How Pursuing My Career Goals Showed Me Who My Real Friends Are
Recently, I celebrated my 26th birthday. It feels no different than 25, other than the realization that I’m approaching my late 20s. For me, that means I’m realizing it’s time to get my ducks in a row. I’m ready to get serious about my future. I’m turning my focus from #partypartyparty to saving for retirement, buying a house someday, and accomplishing my career goals. I’m now more concerned with my credit score than who might be at happy hour.
There’s an e-card floating around the internet that says, “Half of my friends are getting married and having babies, the other half are too drunk to find their phones.” And cliché though it may be, that’s exactly what it feels like to be in your mid-20s.
When I entered the realm of my 20s, I expected it to be a non-stop party. Social media promised that my 20s would be nights out with friends, stumbling home at 3 AM, and glam brunches where you talk about how hungover you are, but order mimosas anyway. And then napping. Napping is crucial to the 20-something experience.
My early 20s started off this way; I wasn’t always stumbling home, but I still spent a good amount of time at brunch. For me, it lost its charm a little. A few drinks just start to make you tired, and you end up wondering what happened to the $30 cash you had in your wallet. By the time I hit 25, my brunch interest was waning because it was harder to bounce out of bed after a night of drinking.
This is about the time I realized that I’m not nearly where I’d like to be. I’d rather put money into a retirement account than spend it on over-poured rum and cokes at the local dive bar. I’d rather pick up a second job than spend every weeknight with wine, Netflix, and friends from high school. I no longer care about who is doing what, or when, or with whom. I care about setting and achieving goals because I’m not going to get the life I want unless I take action. I want to be successful (by my own standards). For me, that means kicking it into high-gear and working my ass off.
Unfortunately, making this change has lost me a lot of friends. I made a lifestyle switch and picked up two extra jobs. I’ve stopped going to the bars and shopping needlessly. I’ve stopped gossiping about people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve stopped focusing on things that won’t better the quality of my life. I’ve started focusing heavily on budgeting, cutting unnecessary expenses, and saving money. I want to prepare for my financial future and I’ve started making those changes sooner than some of my other friends. I’ve started spending more time with the people who are supportive of the changes I’m making, and I’ve tuned out of the people who are pseudo-happy for me.
When I decided to make these changes, I had very few friends who wanted to evolve with me. I met most of my friends at social gatherings, and when those parties were removed from my schedule, the friendships disappeared too. There are days when I’m upset by it, but it’s been worth it. The people on my side now are people who not only want me to succeed, but want to help me succeed.
I don’t think making your 20s fun and working hard in your 20s are incompatible. But I now know that I value the friends who would rather stay up late talking than stay up late drinking night after night. I’m glad to have friends who will congratulate me when something goes well and take the time to lend a hand, as I would for them. I want my late 20s to be about making shit happen. And if that means I don’t get to spend as much time at brunch, then so be it.
Your 20s are flooded with drunk snapchats, engagement announcements, and job promotion posts. I think it’s up to you which category you fall into. There’s no right category and everyone interprets their “find yourself” years differently. Now that I’m focusing on furthering my career and achieving my financial goals, I’m learning that my BFFs, who I thought would be there through it all, might not be. I used to think I had my maid of honor and bridesmaids picked out, and that our future babies were going to be BFFs. Then my priorities changed — and so did my circle of friends.
I’ve asked myself over and over, “Am I just being selfish? Is it wrong of me to choose my own goals over my friend group?” Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to that. I might be. But if I’m not selfish about achieving my goals, how will they ever get achieved? No one else can do these things for me.
This year, I’ve learned a lot about who is actually on my side, and who is just my friend because it’s convenient. While it’s been a lonely ride, it’s also been a huge eye-opener. I’ve narrowed down my short and long-term goals financially, socially, and personally. That doesn’t make losing friends easier, but it does make me see that I’m making the right choices based on my goals.
Samantha is a legal secretary in Vermont trying to put her English degree to good use. She is always writing, reading or rescuing animals (the most recent rescue is a high-fiving Chihuahua named Hambone).
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