The Trouble With Your 20s

Your 20s are often described as a time to find yourself. It's a time to make mistakes, date the wrong men, find your calling and not worry about the responsibilities you’ll likely have in your 30s. For many women today, though, our 20s are a dynamic time when the seriousness of our careers holds a stark contrast to the ethos of our supposed carefree years. That's certainly the case for me.

I remember being in an incredible rush to get to medical school. I took a year off between college and graduate school, so I felt slightly behind in the rat race. When I graduated medical school last June and began my first year of residency, I quickly realized how incredibly young I was. I was a 20-something trying to find her way. When I started my residency, I saw my youth and insecurity as a burden. In a decade where you�re encouraged to make mistakes, making one as a young physician holds serious consequences. I envied the women older than me who possessed a certain life experience, confidence and strength. I also envied their support system in the form of a nuclear family.

I�ve learned to appreciate my place in life and feel it has made me a better intern, friend, sister and daughter. Instead of being overconfident, I recheck myself, am much more careful and definitely more inclined to ask my superiors for help than I might be if I was a bit older. Instead of thinking I know everything, I ask questions. At a different stage, I might be under the impression that I should always have the answers, letting my ego get in the way. Instead, I have chosen to embrace the beginning of my career.

As the year has gone by, I�ve become incredibly thankful for all the experiences, patients and mentors guiding me along the way. I�ve become more confident in many areas, humbled in others. The best thing I�ve learned this year is the necessity to always accept where you are in life. There is always the next step, in both life and livelihood. For me, first it was medical school, then residency and next I�ll need a fellowship or a job. When it comes to personal life, you first need a boyfriend, then a fiance, kids, a house and so on. There's always a piece of the puzzle we feel is missing.

Despite the stereotypical advice offered to women in their 20s, I think many of us feel anything but carefree. In the midst of being told to make mistakes and find ourselves, most feel the pressure to create a successful career. And instead of embracing being single, we feel pressure to find the perfect boyfriend, who will eventually become the perfect fiance, husband and father. I�d argue that our 20s have become the most stressful decade, a time when we are constantly in motion, trying to build a framework for the perfect life we imagine for ourselves.

What we aren�t taught is the need to live in the moment and to appreciate where we are in life, no matter how many steps are ahead of us. All through my life, I�ve had incredible mentors guiding me through my career, decisions and hardships. This year, some of the most incredible mentors I�ve had are my patients. They have taught me to love where I am in life and be thankful for everything I have despite everything I don�t.

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