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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Niehues, MS, LMFT

Thriving in your Twenties

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

You completed college. You found a job. It may not be the dream career job you are really after, however, it is a step forward in this thing called life. You are finally in full throttle adulthood. Does it ever feel like you have it all together, yet you are completely lost all at the same time? If so, you are not alone.

Who am I and why do I care: I am Michelle Niehues a Marriage and Family Therapist in Kansas City. As a therapist, I have seen a common theme throughout my office over the last couple years, and I thought it was only fair to bring to light this typical experience I keep hearing. I have caught word of many people in their twenties and thirties, who want to grow their career, get involved in the community, find quality friendships, and find a significant other. Is that too much to ask for? If I could perform miracles and snap my fingers to grant them these beautiful goals, I would have done it instantly. What I can do is relate, understand, and help navigate towards these realistic goals. Before I go further, I know there are many other people who have had other experiences, and I do not want to discount those experiences. I would also invite those ideas forward, because I am sure there are commonalities between other experiences.

Take a glance at the big picture

The common trajectory of our lives is to attend school K-12, and then we are expected to find a job or attend college. Most of these experiences involve being immersed with peers constantly. There are classes, extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, work, and even social gatherings which provide plentiful opportunities to meet others. All in which you were working towards a common purpose within those groups.

Then, we typically boost off to take that new job, rather it is close to home or in the middle of a new city. This is your big leap towards independence. FINALLY! Something that pays a little more than you’re used to earning, and it feels refreshing to be moving in some direction forward. Overtime, the way you once embraced that job begins to wear off: the pay could be better, it’s not your true passion, or you’re tired of the atmosphere.

Now, what about that social life outside of work? Some may have a friend here or there that is close, whereas others may be hours away. Let’s say you have a handful of relationships around you at work, yet they aren’t quite what you’re needing. You want to meet more people but aren’t quite sure how. Maybe you go to church and reach out to have small talk with a few members, yet it doesn’t quite go beyond the surface level.

We mix the career challenge with long distance friendships, the lack of a support group, and all of a sudden you question where am I at, what am I doing, where am I going, and where do I call home? Then the anxiousness, sad, or confused feelings rise to the surface. It sometimes feels defeating, because it is not like anything specific is really going wrong to feel justified in those feelings.

Make the most of the here and now

Friendships and relationships may not come as easy as they did when you were living with 50 people in a dorm hall. In all honesty, I bet you are ready for quality friendships and are pretty sure expectations of them. Relationships take time, nourishment, and navigating your own personal expectations of people in your life. Let’s start with nourishing those close friendships. Do they live close? Are you taking time to meet, do your favorite things together? Maybe they live far? Take advantage of Skype, Face-time, watching your favorite shows together, send a care package, take turns visiting, meet somewhere in the middle, etc. Most likely, a person of wonderful qualities (respectful, honest, likes the same Netflix shows as you, etc.) is not going to show up on your apartment doorstep. Although that would be nice. It is going to take some effort on your part to strike conversations, get involved, and take those small talk conversations to the next level. Ask the woman in your yoga class to go grab coffee sometime. What do you have to lose? Relationships have to start somewhere. Relationships take time and a gradual progression of risk and trust.

This is the part I where I talk about grace:

I’m not blind to the fact that it is not that easy. I think a lot of what holds us back is courage, confidence, and a lot of grace, all ideas inspired from Brene Brown. I would say a large majority of the people I have talked to in this boat are pretty clear about the intentions they want to set in life, expectations of relationships, and goals they are after. If they aren’t they are at least on a path of navigating to find those. However, they are hard on their selves for not being there right this minute. This often leads to thoughts of feeling inadequate or that they haven’t proven their worth. In which I respond, “You do not have to prove your worth to anyone.” You are worthy by being you, where you are at now, and despite the accomplishments and failures in your life. This is not a race. It is okay to know you are giving life what you are able, you may not be where you want to be AND that is okay. You know you are looking forward. Trust yourself that you will not settle in this place forever. I believe by giving ourselves grace, we are able to then be more confident when we move ourselves forward. Our doubts, shoulds, and coulds do not have to run our show, worth, or how other’s perceive us. It’s okay to not be at your goal. It’s okay to not know where you are going next. It’s okay to be where you are. Now, I do need one thing to ring true in the back of your mind. This does not mean settling here forever. This means, I am okay for right here and right now, and at the same time I know I will not give up, settle here, and play life safe. Sure playing safe is easy. Sometimes the risk is worth jumping after, however, you have to be prepared to give yourself grace if you fall. You will fall. The question is how many times? What do you do when you fall? Do you shell up and avoid the world out of shame? Give yourself the power to say, “Let’s try again”, with more knowledge and strength than before. The real question is are you only unsure about what your next step looks like or are you afraid of falling?

Get Involved

I hear almost every week in my office, “I want to get involved, and I don’t know how.” Look for something your passionate about, something you’ve always considered doing, or maybe just try something complete off the wall. You may lose some time, however, you gain experience, knowledge, and insight with each thing. It’s okay to add to your list of things you don’t like, how else do we learn what we do enjoy? Here’s a place to start:

Ways to get Involved in Kansas City

This is a group of single adults who want to be involved with community service and charity activities. They have regular meetings, volunteer opportunities, social events, and even cocktail hours! Their community efforts serve across medical, environmental and other community organizations specifically in the Greater Kansas City Area. Check out their web-site for more details.

Meet up is designed to offer groups who have specific areas of interest that is open for others to join. There are countless groups available in Kansas City with topics such as Bible Study, hiking, art, community service, movies, local food and drink, and so the list goes on. It is as simple as typing your interest topic into a search box, and any matching group names in that specified location pop-up! Visit their web-site for more details.

NonProfit Connect is a place to assist non-profit organizations to connect together. They offer opportunities to connect people to other non-profit career, intern, or board positions. Their mission: Nonprofit Connect links the nonprofit community to education, resources and networking so organizations can more effectively achieve their missions. Take a look for yourself.

This is a web-site which offers local events and things to do in the Kansas City Area.

Offers events and things to do for cheap or free in the Kansas City Area.

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