Surviving vs. Thriving in Your 20s

“Are you surviving or thriving?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this phrase in the last three years I’d be a very happy woman. In graduate school, surviving versus thriving seemed to be the topic of every discussion surrounding progress and well-being. So again I ask, “Are you surviving or thriving?” In life? In love? In work? In school? Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer right away or even at all.

I’ll be honest, the surviving versus thriving dichotomy does not sit well with me. In life, surely we’re thriving in some areas, but in other areas we’re merely surviving. Which brings me to my second point: What’s so bad about survival? I’ve come to learn that our 20s are a time of many major transitions: graduating from college, starting your first full-time job, getting married, living on your own. Rarely do these major life transitions happen smoothly or in a nice order. Rather, they usually happen all at once and they’re quite messy. How can we thrive when life is throwing uppercuts and left hooks every direction we turn?

To me, your 20s are a time of survival. Life is changing at a rapid rate. To merely survive all those changes and come out on the other side is an accomplishment in and of itself. Does that mean you should drudge through life with your head down? Absolutely not. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Much like a Sour Patch Kid candy, life is sour and then it’s sweet. Enjoy the sweetness. But, at the same time, don’t beat yourself up for not “thriving” or “living your best life” in your 20s. Leave the uppercuts and left hooks to life itself. You’re doing your best. You’re making positive changes. You’re rolling with the punches, as they say. I believe the most important thing about your 20s is whether you live to fight another day.

So what should you do the next time someone asks, “Are you surviving or thriving?” Hit them with a left hook, of course. Kidding. Hit them with a fistful of wisdom. You’re surviving your 20s and you’re doing a damn good job of it. You make survival look hot. If survival were an outfit, you’d be wearing the damn thing. But seriously, let’s leave thriving for our 30s or 40s. 50s? Maybe 60s. The point is we’ve got time. But we’ll never thrive if we don’t survive our 20s. So keep striving. Keep surviving.

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