It did not really hit me until last week that so much of life happens in stages.
Obviously, there is some differentiation from person to person, but based on my experience and several of my friends', I have noticed several distinct phases. It goes something like this.
1) The school phase -- From toddler years up to about age 18 and beyond, school and grades dictate everything. At some point, there might be a job in your life as well, especially during summer months, but for the most part you are financially dependent on your parents.
2) Almost real-life phase -- Congratulations, you graduated college and/or technical school. You decide to take a break from your education and get some job experience.
The good news is your self-worth is no longer based on your GPA. The bad news is not many employers want to hire you because you lack "real-world experience."
You gratefully take what you can find, like an internship, and hope that your parents take pity on you and still help you out in the money department. You are on your way to adulthood but stuck in a kind of purgatory limbo.
3) Real-life and/or back-to-school phase -- A year or two after school, you have gained some real life wisdom and experience. If you were smart, you saved some money during the previous phase and can breathe a little easier.
You might also be at a crossroads. Do you head on back to school for a higher degree, or do you look for another job? This uncertainty can be unsettling.
4) Settle-down stage -- By now, hopefully, you have found a job that you enjoy. Many people in this stage experience major life changes as well, such as marriage and kids. You get into a comfortable albeit predictable routine, and things are more or less determined in your life.
Right now I am in Stage Three. At the end of June, my days at the Times Free Press will come to an end, and I will have to make some tough decisions.
Unfortunately, I have a tendency to make things harder for myself. I am probably the most indecisive person you will ever meet, so there are no easy answers.
Still, I am forever thankful for my first "big girl" job as a newspaper intern. I know that no matter what decision I make, I will go into it with more confidence and knowledge. More importantly, I have learned that I can make as much out of these phases as I wish.
I do not know where I will be a year from now, and that scares me. I guess I am on the right track though, so that is a positive.
The 20s, at least from my experience, are full of doubt and second-guessing. It is exciting and frustrating at the same time, but it forces you to examine what you really want to do with your life.
Maybe in my 30s I will have more answers and find myself in that comfy Stage Three phrase. Until then, I can only take it one day at a time.