#20Something: Rediscovering Who We Are

In high school, time was easier to hang on to.

Sure, we juggled homework, sports, band, clubs, nights with family, and weekends with friends… but we did so voluntarily. We worked not because we necessarily had to, but because we wanted to stay busy. Well, that and have a little extra cash in our pockets for a Friday night movie.

We spent our time doing things we loved—drawing, snowboarding, playing volleyball, traveling, dancing, performing, hunting, painting, skateboarding, socializing, music making, etc. We had hobbies—in fact, we had tons of them. They helped define who we were: jock, band geek, farm kid, drama star, skate punk, choir queen, avid outdoorsmen—you name it.

But the day we graduated from high school, all of that changed. We started over. Our flimsy resumes were wiped clean, and we were free to rediscover ourselves and alter our identities in any which way we desired. In college, no one had to know that we were the awkward, lanky basketball star. We could hide the talent we had with the flute. We could change the way we dressed to fit the new lifestyle we wanted to live. The world gave us the opportunity to be anyone we wanted.

Somewhere, in the middle of all that chaos… I lost who I was.

In college, I focused my time on academics and a healthy dose of socializing (a.k.a. drinking and singing karaoke on the weekends #UWStoutRepresent). My former identity as a tri-sport athlete no longer mattered—I wasn’t playing D1 volleyball. My love for creativity was pushed aside for weekends spent applying for internships and writing cover letters. I didn’t have money to travel. I didn’t have time to volunteer. And suddenly, having a job wasn’t a choice. I was forced to punch the clock so I could buy cases of ramen noodles to eat for dinner (and lunch and breakfast).

Lost Who I Was

Even after I graduated college, I kept busy. Too busy. Under the burden of thousands of dollars of student loans, I convinced myself that one job was not enough. So I worked. And I worked after work. I shot weddings on the side. I donated plasma. I freelanced, writing fashion tips.

And all too suddenly, time slipped away from me. In the midst of it all, I realized that I’ve all but forgotten what I love to do. I fell out of touch with myself. I became what everyone else viewed me as—void of who I thought I was. When someone asked, I couldn’t answer the question of what my dream job was. Or what I find most fulfilling in life. I have no idea because I don’t know what’s out there. I lost track of all the possibilities. I’m out of touch with what I want in life and, ultimately, what makes me truly happy.

Out of Touch

I came to this realization over the summer and I knew it wasn’t healthy. I was speechless when someone asked, “What are your hobbies?” I couldn’t think of any. My time was consumed by the various ways I was making money.

I knew something needed to change. I needed to rediscover myself, so I dedicated an entire plane ride with that mission in mind. I carefully created a new note in my phone and laid out the biggest outlying question of my 20s.

“What am I passionate about?”

On a two and a half hour plane ride, I managed to scrape up a whopping three passions. This time around, shooting hoops, drawing fashion croquis, and awkward photo shoots with friends no longer made the list. Connecting with strangers, traveling (of any sorts), and exploring new perspectives and cultures were my newfound passions. Petty hobbies were history. My passions were at the heart of who I was. That is, the me who I was trying to rediscover.

But, in all of this, I saw the larger picture. As I reflected, I realized that, in 2016, how we identify ourselves directly relates to what we’ve accomplished. We are encouraged to do something rather than be someone. That, in and of itself isn’t terrible… until it strips us of our purpose in life.

Today, I reflect on the thoughts of a wise author. She once asked my peers and me how we plan to live our lives—based on eulogy virtues or resume virtues? When we die, are people going to note the degree attached to our names, the number of hours a week we worked, or the award we received for employee of the month? Likely not. But they will probably mention the lives we touched and the smiles we brought to this world—all thanks to the energy we put into the things that brought us the most passion.

When We Die (1)
It’s unrealistic to say that we’ll ever revive the hobbies we had in high school. Time changes us. Our priorities (and the way we perceive time) change as we age. Nonetheless, as we continue down our life path, one thing should always remain a priority: happiness. Rediscovering the root of our happiness in our 20s is just a part of that journey—no matter how hard it is.

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