1. Take up fencing.
Or cooking. Or knitting. Or volunteering at an animal shelter. Or training for a half marathon.
A surefire way to feel down is to fall into the trap of going to work, coming home, watching TV, and going to bed. As comfortable as it is, you need a little more anticipation in your life than waiting for the next episode of New Girl to come on Hulu.
Hobbies will help you contribute to the world and keep learning about yourself. You’ll also meet new people, which can be scary, but you never know: That girl at the softball league or that guy at cooking class could become your new best friend.
If you really feel in a rut, you aren’t powerless to change it! Your new social circle or hobby or volunteering activity might not make you happy, but not trying something new is definitely not going to make you happy.
2. Spend time with people who aren’t in their twenties.
Hanging out with your peers and friends who are going through the same quarter-life dyspepsia as you is invaluable, but also make time to talk to your parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses, neighbors, and others who have been where you are. Not only can you benefit from their advice, you’ll be reminded that every walk of life comes with its own pressures and weirdness. And of course, call your grandparents — you’ll no doubt make their day.
On the flip side, watching a child marvel at life’s simplest things — a cardboard box, a puppy — can inject some inspiration into your life. Babysit or hang out with your nieces and nephews, because surrounding yourself with other twentysomethings constantly makes it too tempting to get into a cycle of moping (and drinking).
3. Don’t let your relationship status define you.
The secret to a happy dating life, as Chiara Atik writes, is to not worry too much about dating. On the contrary, a surefire way to feel down in the dumps about yourself is to constantly question your own abilities to love and be loved. If you can, try to approach dating as a way to meet new people and have fun, not as a constant parade of evidence that you’re a total failure at this stuff.
If you’re single, try not to view every man or woman you meet as a potential date, and if you’re in a relationship or married, continue to develop your interests and friend circle separately from the ones you share with your partner.
4. Figure out what you *don’t* want.
One way to figure out what you want out of your twenties — and beyond — is to ascertain the things you KNOW you truly can’t stand. Maybe you don’t want to be a lawyer, or a grad student, or treading water in a relationship that’s just a way to pass time. It’s also OK to try things and bomb hard, or quit because you realized it wasn’t the right job or activity for you. Just add it to the “no” list, and keep at it.
5. Try this secret tip for making more friends.
Feeling lonely? People are drawn to those who seem confident and who initiate, so try this move from Alexandra Robbins’ book Conquering Your Quarter-Life Crisis:
“Create events, invite people to them, and then even if they can’t make it, they’ll think of you as ‘someone who has things going on’ and might just invite you to their next event. No one has to know that there’s no ‘we’ besides you; all it takes is a couple people to say yes and you have a ‘we.’ For instance, tell someone you work with, ‘A bunch of us are going to get drinks next week sometime, ’ and then tell a couple other someones that same thing. Or ‘We’re going to a movie this weekend if you’re free.’ On the outside chance only one person says yes, it’s as simple as, ‘My friend’s swamped with work at the last minute. Oh well, you and I can grab a drink and I’ll introduce you guys next time.’”
6. Take a risk. Take even a small risk. Take a risk as soon as you’re done with this article.
If you don’t take risks in your twenties, when are you going to? We follow pathways that seem familiar because we’re scared of the unknown and the uncertain. Eff that.
7. Take the “passion test.”
Here’s one way to figure out what you really like doing:
1. Think about something you enjoy, whether it’s writing, babysitting, your marketing job, working on cars, learning French, or whatever.
2. Pay attention to how oblivious you become to the outside world when you’re immersed in that activity.
3. If you realize that Ryan Gosling or Mila Kunis could walk naked into your field of vision while you’re doing that thing and you wouldn’t even look up, take note: That’s something you truly, truly love. Is there a way to factor that into your career? If not now, maybe eventually?
8. Be the best employee or student or sibling or significant other or friend you can be.
Maybe you don’t know what you want yet, or you don’t have your dream job. In the meantime, try to focus on being the best daughter to your parents. Or being the happiest, most efficient barista in your whole city. Or doing something nice for your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Approaching your life from a “one day at a time” perspective will keep your sails blowing longer than if you’re fretting about what you’ll be doing five years from now.
9. Realize that you can separate work from passion.
“If I had to choose one or the other, what would make me happiest: financial stability, with the lifestyle that comes with it, or a job that I would love doing for eight or more hours a day?”
You can still do stuff you love outside of your 9-to-5 job. (Personal note: I got to where I am today by working as a librarian 8–5 and writing on nights and weekends until I was able to land a full-time media job.)
10. Do things on your own in order to grow.
Whether it’s living alone, going to a movie solo, or traveling on your own, doing things all by your lonesome may seem scary, but it’s important to conquer the fear of being afraid of your own company and being alone with your thoughts. You’ll learn about yourself, meet new people — going to a bar solo is a great way to chat with strangers — and realize that you don’t need anyone else to feel OK with yourself.
11. Let go of your expectations.
You shouldn’t expect to follow a certain recipe just because you’re of a certain age. Sure, it may seem like all of your Facebook friends are living in wedded, babied bliss, but surely just as many of them aren’t. No matter how easy it is to paint an idealized portrait of your life on social media, no one’s life is totally devoid of problems or loneliness or insecurities.
Members of our generation have higher, usually more unrealistic expectations of ourselves than had previous generations. If you sense that most of the pressure to succeed is coming from you, then take it easy on yourself!
Remember, even if few people are willing to discuss all of this stuff publicly, you’re not alone in feeling this way.