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Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media
Career > Her20s

“you have not yet met all the people you will love” and other gentle reminders for 20-somethings trying to “live, laugh, love” in these conditions.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

I think my 20th birthday was one of the saddest days of my life. I was struggling with feeling alone – even in the midst of all the love I’d been shown that day – a touch of imposter syndrome, social anxiety…grief. In the months that followed, I didn’t really feel like I was “here” at all. I watched as my room got messier, as texts filled my inbox and assignments piled up, but I just couldn’t will myself out of bed. It was as if all the sadness I had never really allowed myself to feel (not for too long at least) had finally caught up to me and it was just easier to be in bed than it was to act like I wasn’t on the verge of tears at all hours of the day. I’ve always been like this; jumping in between highs and lows.  I’d just never been that low.

2 weeks ago, my therapist said, and I am very happy to quote, “‘You look so happy and light in comparison to when I first met you.’”

So, how did we get here? Two different but equally valid versions of myself. What happened in between my birthday in March and comfortably settling into second semester in August (school is still kicking my arse though, let’s not get it twisted – I’m just fighting back)? There are many answers to the above question; …answers that some may relate to and others not so much. There is a deeper conversation to be had about some of these answers (and it will be had, slowly, over time) but for now, here are some nuggets of wisdom that I have picked up in the process of trying to be okay again:

Firstly, find and lean on community – one of the defining characteristics of our neo-liberal, capitalist society is the emphasis on individualism. We get pushed to move out of our homes – years before our pre-frontal cortexes (thanking all the Leo DiCaprio jokes for this one) even fully develop, cosplay adulting, ‘focus on ourselves’… and for what? So much of self-care has been framed through an individualistic lens when one of the greatest acts of self-care is asking for help, even if you end up simply sitting in silence with someone you love. There is a reason seeing your friends for ‘2 seconds’ makes you feel alive again after weeks of feeling down – we need community.

Secondly, disappoint your parents TODAY! I recognize that I am speaking from a place of privilege (having parents who affirm me and largely let me navigate life on my own terms), but things become so much clearer when you give your parents (and other people) the chance to love you for who you are as opposed to who they think you are or should be. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to walk through your life – as much possible, ensure that you are doing so, in a way that fills and sustains YOU.  True community – real love – pushes you towards the truest and arguably the best version of you.

Thirdly, assess the lense through which you view progress and your emotions. The other day my friend asked me how I was, and I went off about how I’m attending all my lectures, all the work I had gotten done, keeping my room clean etc and then she stopped me and said “‘No, how have you been?’” The conversation we had was obviously a bit deeper, but the gist is that it made me realise that I link my “highs” to the extent to which I am productive (neo-liberal capitalism, the gift that keeps on giving *wink*). Today I find myself measuring progress in how many bellyache-inducing laughs I have had and how many things I have learnt that can’t be marked or measured. I’m constantly trying to remind myself that productivity ¹ happiness and that happiness ¹  productivity.

Fourthly, music and movement. There is not much to say here other than that these things have quite literally saved me. Also, friends, listen to AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS by MICHELLE, RENAISSANCE (but I didn’t need to tell you that), some bossa novas, Bra Hugh, Msaki (and the heaps of local artists that have been and continue to produce joy in music form) and some Gregory Porter for the soul.

Lastly, “you have not yet met all the people you will love.” I saw this one a tweet back in 2020 and looking at it makes me hopeful. There is so much out there for us. We have so much to offer back. Every stranger could be a world of opportunities, understanding, new experiences – something beyond your wildest dreams. Looking at life and people in this way has made 20 feel less scary. It makes me feel like I have time and, while right now may not be great, there is a way to be good again.

I am constantly afraid of slipping back into the lows, but I know that what I know and what I will learn has made me better equipped to deal with them, and I hope that in some way, this helps you too.

A fun-loving, catnapping, overthinking human being trying to move through this beautifully chaotic thing that is life.