At 31 I am the oldest contributor to The Sellers Group. Most of the other contributors are my fraternity brothers that I watched matriculate and grow into men over the past decade. As an older brother I always took it upon myself to impart the little bit of wisdom that I had accumulated in this thing called life to my little brothers so they didn't have to make the same mistakes I made, or to serve as a source of encouragement and support in the tough times that I know we all have.
Something happens to all of us between the ages of 24 -32 (these are not quite scientifically proven numbers). This is the time when we realize we are truly adults in this cold war of life. For the typical American young adult during this time you have finished school, started a career, live outside of your parents' home, have some sort of debt, and have identified a social group. This is supposed to be the beginning of the American Dream, but for many Millennials this is the beginning of the realization that this so called life is not what we pictured it would be when we were younger (cue Adele).
For example, when I graduated high school and headed south for college I imagined that by 25 I would be well on my way to becoming a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, married and starting a family. By 25 I had accomplished none of those things. I realized my freshman year that I was not willing to be disciplined enough to study to be a doctor, and... dating and sexual identity deserves to be its own post.
I purchased my first home at the age of 24, and the day I moved in I was overcome with emotion. I wasn't overcome with pride and excitement for what I had accomplished. Instead I was left with an overwhelming sense of failure and loneliness. I sat in the living room of my two-bedroom townhouse and cried because I had made a huge purchase that I had to carry completely on my own. I had no one to share the responsibility of homeownership, no one to come home to, and no money left in my savings after closing.
From the outside looking in I had it made, or so my family would assure me. I had a promising career with a good salary and benefits, a nice car, a new home, manageable debt, and had traveled outside of the United States. But rather than appreciating my successes I was considering them failures because the life I was living was not the life I always thought it would be. It was at this point that I had reached my quarter-life crisis.
Fortunately I did not feel the need to go out and do anything drastic to make myself feel better (though I did purchase a new couch and a flat screen TV with the money the Federal Government gave me for being a first time home buyer, thanks Obama). I have always been a fairly level headed and practical person, so my solution was not to do something external to fix an internal problem. Instead, I chose to change what my expectations were from life using the following:
DISCLAIMER: I am not Iyanla, nor am I here to fix anyone’s life. I am only sharing what helped me come out of the abyss.
FAITH: I consider myself a spiritual person. My faith has shown me that there is a greater Will in operation than the one that I designed for myself. It’s usually not until after something doesn’t go “my way” that I realize that what I wanted was not what I needed, and I was better off without it. That makes it much easier to let go and move forward onto the next phase of life. Understand that everything happens for a reason. The things that are purposed to happen will happen, and those that are not purposed will not happen.
TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS, LOVED ONES, AND PEERS: I can almost guarantee that 98.467% of your friends are feeling similarly about their lives as you. Everyone at this time has something that they are trying to accomplish that they feel just isn’t going the way they want it to. Communicating these emotions and frustrations with those whom you feel close to will help you realize that you are not alone, and everyone is trying to figure things out.
CONSIDER A NEW CAREER OR LOCATION: After realizing medical school wasn’t for me I switched majors to Psychology because I have always liked learning about why people do what they do. The problem with careers in psychology is that they almost always require advanced degrees. I knew I needed research experience to get into a graduate program, so I applied and was offered a job in the clinical trials research field. I only intended to stay in the industry for three years, but ten years later I am still here, and feel this is the correct path for me. Additionally, after about six years I started to get the itch to move to a more metropolitan area. I took a chance, and within two weeks I had accepted a new position and moved to DC. Since moving here life has definitely changed for the better.
READ THE FOUR AGREEMENTS: I am not one for “self-help” books, but I think the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz should be required reading for all students in every grade of school after the 4th grade. Every year in every school. It’s that powerful. I swear it changed my life. It’s a very short book, and I read it initially in two hours and have gone back to it several times. All four agreements are important, but the two that I continue to repeat to myself and strive to live by are: (2) Don’t take anything personally and (3) Don’t make assumptions. For an introspective person like me these were the two biggest mistakes I was making in life. I internalized everything that happened around me and to me as my fault, including the actions of others. In reality the things people do are a reflection of themselves and not you. Furthermore, it is arrogant and egotistical to think that everyone else has you on their mind just because you do. This is one of the greatest lessons I have learned in adulthood, and it has become so freeing to live without thinking I am the cause of issues that really have nothing to do with me.
GET A DOG: Dogs are better than people.
MUSIC: I cannot live without it. There is a song for every moment and every emotion. Music is supposed to feed the soul and soothe you in a time of need. I could write about this for days, but a few favorite songs that always lift me up are “Enjoy” by Janet Jackson and “Cold War” and “Victory” by Janelle Monae. Do yourself a favor and check these out.
Let me let you in on a secret… I didn’t read The Four Agreements until I was 30. I bought my house at 24. I got a dog at 26. I’m a few months away from 32, and I am still figuring this whole life thing out. The fun is in the journey and each lesson learned along the way.