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B Side, Lifestyle

Why Your 20s Feel Like Both the Best and Worst Years

Are your twenties the toughest era? Understand how this decade blends trials and triumphs, shaping resilience and personal growth.

  • Ebube Okereke
  • 28th June 2024
Surviving your Twenties

Are your twenties the worst time to be alive, or is it a grand adventure waiting to unfold?

The truth is, the twenties are a mixed bag of triumphs and trials, a blend of exhilarating freedom and daunting uncertainty. It’s a time of self-discovery, where every choice shapes your journey.



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A post shared by Elle | Truly Twenties (@trulytwenties_)

Periodically, a recurring piece of content appears in my feed—an introspective reflection from someone navigating their twenties.This decade has been nicknamed “the panic years.” They openly ponder whether their struggle to “do it well” during this pivotal decade; finding a fulfilling career, cultivating meaningful relationships, managing finances, learning oneself, grappling with environmental issues, and prioritizing self-care is a personal failing or a shared experience.






Generational Empathy: Understanding the Challenges of Twentysomethings


Responses across various platforms bridge generational divides with empathy: “You’re not alone in feeling this way.” Yet beneath the surface lies a deeper inquiry: Why does it feel like we’re consistently navigating uncertain waters? Is our generation uniquely burdened, or does the journey through our twenties inherently present challenges that test our resilience and determination?


In the midst of these musings, the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s “22” come to mind, where she candidly expresses the ups and downs of being in one’s twenties:


 “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time / It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah / Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines, it’s time! / Uh-oh, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22” 


These words resonate deeply, encapsulating the dichotomy of youthful freedom and existential uncertainty that many of us experience during this tumultuous decade. They serve as a reminder that while the twenties may be challenging, they are also a time of growth.


This pressure to “get your entire life together” in early adulthood isn’t exclusive to this generation. It’s a concern I’ve heard time and again from older friends, in old school hits, and even my own parents.



A Nostalgic Look at the Struggles of Young Adulthood



In Friends, Season 1, Episode 7: “The One with the Blackout,” which aired on November 3, 1994,the friends gather at Central Perk, discussing their personal and professional uncertainties. Monica laments, “I can’t believe I’m still working at this job. I thought I’d have it all figured out by now.” Rachel adds, “Tell me about it. I quit my job at Bloomingdale’s to work at a coffee house. My dad couldn’t be prouder. I can barely pay my rent, let alone figure out what I really want to do.Joey shares his frustration, “I auditioned for this big part, didn’t get it. Maybe I should just give up.” and it goes on, but the underlying theme is clear: each friend is grappling with the insecurities and uncertainties of young adulthood, reflecting the common struggles of navigating one’s twenties.


Today’s 20-somethings are finding the transition into adulthood particularly challenging. Coming of age amid financial instability, climate crises, and a global recession and pandemic has left many young people feeling uncertain about what comes next.


Amaka, 26, who now works in the media industry, graduated in the summer of 2020 from a prestigious private university in Nigeria and struggled to find a job as many businesses were either closed or not hiring during the pandemic. “Time raced by, and suddenly I’m in my mid-twenties. I worry that I’ll turn 30 before I know it, still processing the challenges of the past few years and the government isn’t any help,” she admits.



Financial Instability And Societal Expectations In Your Twenties


In Nigeria, traditionally, several specific milestones have signified a person’s transition into adulthood: securing a stable job, renting an apartment, and having a steady relationship. These achievements are often seen as markers of maturity and success. However, many young Nigerians feel the pressure of these expectations. “We are consistently made to feel like we are failing, that we are late at hitting these milestones,” Amaka notes. “Unfortunately there are things that society expects of us that we just can’t afford,” says Stella, 27, a makeup artist based in Lagos State. 




The salary range of employees working in Nigeria is, by default, in the range of 144,424 NGN (low salaries, employees’ actual wages may be even lower) to 552,014 NGN (high salaries, actual salaries can be even higher).This is the total monthly salary including bonuses. Salaries can vary significantly within individual job positions, according to Paylab with Ukraine.



More Opportunities Amidst the Struggles


This underscores the financial challenges many young adults face. For those in their twenties, an urgency to establish financial independence and stability often marks this period. Yet, with entry-level positions typically falling on the lower end of the salary spectrum, many young professionals find it difficult to make ends meet.



This financial strain is exacerbated by the need to cover essential expenses such as rent, food, and transportation, not to mention taking care of younger siblings and sometimes parents. Additionally, the pressure to save for future goals like buying a house, further education, or starting a family adds another layer of stress. The disparity in wages across different job positions and industries only amplifies the uncertainty, making it challenging for twenty-somethings to “get it together” financially. This economic reality in Nigeria is very disheartening.


In the midst of the recession in this generation, we  appear to have more opportunities than our predecessors. For instance, my grandmother expected my mother to marry a doctor to support the family financially. Back then, families often arranged marriages to secure their fortunes. Today, we’re fortunate to have the freedom to delay or reject these traditional milestones thanks to societal progress. However, capitalism presents challenges if you choose a different path.



The Rise Of Hustle Culture And Self-Improvement


The harsh realities of young adulthood in Nigeria have fueled the rise of an unyielding culture of self-improvement and hustle, prevalent across social media platforms. With financial stability increasingly out of reach for many young people and future prospects growing more uncertain, there’s a pressing desire to confront these challenges head-on. Conversations about setting boundaries and healing have become commonplace. The emergence of financial and personal coaches underscores this shift, offering guidance on achieving one’s potential and becoming a better version of oneself. Our twenties now entail striving for an elusive emotional maturity essential for maintaining sanity and a steadfast self-awareness to navigate the uncertainties of the future without wavering.


Young graduates are emerging from universities their parents sacrificed to afford, only to face a job market that offers limited opportunities. Even those who secure employment without nepotism often find themselves struggling to secure a decent-paying job capable of meeting life’s basic needs, without having to rely on their parents for financial support. The rising cost of living compounds these challenges, with everyday items like eggs skyrocketing in price from 30 naira to 300 naira in less than a decade. As a result, many of us find ourselves nostalgically reminiscing about a time we’ve barely experienced in this country, mirroring our parents’ reflections on better days gone by.



Embracing the Unique Opportunities of the Digital Age


Despite the challenges, this era presents unique opportunities for those navigating their twenties. With the rapid progression of technology and the digital age, younger generations have unprecedented access to platforms that allow them to express themselves creatively, build networks globally, and even generate income independently. 




Social media and online platforms have democratized entrepreneurship and creativity, offering avenues for young adults to showcase their talents, skills, and ideas to a vast audience. The gig economy, remote work options, and the rise of digital skills also provide flexible career paths that were unheard of in previous decades. 


This era encourages innovation, resilience and productivity, empowering young people to carve out their own paths and redefine success on their own terms. While the challenges are real, the opportunities and potential for personal growth and achievement in this era can be truly transformative for those navigating their twenties.


Your twenties aren’t a race against a deadline with a project brief waiting for evaluation. Recognize this, and while it won’t reverse the clock, it takes a powerful step forward compared to resigning to apathy and inaction. Instead, embrace growth, explore passions, and chart a path that aligns with your dreams and aspirations.

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