Your Early 20s Suck – GenTwenty

In this first episode of Season 4 of The GenTwenty Podcast, Nicole and Marina discuss the trials and tribulations of the unique period of your life known as your early 20s.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Nicole Booz: Welcome back to The GenTwenty Podcast I’m Nicole…

Marina Crouse: And I’m Marina! Today, we’re talking about why your early 20s suck. Ah, we originally had a different title for this episode but we landed on this one because it’s true: Your early 20s suck…I don’t want anyone to try to tell me different because those were a rough 10 years. Really, a rough few 5 however long your early 20s last—it was a rough time for me.

Nicole Booz: Ah, yeah yeah I agree, actually when we were talking about what we’re going to talk about in this episode, which we’ll get into in a second, I was thinking just like wow life is so different now and your early 20s really do suck a lot. 

Because it’s like a really big transition period like you’re going from like I mean obviously you’re a teenager and then a lot of us go to college and that’s like a big transition that does not translate at all really to the real world like once you graduate like going from academics and college classes and tests and all that stuff like a lot of the skills you’re learning there and like what your your end goal is isn’t has nothing to do with the real world and it’s just like a really really challenging time.

Marina Crouse: It is because especially if you go the more traditional route and land in college you leave, at least for me when I was a senior, I was like “I’m a senior I know so much I have an idea of how my life’s going to go.” And then you know three months later I graduated and was hit with the harsh reality that none of what I thought would happen was true and it did not happen and so I feel like people don’t talk about how uncertain your early 20s are how isolating they are I moved across the country away from all my college friends. And like they weren’t…it was 2013 y’all no one was good at texting or calling FaceTime wasn’t a thing that you regularly did, Zoom didn’t exist.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, I’m not not even sure I was on Instagram in that year to be honest.

Marina Crouse: For a full six months one of my friends and I only chatted through snapchat and it was just like different pictures of us commuting to work and we didn’t say one spoken word. So I looking back, I’m 31 so literally ten years ago at 21, I was graduating. No I guess I was still in college. Well I was getting ready to graduate.

And trying to figure out my life and going on all these interviews, trying to interview trying to figure out my career feeling like I had to have it figured out and it was stressful and scary and everything felt so impossible.

Nicole Booz: I also moved across the country when I graduated from college and it’s interesting in college because you are spending 4 years maybe plus you know, maybe a little less working towards this one goal of like getting your degree and graduating and then I Think you’re almost sold the idea that you’re going to land a job or find a job like immediately and that’s like the immediate goal. I actually did not have plans to do that post graduation. Yeah, I definitely didn’t.

Marina Crouse: I did and it didn’t happen and I thought I was a failure.

Nicole Booz: Even look for jobs my senior year like I don’t like looking back at me then like wow Nicole, you were bold. You were brazen. Yeah I I did not go to a single career fair job fair.

Marina Crouse: You were and that’s why I love you.

Nicole Booz: Thank you. It’s weird I had zero plans to be employed post-graduation primarily because I was planning to take six months off which I did and then like off of life like, yeah yeah.

Marina Crouse: Say less. It’s fine. We all need breaks.

Nicole Booz: So for me, it’s like my ah my husband and I, well we’ve been married for 10 years now but we had been together since high school and, he got a job offer that was going to move us across the country and so for me in my mind I was like well there’s no point of trying to find a job because I’d be finding it over there like we have a lot to get established like we’ll be okay, financially for a while like we’ll sort it out I mean we got married like right after we graduated from college…

Marina Crouse: … and your loans didn’t kick in right away you know.

Nicole Booz: No, no, no, no, no and that’s like a whole other conversation that we should talk about in a different episode. , ah but ah shoot what was I going to say I was going to say oh we got married at the courthouse in our wedding rings cost $20 and we wore those I still wear it now. So that’s what we have. We started from the bottom, people.

Very bottom and anyway, so just not so that anyone thinks that I had this big luxurious wedding with no job or anything I don’t know why I care anyway, anyway, so my plan was to take kind of six months off and to like figure out things like figure out our new city figure out what I wanted to do.

I always wanted to start a business. So that’s what I ended up doing and that was the right path for me but when I look back at myself like how I just said I was so bold and brazen like that was kind of a bold move like in some ways.

Marina Crouse: Oh yeah, the the narrative I was told was you have to have a job before you graduate. You can’t move home. You have to be able to support yourself.

Like very very definitive statements with no wiggle room and so when I was graduating and I had tried so so hard but just couldn’t no one gave me any job offers. But I’d been interviewing and interviewing and applying my my thought was okay well I could move home with my dad and my stepmom.

Or I can move to California with my mom and even though I didn’t know anyone in California that seemed like a better choice because I wouldn’t be returning home to all these people who would quote unquote see me as a failure. No one did but like I thought they did in my mind but and I think they did.

We don’t talk enough about how expensive your 20s are and how little you’re paid because my first job out of college was I had 2 part time jobs where I made and the minim wage in California at the time in 2013 was like $8.25.

And I made $8.50 at one job and $12 an hour at the other job and I worked like 38 hours a week total and I like couldn’t get approved for credit cards because I had no like quote unquote real job and it was I just lived at home and I cried every day for more than 1 reason but like that was part of it.

Nicole Booz: Yeah yeah I think that’s really interesting that you talk about the whole credit card thing. because I feel like to some extent I had a little bit like. I think probably because I was a senior in college and I felt like the top of everything at that point me know before you graduate and you’re like literally at the bottom again like I Yeah yeah I I still felt in charge of things and then there’s definitely a period following college where I didn’t feel in charge of things like it’s very…

Marina Crouse: …before reality is handed to you on a silver platter.

Nicole Booz: Confusing like even like whether you you know, have your own business or you are going the traditional corporate route or whatever it is I think that it’s very you just feel so unsure of everything and you’re kind of realizing that all of these things you’ve been told before have they’ve just completely misled you and it’s a very like misunderstood age range I feel because when I was in my early 20s I felt like people who were in their like late twenties early thirties whatever, just really didn’t understand and relate to that period anymore and then people who were like just a little bit older than me like 26/27, were still kind of in this like like midrange area where like they were starting to get traction in some ways but less so in others and like everyone kind of has their areas that they struggle with. But in your early 20s it feels like it’s every area like so hard.

Marina Crouse: Oh yeah, and part of that uncertainty I think we could touch upon is that your brain hasn’t finished fully developing like your frontal lobe that I’m like not I don’t really remember what it does but that amygdala or whatever Nicole will know. Don’t tell me. But your frontal lobe hasn’t finished developing until you’re probably 24 or 25 which means you your emotions your hormones. Everything is still like raging through you because again I’m not a doctor I’m not a scientist like don’t come at me but you you literally can’t make fully formed thoughts. Until your brain fully forms. So I remember just feeling so insecure unsure and and just not understanding why things were the way they were and now I I remember getting ready to turn 30, we were Nicole and I were talking and I was like you know I feel physically different than I did at 22 because I am like literally calmer: I still have anxiety, I still have an anxiety disorder, I still drink too much coffee, but I feel more settled and calm and I’m pretty sure it’s because my brain caught up.

Nicole Booz: , yeah, yeah, what you’re talking about with the prefrontal Cortex has to do with like behavior and planning and, kind of like just learning cognition…

Marina Crouse: See I knew she knew.

Nicole Booz: But it has a lot to do with behavior and problem solving and making decisions and impulse control and things like that. Which I think when you yeah I don’t think like necessarily being impulsive. It’s like a bad thing. I do think that a lot of times like being impulsive means chasing your gut feeling which maybe this is like a whole other conversation as well. But I think listening to your gut and like your initial feelings is really important, but also when you’re yeah like in your early 20s you don’t really have the foresight to see what your 30s are going to be like are your 40s and stuff we’ve written about and discussed a lot things like man like I wish I had started saving money away earlier because by the time you understand how to do that. You’ve already missed like a huge chunk of time and I mean I’ve been seeing some like headlines and articles and stuff where Gen Z doesn’t see like the point of saving money and doing things like that because everything is so uncertain in the world and like it makes me a little nervous because to me saving money has always been important and something like.

In my mind like I mean I’m not like a financial expert. Don’t like don’t get me wrong, but it’s like I wasn’t raised in a very like financially stable environment and to me like having money is a tool to be able to do what you want to do and having control over your own life because like for example, after my husband got his job offer that was going to move us across the country. We like told his parents that that was our plans and what we were planning to do and his mom literally just said no and I was like I’m sorry like we are this old. You cannot say no like I think yeah.

Marina Crouse: We’re not looking for feedback at this time. Thank you.

Nicole Booz: I think it was just like her like gut reaction was like no but I was like no, that’s what we’re doing like this is our choice and like you know this is how we are doing our lives and like part of that like I mean is an impulsive like I don’t know but it’s like he wasn’t going to turn a job offer like that down and that’s I was just going to say like not because of this point in his career but because of what it would do for our future and like we were young and unencumbered. We didn’t have children. We didn’t I didn’t have to be anywhere I stayed up till four am every day.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, listen live your best life — live your best life. I would stay up too late and I did have a corporate job because I’d be so tired the next day and I’d have regrets.

Nicole Booz: Ah, you made it.

Marina Crouse: Impulses are different like I don’t think moving across the country for a decent job is that impulsive because you knew you were planning to get a job like you knew your husband was planning to get a job. You knew it would be in that field.

That’s just how it shook out my mind in my mind impulsive is like I’m going to move to this city where I don’t have a job and I don’t know anyone but it’s going to be the right fix and everything will be fine after I move here like that’s no but I often would think like oh if I just moved it would get better and I could just do it tomorrow.

Nicole Booz: Is that what you did, Marina?

Marina Crouse: I’m not an impulsive person but I do remember feeling like every decision I made was going to be like the decision. The biggest thing and I struggled with like dating because I was like well this is probably going to be the person I married. Spoiler alert: It was not.  And this is” going to be the job that defines my career! Spoiler alert: It did not. I also thought “I’m going to live in the city forever nope I moved like 6 more times and I think that’s part of that. That’s like that impulse control is like your brain just can’t fathom. Anything outside of the 10 seconds ahead of it because you’ve only known you’ve only had this narrative of waking up waking up being born living in this town or wherever your childhood is going to high school going to college or going to high school and starting a job and that’s your life. That’s all you do.

But I’ve moved so many times I’ve had so many different jobs and now I’m my own boss which is something I always wanted but just didn’t think was in the cards for me like I didn’t think I could do that and in my thirties when I like when I decided to start my business I was 29 so I was almost thirty I literally just thought well this is going to be the good time to try it and if it doesn’t work out I’ll just get a new job versus if I had tried to start this business when I was 22 my brain would have been like if you don’t make it you will be a failure for everything and be broke and have to live at home forever like those are the different narratives my brain than a now would say where like now I may not make a ton of money but I know that there’s always money there for me to make and I just have to figure out.

Nicole Booz: That’s interesting.

Marina Crouse: Which skills can attract those jobs versus before I didn’t know the skills I had or I didn’t have the skills I have now and going back to what we’re talking about we we weren’t prepared I went to a private college that was like oh you’re from Gettysburg College you’ll everyone will like.

Marina Crouse: Snap you up and hire you and I was like that was not the case that was not the case and I wasn’t given the tools to thrive in a corporate environment I wasn’t I didn’t know how to seek for seek help or ask or I just it was a rough time.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Marina Crouse: Was rough time and the the only way I learned honestly was through like continuous self imploding of like this isn’t working and to try something else. This still isn’t working I’m going to try something else. Yeah I’m just rising from the ashes.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, yeah, you’re like a phoenix exactly yeah I think that yeah with your early 20s there’s still a lot of ahead of you to learn and not that there’s not now for like in our 30s like don’t get me wrong. It’s like yeah, but it’s like ah.

Marina Crouse: Oh so much to learn still.

Nicole Booz: Different approach because we have so much we know behind us already and like I think that it’s really important like because I was talking to my husband about this one the other day like I don’t think that you should ever work yourself to like the point of burnout but in your early 20s I think you need to work harder than you will for the rest of your life, and I think that we’re kind of told that we don’t need to or shouldn’t have to and not that I like I

Really don’t like you shouldn’t be burning the candle at both ends, that’s it’s not sustainable. It’s not healthy, but I do think that you need to continue to apply yourself like yes you have earned a degree if you went to college and you’re getting some experience but you can’t look at your degree as like the only thing that’s going to get you a job and I don’t think that’s like told like enough to a lot of people like so but I think this is.

Something that’s like always been in my head because when I was in college like I worked several jobs, and I think I always knew I was going to work in like websites digital media. I think at the time like what I thought I wanted my career to look like didn’t really exist.

Because things are very different now and like what I do now is what I’ve always wanted to do and it makes a lot more sense now in the world we live in , than we did then because I think people are still looking for it. But like when I first graduated and like what GenTwenty looked like then and what it looks like now is very different.

But it’s like more suited for what people are doing and how they use the internet because I think when we first graduated like so many people were looking for community right? like they wanted like we used to have a book club on GenTwenty which was great. We did like a Twitter chat and like all of these different things.

But like I wasn’t getting paid to do any of those things like that was all essentially volunteer work for my own company which was like very that was like very stressful and hard for me and but I learned a lot during those times but I also kind of felt like nobody. Like people were engaging but it was only because they felt like they had to engage I Guess if that makes sense like they like wanted to say they were part of a book club but not really be part of a book club I don’t know if that makes sense.

Going back to like like applying yourself and doing and trying different things like I was always doing and trying different things and that’s like given me a lot of experience for now to like know what I think will and won’t work and like how I want to move forward with things because like I think I’ve talked about this before how like I’m a very like try and find out kind of person like let’s test and find out. Yeah, like I’m still like that. But I also can look at things now and say like this ah is how it is, it’s not going to work like we have more information.

Marina Crouse: I know, I love that so much., yeah, because you’ve tested it and found out so many times.

Nicole Booz: Like built up and I think your early 20 s like you need to test and find out as much as possible in like all areas of your life.

Marina Crouse: Right? Which I think at least from my experience wasn’t something I knew how to do because I had well I had deep rooted anxiety and depression issues that I did not know about until I was 25 but I was just so desperate for certainty and stability that I would hang my hat on the first thing that looked right and then not understand why I felt so devastated if and when it didn’t work out and I think we forget that our twenty s are.

It’s the it’s the decade you’re learning how to be an adult and it might take the whole decade and when you’re learning something new. It’s not easy right? like when you learn to walk. You probably don’t remember it but you’re falling down all the time you don’t have that coordination. You don’t have the muscle tone. You’re going to fall in your butt and cry. So your 20s you have to work hard because things are just harder because you don’t have that backlog log of experience that we’ve talked about you may not have the best support system or other factors. But that’s okay because you’ll get to your thirty s and things will.

Things will still be hard, but ah, you’ll know oh this is the kind of hard I can do so like let’s just do it. Do you feel inspired.

Nicole Booz: And yeah, yeah, and it’s like I mean I think yeah I always feel inspired talking to you I think it’s like when like you’re okay, it’s like your early 20 s probably from ages like 21 to like 26 I think are the years that you really have to go hard on the test and find out kind of thing because it’s the years of your life where you have like the least attachments the least responsibilities.

But I think also doing things with the idea that you are investing in yourself for your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond is like the motivation and like the reason you’re working hard in this because you don’t want to still be feeling the way you feel at 22 when you’re 44 you don’t want to feel that then a lot of people do like a lot of people and I just think they’re not encouraged to make decisions that.

We’ll work positively for them and like because when I had this job in college. For example, like my boss I still have a bone to pick with her I do not like her. No I unfriended her on Facebook on her birthday and I remembered that I was friends with her on Facebook.

Marina Crouse: You that will never go away. That’s your that’s your one hill, do not anymore sounds so morbid never mind.

Nicole Booz: But oh my god it’s this girl’s birthday and I said oh I don’t care. Anyway, so we oh my gosh we had like so my job it was like an overnight job basically like this like the area was staffed 24/7 so there was someone always there and that meant we had a work shifts like midnight to 3am, 3 am to 6 am she gave me a 3am to 6 a m shift before an 8 am class.

I just I can’t I wish you could some movies right now I’m just so like I cannot I should have said I’m sorry I quit and just got up and walked out the door. Just then but did I do that? No and that’s like 1 of my biggest regrets in life because I talked to one of my friends that I want to say the other day but it was years ago but but I mean we’re still friends now but we work together then and he was like you know Nicole this is just a job like it’s literally just a job.

And at the time I was like no this is like importance how I make money but like Nicole was just a job like I wish there was someone in my life. Yeah, like I believed him I wonder what he’s doing now for work I don’t actually know I should email him but like.

Marina Crouse: It’s just a job you can make money at other just jobs.

Marina Crouse: You should email him.

Nicole Booz: You actually called me the other day which is as funny aside I did not answer I’m sorry if you’re listening to this. But anyway I just like I wish that I could tell people in their early 20s like it’s just a job if it’s really not working for you walk away and find something else like it found out.

Things will be Okay, you will figure it out but like it’s just a job. It’s not worth like not sleeping. It’s not with your mental health. It’s not worth your physical health like you will figure it out and like for me so with my husband like when we were in college like I. : Like encouraged him to start getting some work experience in his industry and so he started at one like on campus job and then someone I knew through my job like they met and were friends and stuff and he got him like another off campus job at a startup, which is like great experience in college. It worked out really well for us like for his schedule they they did a job offer when we graduated and stuff but like I think that like having that experience made him like so much more competitive when he applied for jobs.

Because as part of his interview process for the company he works for there was like there’s like a several step interview process but they like skipped all of that basically for him because they were just like so impressed and they just gave him the job offer which I think says a lot about his skills and stuff. But also I think that his jobs like really helped him stand out in the practical experience. He had so like that’s what I’m saying is like investing in yourself in these years and like your early 20s and like don’t lean away from hard work like lean into hard work like the right way.

It’s It’s hard and exhausting and challenging at times, but I think doing the hard work is important.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, and I think one thing to take away about this super inspiring your twenty early twenties suck conversation is that you’re not alone in the suck right? We all go through it. We all get through it and now more than ever there are communities and resources and support and where and people to help like I I remember the job advice I was getting when I was 21, 22 was from my parents who are in a very different generation who didn’t try and find out. They just found out somehow versus like our generation of thirty year olds and forty year olds have had a lot more try and find out they will know where you’re coming from and people don’t well some people do, but when I see someone who’s twenty one I’m not like oh that 21 year old knows nothing I’m like I remember what that was like I would love to talk to them and give them any advice that I wish someone had given me so it’s just it’s a time of transition. It’s a time of growth and it’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay, and you’re going to figure it out and it’s probably not going to look like what you thought it would. But it’s going to be even better than that.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, you’re right. And I think that is a great place to end this episode. So thank you so much for listening. It’s been another episode of The GenTwenty Podcast rate subscribe and review and we’ll see you again soon? bye.

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About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.