The “I Can Do Anything,” Freedom in Your 20’s

2009 May 7
by Grace Boyle

A friend recently passed me this article from Newsweek, titled “I can do anything, so how do I choose?” It really hit home for me in a time of change. Albeit an older article, the topic will always be timely.

Columnist Jenny Norenberg talked about the freedom in her 20’s, bouncing from job to job, moving from city to city and the mix of fulfillment and the feeling of loss through it all.

Like many women in their mid-twenties, Jenny and myself are unmarried at an age when many women 40 years ago, already had children. Jenny references her mother where “she may have had the opportunity to go to college, but she was expected to marry soon after.” I agree that the years between college and marriage “are in many ways far more self-defining than any others. They’re filled with the simplest, yet most complex, decisions in life: choosing a city, picking a career, finding friends and a mate–in sum, building a happy and satisfying life.”

I’m one to choose a risky path, pursue a career that drives me and not settle in one place — just yet. When I graduated college and walked off the stage with my diploma I remember thinking, there are no boundaries. If I really wanted to, I could pick any city in the world and make it happen. So therein lies, “the more choices you have, the more decisions you must make–and the more you have yourself to blame if you wind up unhappy.

I wouldn’t exchange this freedom for anything. I’m grateful and floored by the power and opportunity that I have. Mind you, I pay all my bills, own a car, have a successful career and I have obligations and commitments. However, was there less pressure for our  mother’s and grandmother’s years ago? They would traditionally marry early maybe follow a traditional career path spending 40-years at their respective company and retire safely? To me, this ensued stability but not freedom of choice.

As I’ve mentioned, new cities, new faces, new jobs lure me. I feel the desire to find change and when I’m out of my comfort zone, I often find my greatest strengths and weaknesses, then I am humbled. I crave this. It doesn’t mean I have to build relationships and friendships from scratch, not know my way around, put myself out there and feel vulnerable and lost sometimes. This is all part of the process and it makes me responsible for the life that I am creating.

Although this path isn’t for everyone, I’m not saying one or the other is bad, but this is my experience. My fulfillment. In my previous post for choosing my location, then career I could have taken the safe route–gone back home, stayed in my college town, or even in the neighboring cities where many of my friends went back to after college. But I wouldn’t trade my wild adventures for complacency.

I believe through these changes and even in times of being alone, I have gained a sense of identity and self-assurance. With resolve and strength Jenny concludes, “I know someday I’ll look back on this time–before I had a spouse, a home and children to care for–and be thankful for the years that just belonged to me.”

I can’t help but agree. These wonder younger years, are times to discover, to lose, to learn and grow.

Are you thankful for the freedom in your 20’s? Do you gain strength through experience, challenge and loss or do you feel a sense of overwhelm?

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  • Khushbu

    Hi grace, i just happen to bump onto your blog. read a couple of articles n found them good.
    would like to know more about you.


  • Grace Boyle

    @Khushbu Thanks. Head to my about page if you're interested in learning more about me or of course, feel free to keep stopping by my blog. I write a lot about my experiences and life.

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  • Steph Lee

    I agree with this 110% except that we could still rediscover ourselves at any age. But these wonder years are definitely to be cherished before the 'heavier' commitments come in.

    I'm so glad to see you're taking charge of your life and living it to the very fullest! Yay Grace!


  • Aurora P

    I have just finished college and find myself on the brink of a gaping void of opportunity and these are precisely the thoughts streaming through my mind every second… This is the time of life when you get that “the world is your oyster” feeling–you can do anything, go anywhere–this essentially culminates in your desire to do absolutely everything! The dilemma newer generations face grows in magnitude with every lowered border in the world. I am overwhelmed, confused, at times powerless–the words reverberate in my mind: “the path I choose this very instant will be the very branch I will climb in my life, what if I make a mistake? Fire up a domino effect of wrong decisions?”. At times like these it is true that we will hold on to the most absurd detail to help us progress with a decision—and most of my peers indeed find decisive salvation in the familiar—old neighbourhoods, old friends, perhaps other logic-defying moments from the past. Essentially the point is—the weight of endless possibility is a heavy burden to carry—and many of us choose to drop it and go home. It is the ones that face up to the challenge of having too much choice in life—for there is indeed too much presented to us on a silver platter—those who use their gluttony of life and experience to propel forwards rather than back, that prove themselves worthy of the time, here and now, of unfathomable opportunity.

  • Angela C.

    I am not far out of my twenties now, but even looking back a few years I can see how at the time I really didn’t appreciate the freedom I had. I took more the “grieving over time gone by” approach. As a married woman now (however without kids yet) I am grateful for freedom. With my husband, I have moved, gone to graduate school, made a career change and experienced great freedom of choice and therefore great fulfillment and growth. Do I wish I had experienced all of that throughout my twenties? Maybe. But I wasn’t ready yet. I do feel that the transition from college until marriage however is one of incredible opportunity to learn who you are and what makes you tick before you have another person to take into consideration.

  • Grace Boyle

    Stereotypically, your 20’s are filled with a little more uncertainty but it doesn’t mean you can’t face some of those changes into your 30’s or at any age.

    We’re figuring out what we want to do, often have a heartbreak of two, job hop and figure out what life is like post-college :) It’s good to hear you had a change, as well. It teaches us a lot!

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  • Anonymous

    The 20’s is the turning point of one’s life. It is here where you start to direct your goals and start your journey.satellite direct

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  • Marc Azada

    You definitely gain strength from experience. Freedom from your younger years is definitely one of the best things you could have in life! You learn a lot from your mistakes and gain experience that would give wisdom in your future. Great Article! Nice topic!

  • Grace Boyle

    Well said! Thanks for stopping by, Marc :)

  • Anonymous

    freedom! seasons have purposes, trying to rush onto the next is a waste. there are things that are best learned in their appointed seasons…like when you’re younger and in school

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    I didn’t have any freedom from my parents until I was 21. I started working when I was 17 but my mom kept bringing me to work and picking me up from work. It was a bit embarrassing because people would ask me why my mother was being such a stage mother.

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  • teaching job

    When you are 20 something it so very easy to say the word “I Can Do Everything” but when you trying to do this word then you will just realize–> Oh’ Sorry I can’t–> especially when you don’t have a friends, parents, brothers, sisters to give you a hand. Not every time you can do it. : ) great post! THUMBS UP!

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    I’m a fresh graduate,  and I took up education and hopefully I would pass the LET.  It’s really hard to make decisions especially when you are still living with your parents, there are so many things to consider but of course you have to be true and stand with it! Gifts For Women

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    I admire your spirit of adventure. If only to be in my 20s again but that’s long gone. Having a long and successful corporate career (till I met a boss I couldn’t stomach), I can confidently say, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Secondly, in today’s corporate cutthroat environment, you’re far better off doing your own thing and the sooner the better. Odds are if you don’t choose to early, you probably will be forced to when you’re deemed too expensive (health and retirement) and are jettisoned and less mobile.

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