I REMEMBER THINKING, when I turned 25, that my life might be pretty difficult from there on out. The awkward tendencies I had tried to suppress for years were now set in stone, I thought, so I was doomed to be this socially tragic, overly enthusiastic, bristly, noisy porcupine for the rest of my life. All because I read somewhere that your personality doesn’t change after you turn 25.*
A few years on, it seems silly to think that I ever believed it at all. Even at the time, I could look back and see just how much I had grown and developed as a person over incredibly short ranges of time: two-year increments from 17 to 25.
Somehow, though, I took that small snippet of information and allowed it, for a short time, to dictate everything about my future. I would never be successful, I thought, because I was not successful at 25. I would not be self-disciplined, or capable of interacting socially on a regular basis. I would always be anxious, fearful, and full of doubt.
Thankfully, absolutely none of that is true. I was going through a quarter-life crisis: one of the great new byproducts of our overly stressed-out age. Once I got past it, I realized that turning 25 is actually pretty great, and reaching the quarter-century mark is no reason to think that you and your life cannot change for the better.
In her Netflix standup special, Baby Cobra, comedian Ali Wong says your quarter-life period is all about transforming yourself:
I know I’m getting older because my Kindle is turning into a self-help library. I’m not interested in Fifty Shades of Gray. I’m interested in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Yes, how to de-clutter my home to achieve inner peace and my optimum level of success. That’s what your 30s is all about: How can I turn this shit around? I’m a terrible person; I’m not happy with where I am. How can I turn this shit around? Help me, Tony Robbins! Help me!
Here’s how you know that your personal transformation is still a possibility.
1. You haven’t built your brand yet.
In the 2010s and beyond, everyone has a brand, and everyone is a brand. You have a business idea in you, even if you don’t think of it as such, and you might even have more than one. If you haven’t taken the steps to build your personal brand yet, then you aren’t done growing.
2. You still want to do the thing you wanted to do in middle school.
Big dreams have a way of sticking with you. If your childhood fantasy still knocks around the back of your head, then it might just be the thing you were meant to do with your life. No matter what age you are, if you’re breathing, then you haven’t run out of time to make it a reality.
3. You want to do something totally different than what you planned to do in middle school.
I hate it when folks expect you to be the same person you were 15 years ago. People change, and if you’ve given up your dreams of being a horse-riding ballerina for more practical ambitions, that’s OK! In fact, changing what you want to do in life is a surefire sign that you’re still growing as a person.
4. You read books.
Reading books might seem like the most banal of hobbies, but trust me: people who read are people who grow. Reading fiction increases empathy, and reading nonfiction can help you realize new things about yourself and how to turn your life around.
Yes, Virginia, I’m talking about self-help books. Although they’ve spent the last few decades being deriding as mind-fodder for pathetic people, self-help books are actually pretty great. If you don’t already read them, check out Lifehack for some good recommendations to get you started.
5. You want to transform yourself physically.
Want to gain weight, pack on muscle, get a big tattoo, or go under the knife for plastic surgery? Congratulations, you haven’t completed your personal-growth process!
The desire to change yourself physically doesn’t appear out of nowhere, and it isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong with you. It means that you aren’t complacent in your life. You want to take charge and turn things around, and that drive toward personal success — that is, success as you define it — will take you far.
6. You haven’t undergone a major personal change yet.
Think that because you haven’t changed yet, you never will? Think again. Anyone can change the aspects of their personalities that they don’t like, or at least find ways to make them more palatable for social interaction’s sake. You’re still growing, so don’t give up.
*Note: Some people may have heard this factoid about the age of 30 instead. It isn’t true then, either.