I had finally come to terms with 22 when 23 hit. 22 matches the uncertainty that comes with graduating college and finding your place in the world. 22 can be immature or adventurous or wild or even a little bit broken, like a bird pushed out of its nest too soon. It can’t quite fly yet, but maybe it manages to hit a stable branch on the way down without breaking both wings.
But 23? There isn’t even a song for 23. 23 feels…foreign. Premature. Grown-up. 23-year-olds are supposed to have it together. Right?
When I picture a 23-year-old, I picture a thin brunette with an expensive haircut, dressed in a chic black blazer and pencil skirt with heels. She is spritzed with Chanel no. 5 and sporting a designer handbag, a cell phone pressed to her ear and coffee in her hands as she fields her powerful boss’ requests. She has a sexy chef boyfriend, but she leaves him to go to Paris even though Emily was supposed to go but she was hit by a cab anyway, so honestly is it that big of a deal…okay, this is the plot of The Devil Wears Prada.
What I don’t picture is an underemployed liberal arts grad who can’t quite afford to get her hair done and Skypes her friends more than she sees them in person. A girl who still cries at the ending of Anastasia, who asks her mom for advice every day, and who still wears her old sorority t-shirts while eating cookie dough she has not yet purchased in aisle 3 of the grocery store.
23 scares the sh@% out of me.
So, like many of you, I am forced to admit it: your 20s aren’t a damn thing like the movies.
1. Your first job won’t be the “perfect job”
I know, I know, you’ve heard this. So had I. But yet, here I am, juggling freelance writing jobs and struggling to work my way up in each of them, genuinely confused why I’m not Editorial Director at The New Yorker by now. I mean, Carrie Bradshaw got her sex column just like that and Elle Woods went straight from college to Harvard Law to working at a firm. While movies can be inspiring, we need to remember that this is about as realistic as making orange the new pink (aka seriously disturbed).
2. That girl squad may take awhile.
You had it in college, right? Just wait until your friends are scattered across the world like crumbled pieces of a Nature Valley bar, and you’re in a new city, alone. Or your old city, alone. Unless you went to college locally, you might struggle sorting it out right away. You might feel more than a little lonely. They don’t show this on TV, this first dose of loss as you navigate the world without your friends for the first time. You’ll stop complaining about those group texts—you’ll live for them.
3. That chic NY apartment? NOT affordable.
It’s not just New York, either. Chic is pretty unattainable in your early 20s, unless you’re a viral sensation, a Wall Street banker, Hailee Steinfeld, or a trust fund baby.
4. The same goes for Louboutins.
I own exactly one designer item, and it’s a Burberry scarf my grandmother gave me for Christmas one year. When it’s between those shoes and rent, rent tends to come first.
5. Dating in the real world is hard.
You know in Crazy Stupid Love when Emma Stone approaches Ryan Gosling, kisses him, says “let’s go,” and then they proceed to reenact the Dirty Dancing lift and talk all night about their interests and families? I’ve been waiting for this to happen, for, like, years. I’m serious. If anyone reads this and can do that lift, hit me up. My point is, dating in your 20s, while admittedly the time to find your “soul mate,” is anything but smooth.
Moreover, your 20s are anything but smooth. And while I am only 23, I expect six more years of chaos, uncertainty, and strangely exhilarating ambiguity. We’ve got nothing to lose, and everywhere to go.