‘Southern Voices’ is a reader-submitted platform for stories from the heart. Today’s submission comes from Liza Graves, StyleBlueprint’s Founder. If you have a story to tell, see our guidelines for submission here.
I just turned 50, and it was a big deal, just like any birthday that ends with a zero. It’s a moment to reflect, assess, be grateful, and set goals. But, what caught me most off guard was how easy it was to turn 50. I deserve 50. I worked HARD for 50. And while I color my slightly grey hair, I don’t hate it. I just like my blonde hair better. But those greys are moments I’ve survived and grown from.
Looking back in time, 40 was harder. But not for the reasons you may think. My grandfather died from cardiac arrest at the age of 40, and my mom survived cardiac arrest at the age of 41. Entering my 40s scared me as I was convinced I would die before I turned 42. But I didn’t. And, at about 45, I started to find my voice more as I perhaps would live a bit longer. I stopped treating life like I was a log in a river, happy to bump into wherever life took me. I wanted to steer my life, not be caught in anyone else’s current. While I have enjoyed a pretty good and full life, I think 45 was when I realized the power of goal setting and how that’s different from wishing and dreaming. As the saying goes, ideas are cheap.
Now, let’s talk about turning 30. I absolutely LOVED turning 30. I needed 30. You see, I opened a lunch cafe at 25 years old. I got married, got pregnant, bought a house, got a dog … all the things. But, I felt discounted by my peer group, as I was quite a bit younger than they were. The “Well, when you’re older, you’ll realize …” comments were a little too frequent for my liking. And I probably heard them in my head more than they were said aloud. By the time I was 30, I was pregnant with our third child, I had sold my lunch cafe, and I was thrilled to have a “3” in front of my age. I wanted the next decade of chaos, and I finally felt legitimate. Thirty felt amazing.
Let’s go back to 25. Yes, I did all those things mentioned above at 25. But I’ve never had a birthday hit as hard as 25. TWENTY-FIVE. A quarter of a century. Young, but not young enough to be stupid any longer. College was close enough in the rearview mirror that I still missed it but far enough away that I knew it was gone. I needed to figure out my life. Where was I going? I had recently gotten engaged, but what if it didn’t work out? Was I too young to get married? Was I too young to open a cafe? Did I need to go back to school or completely find another track?
In a nutshell, I was scared and felt a bit untethered while making some important leaps and hoping they worked out. Twenty-five felt OLD but simultaneously young. I prayed and prayed to God to guide me, as I couldn’t trust myself. I still remember turning 25 and feeling the weight of “what’s next” far more so than when I turned 50.
But no one tells you that at 25.
This is not an essay on all the lessons I’ve learned, as I’ve learned so many. But when I scroll through Instagram and TikTok, I see so many twentysomethings struggling because they think they should have it figured out already. Even dating via apps can be a full-time job where you feel pressure. Should you go on a date every day of the week or just once a week? Should you already be married or engaged? Should you know exactly what you want to do and where to live long-term? Slow down. It’s okay. You’re good. Everyone’s life unfolds at a different pace, and there is no right answer.
I’m just here to say that just maybe turning 25 is your hardest birthday. No one says that. People my age think it’s quaint because you don’t have the health issues we have — the burden of that extra 25 years weighing on you or the fright of only having so many years left to make money. But I remember how lonely and scared 25 felt, so many options laid out in front of me and not knowing which of the many paths I should choose. And, 25 years ago, I didn’t have to make mistakes in front of a social media audience for all to see. Or compare myself to thousands of other 25-year-olds. That’s hard.
To all the 25-year-olds struggling right now, the past few years have been hard, and 25, as an age, is hard. It’s a quarter of a century. It feels heavy. There’s so much expectation, but people also discount you for your age. Hear me: You’ll be okay. And, in 25 years, your birthday will come, and my wish for you is that you’ll be just as happy as I am to have earned those 25 extra years around the sun.
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