A word from the been-there/wise about our 20-something experience.

August 25, 2010

The Results Episode: At 20 _______ you feel __________

August 25, 2010

At 27 I feel…

August 25, 2010
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Here is my overdue response to my own prompt – “At 20 _____ I Feel ______.”

I’ve been so wildly impressed and moved by all the responses from all of you that writing my own became even harder. There are one hundred different feelings to cap off the prompt from where I stand right now, but I’ve decided that for me, it’s really just as simple as the below.

Thank you, to all who have already submitted. And KEEP THEM COMING!

At 27 I feel very 27.

If you asked me at 23 what it meant to be 23 I’d say, I have no idea. Maybe it meant being at the start of things, carefree, questioning? I was aware at that age that the age meant I had plenty of time to make mistakes and missteps, and I did.

At 23 I had a job I knew I didn’t want to still have at 24. I behaved in many ways like I was 20, 21, and on bad (good?) days, 18… But I can’t say that was because I was aware that at 23 I was allowed to do all those 23-year-old things. It was just a natural outgrowth of where my peer group and I were logistically and emotionally. Logistically – in Manhattan – a city that invites you to behave 23 at 43. And emotionally at that post-grad stage where you feel entitled to take your time to figure it all out. I’m sure that at some point I said, “I can’t ________, I’m only 23.” Or I can’t believe she’s ____________, we’re only 23. I can’t remember exactly how much I attached my choices and decisions to that exact age, but I can remember very distinctly feeling, “only 23.”

The first shift I can really recall was the 2-5 marker. At 25 I didn’t feel any different. I wasn’t any more aware of exactly what I wanted and where I wanted to be, but people were talking about 25 like I should… 25 was Katie’s scary age. I remember wondering if it should be mine but deciding I honestly wasn’t scared. I didn’t know enough to be scared. In a way, I wasn’t ready to be scared.

25 was the first time I started to think about being 30 and what I wanted to accomplish before then, but I didn’t feel a sense of gravity about making moves to put myself there. I was content in the there and then. I still hadn’t landed in a job I knew I wanted to keep for more than a year or two, but I wasn’t looking to make that kind of decision. What I do remember about 25 is that feeling of having the world’s permission to be more of an adult – to not only deserve a seat at the table, but to deserve to say something from that seat. That was a shift – I “mattered.” But with that mattering came being accountable for whatever I said and did from whatever seat I occupied.
Responsibility, maturity, a savings account… All those things started to become things I actually wanted, not things I dreaded. That doesn’t mean I knew quite how to get there – it just means I was aware that it could be fun/exciting/enabling to get older. But at 25 I absolutely still had days (nights?) where I was 22, 23, 24 (fine, 21). At 25 I still slept on the couch in my sister’s college dorm during parent’s weekend.

Now at 27 I feel 27 – and I like it. I feel like I know things that make me valuable in this world. I feel like I want to be calmer, more deliberate, more future-focused. I think I actually want to be the number 27 – 3 years from 30, 5 + years out of college – like I’m somehow proud of that age.

I still couldn’t tell you what that future looks like or what I look like in it, but I desire it in a different way than I did looking at it from 25. 27 is my scary age, and yet as I said the day I turned it, I’m excited to be scared.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that my early twenties were a time of bumbling through it all with no sense of time, place or age. But I feel a different sense of control over my life (or maybe just a desire to have control?) then I did in my early twenties. In many, many ways I’m still “only 27,” but in a lot of others it’s, “you know, I’m 27 now…” Like if 23 was an excuse then 27 is a motivator. I’m 27 now. I’m allowed to say and think serious things. I can be a “director” of something without people 30 + rolling their eyes. I’m not a phenom. It’s not beginners luck. I’ve earned things and collected things that make me a more solid being.

But the thing about my feeling “very 27” is that it’s my feeling – my sense of who I am and should be at this age-marker. My 27 is some people’s 23 and other’s 35. What’s interesting is that at my 27, I’m finally only concerned about the fact that it’s mine.


  1. At 27, I feel everything:

    At 22, I can remember feeling nothing. I wasn’t scared to graduate or nervous about what I was going to do. I wasn’t carefree and lazy, but I figured the work I put in would produce something on the other end. I just didn’t worry. I fretted about not knowing anything and being too young to be taken seriously, but for the most part, I felt no pressure. If anything, at that age, I was an island and it seemed the right age to be an island at.

    At 25, I felt a little more. I was disappointed I still hadn’t found a career, confused by all the opportunities out there that I wasn’t taking advantage of, and excited by all the possibilities that my education and experience presented me with. Still, I think mostly I felt jealous about the successes that my friends had had. I was happy for them, but I wanted something for me, not something handed to me, but something I could sink my teeth into, work hard at, and find out whether I was good at it or not.

    At 27, I feel everything. I’ve felt, risked, succeeded, and found that it didn’t quite get me where I thought it would. As a 22 year old, I figured you work hard, people notice. But there’s more to it than that. Now 27, it’s not just about working hard and taking risks, it’s about asking for help and making yourself available to anything and anyone. Yes, there’s the chance of burning out. But if I was an island at 22, I am an open port at 27, inviting other people’s experiences and opinions. I cant’ say my future is any clearer or less frustrating at 27 than it was at 22, but I much prefer this feeling everything, having maturity, empathy, and better focus, to the jealousy I felt at 25 and the invincibility of 22.

    I’ve been given a chance, in Jessie’s words, to “sit at the table.” The offer is there, but it’s a matter of whether or not I can find my place now.

  2. Yup. I am 27 as well and I can relate to all these feelings. But in a sense I feel like now my life is more chaotic and now what I expected at 27. I thought I’d be married and settled with children by now and my life is COMPLETELY the opposite. Funny thing.

  3. I turned 27 on August 14th. As the days leading up to my birthday approached, I got a bit anxious, thinking about what I have and have not accomplished; where I thought I should “be” at 27; where did I go wrong versus where have I gone right. You are right in your article, 27 is “your own”. I feel the same. It is my time to shine, and I will not compare my state of being to anyone else’s, nor let anyone else’s expectations of my life affect my choices. I have never had a stronger sense of self-clarity, even if my future is still a bit unclear. Thank you for your blog post. I truly enjoy your writing.

  4. Hello girl! this is a great blog. I’m 28, I’m chilean and time ago I started to look for information about the “twenty-somethings” because I was living the quarter media crisis. In this research I find a book written by anne elizabeth grace, calls “confusion to clarity” a guide for us, the twenty-somethings. This is the website:


    Sorry for my english, but I’m still learning this as a second leanguaje.

    Kisses from chile,

  5. I’m 28 (and a half) and I’ve never felt more lost and confused in my entire life.

    I’m well educated, with a grad degree. I’ve never had a problem getting a job, even right out of undergrad. I’ve worked at some of the best and most recognized companies in my field. But for some reason, I feel a desire do something completely different. Find out who I truly am and what I’m really passionate about. To start over. Reinvent myself. Because, as it turns out, what I thought I wanted is not what I want at all.

    Did I do it all too fast? I’m starting to think the answer is…yes.

  6. At 27, I feel… like I’m running out of time! The big 3-0 is looming so large. For example, if I meet a guy tomorrow, and we date for a year, and are engaged for a year, I’ll still barely be married before I’m 30. If I do everything right in my grad program from now on and graduate as soon as I can, I’ll still be graduating barely in time to get a career before I’m 30. I think if I had these things tied up, I’d feel better about 27. But where I am in my life, I mainly just see what I haven’t yet accomplished, what I haven’t done in the 5+ years out of undergrad, how I’m not only not a phenom but I feel like I’m falling behind. Of course, this could all have something to do with the fact that ever since I turned 27, I keep accidentally thinking that I’m 28… =P

  7. Anon I am with you. I am 28 and I am married, have a grad school degree, and have an ideal well paying job but my answer to your prompt would have to be:

    At 28 I feel torn.

    I am not fulfilled at my current job and there is a large piece of my that wants to search for a more fulfilling career where I don’t dread getting out of bed everyday. But then there is this piece of me that feels I am approaching my 30’s and I need to settle down.

    I feel the 20’s of today have higher expectations for themselves and are not willing to settle for second best–and I think this is a good thing.

  8. At 24 I feel… in-between.
    It is now past the point where I can still play my “just out of college” card. And I am not yet at a place where I feel like I have total ownership of my life.
    Just out of college, I knew that there was a world open to me. I had a great part-time job that allowed me to figure out that that was not the rest of my life. Ahead of me was my first corporate, full-time job. Now, at 24 I have been with the company for two years and was recently promoted. This is a valuable “first job” experience: going through the entry-level phase and struggling through growing pains to get promoted. I do not know that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And while I don’t feel pressured to figure it out just yet, I’m getting there.
    Points of clarity have come slowly and surely along the way and I’m certain that they’ll keep coming. I’m optimistic that things will work out in the end, and until then I’m just going to enjoy taking it all in.

    Baby-Boomers, I’m sorry that you’re jealous of my generation’s freedom and ability to just ride the wave. However, I’m not sorry that I’m taking my time to figure out what I want, that I’m not married with 3 kids yet, that I spend my hard-earned money on myself, and that I’m not the cookie cutter 20-something you think I should be. Given the opportunity, you might have defied gravity, too, so give us a break.

  9. At 27, I forget my age. I am so busy I am not sure how I got here and where I will be when the train slows down. I had a bunch of preconceived notions about age and milestones and independence. What I have figured out is that those are all a bunch of words. Are you happy, healthy and awake? Are you doing at least something you want to be doing? I wanted kids by this age, instead I have a team of 6th grade girls that are awesome and amazing. I wanted a career instead I am working for the family business and lord knows where that will end up. I wanted to be financially independent, educated, and able. I am not sure even I can judge those things for myself.

    I think we put to many deadlines, restrictions, and values on a life. All things cannot be measured, quatified or calculated.

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