Adults Don’t Have it All Figured Out: 5 Life Lessons from a Millennial | by Guest Girlfriend Nyasha Hill
I sunk into my couch as tears of relief streamed down my face. I’d crossed the finish line and made it to 22, but it was more than just another birthday. It was a victory. 21 was hard for me. I’d wrapped up my senior year in college and the weight of financial and emotional stress had come down on me hard. I was low and wanted nothing more than to be done with school and distance myself from that city and from one of my most embarrassing relationship (if you can call it that) experiences to date.
I wish somebody would have told me that adults don’t have it all figured out. It seemed like everyone around me was becoming a boss while I was watching, dazed and confused about where I fell off the boat. My friends felt pressure too, but they delivered! We were all ambitious, but I felt behind as I saw them rack up degrees, promotions, and luxury cars. I was happy for them! As happy as I could be with my non-profit Program Coordinator salary, still living at home with my parents. Even the success I did begin to experience seemed to be more the result of God deciding to throw me a bone instead of hard-earned, well-deserved accomplishments. I was tired of being heaven’s charity case. I wanted my own accolades. Why couldn’t I seem to move the needle?
Attitude determines altitude. Your perception of your abilities directly influences your success. I wasn’t progressing because, in my mind, I was less capable than all the people I saw succeeding. I didn’t have the clothes or the money or the degrees – the excuses were endless. I was praying for a breakthrough, and God broke right through to the heart of the matter: I was comparing myself to others instead of concentrating on how to best pursue my own passions. And, while praying and fasting are great spiritual habits, if you’re not taking additional steps toward your goals, you gon’ be praying and fasting in the same circumstances this time next year.
Fast forward to today. In three years, the annoying boy from 1st grade has turned out to be the love of my life (putting that college situationship to shame). I’m closer to the professional trajectory I want, working as a college counselor helping young people shape their futures. I started budgeting and saving (and shopping) and, I’m acting with a local Black repertory theatre (Look out, Broadway). Most importantly, I have peace and confidence, and I am truly enjoying life.
I have learned that the best intentions are stalled more by a crowded mind and a lack of motivation than a lack of initiative. Here are some pivotal lessons that might give you a much-needed push:
- Be honest in your evaluation of yourself. My Pastor taught my church that to be humble is to have an accurate assessment of yourself. It’s realizing and accepting your gifts and your shortcomings and letting that influence your decision about how to approach your goals and responsibilities. True humility involves being less critical, more accepting, and fairer in the way you treat yourself and others.
- Exercise your independence. I have learned that independence involves more than me paying my own car note. Independence, for me, has been about cultivating the courage to think for myself. Anyone who’s grown up with a single mother knows that she puts her all into teaching you and even more into protecting you. My childhood obedience to my mother translated to apprehension and caution throughout most of my young adult life. In the back of my mind, I have always felt like I needed permission to make important decisions. I needed validation on which car to buy, where to live, and whether or not to change jobs. I was afraid to speak up for myself at times. I was shrinking in my own life, not realizing I had every right to make those decisions for myself. I have become tremendously less emotionally reliant on others’ buy-in. I know now that I don’t need a second opinion on how to live my life.
- Live your life. Ain’t nothing like a Facebook announcement to make you rethink your whole life. Social media will have you thinking you’re supposed to have cured cancer, won a Grammy, married rich, and launched a multi-billion dollar online company by now. Sis, rest. That’s not your destiny. I recently wrapped up my first professional show at Hattiloo Theatre, one of the few remaining Black repertory theatres in the country. And, it wasn’t because I was keeping tabs on what my friends were doing. When I tapped into my own passions and interests, I experienced tangible success. Nothing compares.
- Be kind to yourself. A friend recently called me with some big news and when I asked her if she was happy, she said happy was one of the emotions she was feeling. I encouraged her to allow herself to experience the full spectrum of the emotions brought on by her situation. We keep so much bottled in that if someone pierced our sides, ain’t no telling what would spill out. Start allowing yourself to feel upset, to feel excited, to feel proud or pissed or tired or inspired. Give yourself permission to be human and respond to the challenges and accomplishments you experience. This curbs stress and combats feelings of helplessness. Then, try communicating those feelings to a close friend or family member.
- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Period. During the inaugural Great Girlfriends conference last June, Brandice led a session on cliff jumping – taking leaps of faith toward your goals. She mentioned having made an Excel spreadsheet of her ideal life and specifying what each goal would require. If you get in your car and mindlessly drive around, you could end up anywhere. If you have a specific destination in mind before you start driving, you’ll arrive exactly where you want to be. Creating a plan is creating a map for your life’s journey. Of course you can’t control everything, but when you get serious about planning, you’ll realize you were more in control than you assumed.
This is not an exhaustive list. These lessons are not meant to replace the magazine clippings and motivational quotes that you’ll neatly glue to your bigger-and-better-than-ever 2017 vision board. These lessons are meant to influence your daily living. If you look for opportunities in your day-to-day conversations and interactions with others, if you pay more attention to your inner dialogue with yourself, if you employ wisdom and balance in your decision making, you’ll experience one little victory after another. You’ll look back and have shaped a meaningful life for yourself. And, before you know it, you’ll be passing some wisdom to the next wide-eyed 20-something trying to find her place in the world.
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- Related podcasts for your listening pleasure: Ep 24: New Year, New Story, Ep 11: No More Shrinking, Ep12: Too Good To Be True? The Fear of Success
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