time where "keeping up with the neighbors" means that your Facebook profile should reflect an existence that's more well-off than your peers, by way of filtered photos and likeable status updates, that's no easy feat.
When Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy," he probably didn't realize that the temptation to compare ourselves to others would become so accessible -- right in our pockets, at our fingertips, just a few clicks away. And if I wanted to, I could spend an entire day checking up on classmates from high school, who started out in the same position I did, and are now buying houses, growing companies, traveling the world -- settling down, getting married, and having kids. Some of them are even doing it all at once.
After suffering a job loss last year, a lot of my time went toward doing just that. It was far too easy for me to spend hours scrolling my newsfeed, full of peers who had managed to accomplish so much more than I had, while simultaneously sending cover letters into cyberspace, listing my non-essentials on Ebay, and looking for the next gig that would help me make rent (Note: job hunting and self-pity do not mix well).
During this time, the people in my life really stepped up to help get me out of this rut -- whether it was getting me an interview at their company, assigning me a paid piece to write for the magazine they worked at, or even something as simple as offering to cover my bar tab, once they saw the worry behind my eyes at accepting an invitation out.
Instead of dwelling on what I didn't have, which was so easy to do, I began focusing on all of the things that I had going for me. I didn't have a steady job, but I had ways to make money through various odd jobs and freelance endeavors. I wasn't traveling the world, but I managed to squeeze in a trip with my girlfriends, post job loss, without it hurting too much financially. I didn't own a home, but I lived in an apartment that was cheap enough to afford without being fully employed. I didn't have kids...and I was still young enough to count that as a win.
When I look back on my early twenties, my only regret is the hours that I spent feeling jealous, or less-fulfilled, or not as good as my peers, via social media comparison.
And that it took going through a loss for me to realize just how good I actually have it.