I made it 25 years into my life without ever being too much of a mess. I grew up approaching life a little bit like crossing rocks in a river: careful, tentative steps and eyes on the horizon for hazards. It was exactly this tendency, during my emergence into young adulthood, that landed me in occasional hot water with friends and family: You think you’re perfect. You always do the right thing. I don’t want to disappoint you. It was isolating, occasionally, but I shrugged it off. I was there to help people through their mess, which was easy, as I had very little.
My first foray into messy, ambiguous territory came when I realized I was gay. The coming out process is unique to every LGBT+ person, but it’s generally a universally big mess to manage. There are a lot of people to tell, many of whom are going to make it about themselves, and it might involve a few chips to the support system. The act of declaring oneself, of professing one’s very heart, should not involve the concept of ‘damage control,’ but it often does.
Despite the messiness, however, I moved forward with insistent commitment to my life strategy: Plan it out, bring it to life, help everybody put the pieces together, group hug, and hope for the best. And not everything was perfect. Things were hard, the mess was a bit out of my purview, and my support system took a few hits. But I kept my shit together.
At 25, I failed at my relationship and struggled to find the ground. I struggled to eat, avoided my bed for the better part of a month, and I got really into Taylor Swift. After 25 years of ‘having it together’ and ‘having a plan’ so that everybody else could feel calm, I was a hot. damn. mess. And, in that process, I had to rely on my friends for support and trust them to love me anyway. It was hard, being truly vulnerable, and I missed the feeling of being the shoulder rather than needing it, but I found myself in that process. I found the broken pieces inside of me and figured out that they didn’t erase my worthiness.
I bring this up because the twenty-somethings are going to come along with some mess: We are emerging adults making our way into the world, and we are – at best – trying to ‘fake it until we make it.’ Nobody’s immune from the breaks, from the mess, from the failures.
The key is, I think, to help each other through. I’ve learned to put my judgment to rest, to hear my friends and family out as they share about their latest mistakes. I’m going to need them to love me through mine, so I’ll love them through theirs, and not in any kind of distant, holier-than-thou way. Nobody’s immune from the mess, twenty-somethings. We’re all still learning to walk on our own.