Why My 20th Year Defined Who I Am

Why My 20th Year Defined Who I Am

"Nothing will ruin your 20s more than thinking you should have your life together already."


With my 25th birthday shortly approaching (November 7, the best day of the year, obviously) I wanted to take a look back at my "defining year." The age of 25 might seem young to some and old to others. Honestly, I want to cry because I feel like I should be receiving my AARP card in the mail anytime now.

Out of the five years I’ve spent in my 20s, my defining year had to be right when I turned 20, November 7, 2011.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. My sister threw me a costume party at our house and invited my (then) closest friends. I want to say about 10 people showed up. Of those 10, three I will absolutely never talk to again, three I still talk to almost every week, and four of them I casually keep up with on Facebook. Yet, at my birthday party that night I thought they were all my best friends. Your defining year might be about losing people, but I promise you will gain more.

Three short months after my party, I decided on a whim to move down to Florida with my dad. I lived in a small town in North Carolina, where there was nothing to do, no one new to meet, and nothing there for me (besides my family). When your 20 you don’t think about your family, though, you’re thinking about starting your own life and finding out who you really are. It’s not a bad thing, it’s life, it’s natural. I wasn’t meant to live in North Carolina, it’s not where I was going to bloom. Your defining year might be about learning where you are or where you are not going to bloom.

After packing my 2001 Ford Escort to the brim with all my stuff, my cat included, I started my journey, my defining year. I moved with about $127 to my name, no potential job, and bald tires on my car.

Luckily, my dad had a place for me and my cat to stay. I searched for jobs the very next day and it took me about a week or two to land a server position at a seafood restaurant. I also found another job at a call-center working for a company (which I later found out) scammed a bunch of old people out of money by “selling” them life-alert machines. Your defining year might be about taking a leap of faith, hoping and praying things will work out.

These two jobs will be in my heart forever. The restaurant because I met my husband through the people I worked with there, and the call center because it was the most off-the-wall, carefree job I have ever/will ever have. On lunch breaks we would walk across the street to the pub and order a pitcher of beer each and get trashed (I was only 20 at the time), then go back to work. My manager also took us all out for coconut shrimp one day…at a strip club.

I was living a fairy tale, and I could only do that in my 20s, I didn’t know better and I learned a lot at both places. Your defining year might be about making memories. I don’t condone illegal behavior, but do something you will never get to do again.

When my 21st birthday came around, I wanted to move back to North Carolina. I spent all summer in Florida and I didn’t make (or so I thought) any friends. I’m a person of little patience, if it doesn’t happen right away, then I freak out and think I’m doing something wrong or I need to do something better. I decided to move back to North Carolina around the end of October 2012, maybe I was meant to be there? …I was there for two days and hated it.

What is wrong with me?! Where do I belong?!

After moving back to Florida for the second time, I felt what I had been searching for: I felt like I belonged. My friends greeted me with the best 21st birthday a girl “with no friends” could ask for. Your defining year might be about finding “home.” Home is more than the house where you live. It’s the people you surround yourself with, the city you live in, it’s all home.

2012, at 20 years old was my defining year. I recreated myself by moving somewhere new, somewhere where no one knew my name. They didn’t know I was a lame in high school, they didn’t care. I moved with my dad who, although tried to be parent, really wasn’t. He was a friend, a roommate, a teacher, a provider. He still told me what to do, but he understood that I need to make mistakes in order to learn, and I learned, a lot. Thank you dad, for letting me experience my defining year.

I encourage anyone in their 20s to either think back on their defining year or make a new one. Don’t go bankrupt or anything but focus on YOU find out where you are going to blossom; and a little secret, it’s not usually where you are planted. You have to move, you have to try new things, make new mistakes, meet new people. Don’t be afraid to date people, you find out what you do or don’t like and the type of person you do or don’t want to be with. Don’t be afraid to go out with coworkers, even though you aren’t that close, I promise you will see them in a whole new way and maybe become best friends. Don’t be afraid to move. It is the best thing I could have ever done for myself. Lastly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t just live your life, experience it, love it, and remember it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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