A woman leaning back as she stretches one leg forward

The 20s are a perfect time to navigate your identity, passions, goals and character development.

For 20-somethings, it might mean learning to live independently in college. For others, it might look like landing a dream job or just figuring out what you want to pursue in the first place. As if the 20s weren’t hard enough, coronavirus and the subsequent need for quarantine have placed the personal growth that comes with this decade in limbo.

When news of the pandemic spread in March, college students everywhere were forced to retreat to their childhood homes to become dependents once again. Many recent graduates and members of the workforce were suddenly unemployed, and the job market began to look bleak. Instead of ploughing forward with success, it felt as if 20-somethings had to press pause on the most exciting time in their lives, or worse, regress backward. 

It felt as if 20-somethings had to press pause on the most exciting time in their lives, or worse, regress backward. 

As a 20-something myself—about to emerge from college and take the professional world by storm—I was hoping my 20s would be more whimsical than they currently are. I dreamed of living in a big city, being totally independent and following my ambitions. Instead, I was transplanted from my blossoming social circle in New York back to my childhood home thousands of miles away, which left me feeling ambitiously stunted.

I lethargically sit around my childhood home, nostalgic of the freedom my university bubble provided me, mourning the loss of socializing and the excitement of job prospects I would face as a soon-to-be graduate. 

The times we’re in can feel hopeless, but in my free time—that I suddenly have much of—I learned not all is lost. While I no longer have the physical world right at my 20-something fingertips, there are still a plethora of ways to grow, even while spending much of our time indoors.

Learn a new skill.

The stereotype of college kids is that all we eat is ramen noodles, mac and cheese or whatever other snack-turned-meal we can scrounge up while living on a budget. However, this time spent away from my worn-down kitchen and back to my parents’ kitchen—with their high-tech appliances and fully stocked pantry—has allowed me to take the time and resources to learn how to cook.

My days of ordering pizza on a weekly basis are long gone. Instead, I make stir fry, elaborate pasta dishes and mountainous salads, which, in the long run, are better for my health and wallet.

Connect with your local community.

Now that I have ample time on my hands, I’ve learned so much more about my hometown, despite living here for 18 years before moving to college. Growing up, I never really took the time to learn about my city on a deeper level—the injustices people face, the problems local officials are attempting to fix, the organizations and key figures making a change—but now I can.

With news of COVID-19 everywhere, there has never been more emphasis on caring for the health and well-being of others. People are starting to take a closer look at their communities and offer more support to their neighbors. They’re sewing masks for one another, offering to pick up each other’s groceries and donating to local shelters and fundraisers for those who don’t have enough amidst a pandemic.

On the internet, people are making videos to share love, kindness and laughter. With local communities supporting each other more, I’ve found myself looking to my neighbors for the same support and helping them when I can in return.

Invest in yourself.

This slow-down might just be the break we all needed, whether it be for self-reflection or to just take some personal time to relax. I’ve read the books collecting dust on my shelf I always swore I’d read. I’ve completed projects I never found time for and, most of all, I’ve taken time to care for myself.

I started eating better, prioritizing my physical and mental health and curated the ultimate skincare routine. I’ve reflected on my ambitions, putting serious thought into the future. Before, I was just speeding through life, always busy with no time for a break.

Despite the unknown, I have a clearer idea of what I want to achieve, who I want to surround myself with and, most importantly, who I want to become on the other side of this pandemic.

Are you a 20-something trying to figure out your next step in the pandemic? How have current events affected your early adulthood years?

Image via Micaela Fox, Stylist Drew Pruzaniec

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