Work and play in our 20s


To all my dear friends in our early-to-mid-20s, I need ya to feel me on this one:

I, on a daily basis, struggle to live within my present reality of working as a young professional because I spend all goddamn day dreaming of traveling the world or moving to California or wondering, If I dropped dead tomorrow (cancel that), would my stable career and two degrees mean more to me than all of the adventure and life experiences I didn’t have?///

And yet…

I, also on a daily basis, see other people my age suffering because they haven’t found a job or career that makes them feel purpose. Whether these people are delaying the responsibilities of the working world or simply haven’t found their right fit yet, their frustration with ambiguity makes me snap out of my daydream of cruising the Greek islands and remember I have a career that makes me feel purposeful.

I know we don’t have to pick one or the other. But what makes millennials unique is that we crave—we need—purpose and productivity in our lives on similar scales. When Mac and I spent two months shooting the shit in Europe, we were in dire need of structure and responsibility. Even though I felt considerable bliss walking the ocean at 2am and eating pastries whenever I goddamn well pleased, by August I couldn’t wait for 9-5 workdays and a life with some sort of consistency.

Eight months later, perhaps because summer fever is creeping in again, ya boy is now in dire need of play. I often think of two competing spiritual mindsets: first, that our inner child needs to play, so we need to let it play; second, we must work hard and be true to our spirit so our abundance flows naturally. I try listening to spirit whispering in my ear when it says it needs the beach and a few long island iced teas, but then I look at my calendar and see I have a 9am meeting the next day. What gives?

Responsibility and commitment to working hard is as gratifying as it is torturous. On the overwhelming majority of workdays, I leave my office feeling productive, successful, accomplished, and proud of the work I’ve done. Other days I leave thinking all of those things, but wondering if those are the predominant emotions I want to feel at age 25. I remind myself the truth that I will likely have decades and decades of successful, proud days at work for the rest of my life.


So what does age really mean? I have been thinking a lot about my impending 26th birthday, which, to me, signifies my entry into a real real real, no-bullshit, get-your-shit-together-and-pay-your-fucking-bills-with-a-fucking-smile kind of adulthood. Twenty-six is not only a wildly insignificant birthday (which is why it’s so adult), but my synesthesia codes the number 26 as a dark clue/black, very mature combination. There are some very real questions a 26-year-old-to-be asks himself, such as:

  • Isn’t 26 kind of old to be single? –like, are the prospects running out?
  • If I’m doing the single-person thing, shouldn’t I be going to concerts and bars and vacationing and not spending my evenings attending group exercise classes and planning my Tupperware lunch for the following day?
  • What will it take for me to genuinely feel no cosmic FOMO? Am I romanticizing a reality that’s not true? Are my CA or NYC or Chicago friends not living as fun of a life as it seems they are?

The way out of this train of thought is presence. I remember that I’m supposed to be where I am, and that where I’m supposed to be is where I will be. There are moments when these thoughts are whispers and some moments when they are shouts on a megaphone. In the meantime, there are ways to balance hard work and play (I plan to do that this weekend at the beach—I was happy to answer that whisper), and the pendulum will swing again back to responsibility.

Ah, our 20s.


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