There's a lot of pressure in your 20s and even though my mom recently told me I was still not yet in my "late 20s" when I called myself that at 27, there's a big distinction between 22 and 27. A lot changes and if you'd told me then where I'd be now, I would have laughed at you. I never would have believed how much has changed and how different I feel now than I did then.
Although I'm glad I didn't know what was coming, because the beautiful surprises have made the hard changes so much easier, here's what I'd tell myself at 22...
Dear 22-Year-Old Whitney,
Congratulations, you've officially graduated from college and are, for all intents and purposes, an adult. You have a job and an apartment and can do what you want, when you want. And in that sense, you're a grown up.
But you're not going to feel like one for a very long time. You're going to stop and wonder at 23, 25, 27 and probably for many more years to come: am I a grown up yet? It's OK to wonder this (and doubt it), but you still have to behave like an adult. Or at least make progress toward behaving like one now, so you don't wake up in 10 years and realize your friends have all grown up - found healthy relationships, pursued spirituality, stopped drinking like they're in a fraternity - and you're stuck. Keep growing and challenging yourself.
Don't be afraid of change. Your friendships are going to change. And it's OK. You will grow apart from people you were close to in college, but that gap creates space for other friendships to get bigger - grow deeper. And for new friendships to blossom. You will have fewer people that know every detail of your life and the ins and outs of your days, but the ones that still know these things will mean more and more every day. You'll be grateful for the way time has made you appreciate and love one another better.
And don't get stuck in the past. Your friendships aren't the only thing that will change. You will, too. You will begin to value and want different things. You probably loved going out every night in college; by 27, you're probably going to love a night in. The things you loved to talk about, buy, pursue, heck - even eat, might change. But if you're changing, you're growing. Don't resist it.
Also, your body is going to change. Because you're not 22 anymore. And although you used to eat more junk, drink more alcohol (+eat more junk late at night), you probably can't do that anymore. But it's OK. Those things aren't healthy anyway. Don't resist the way you're changing. Mourn it if you need to. But embrace the way life is giving you more years, more wisdom and more perspective.
Don't hurry to get married. I know how hard it is when your friends are getting engaged, married, buying a house and having a baby and you're still single. It's hard. But just because it's their time doesn't mean it's yours. Don't be afraid of a few years of hard singleness if it means a lifetime of being with the right person. Wait for what's right. It's not a race.
And while you're waiting. Create your own life. Take on hobbies, try new things, explore places, go deep into friendships. Don't think that by building a happy life on your own, you're indicating that you want to be single forever. Pray for your husband - for his heart, his path and his life. But don't put your life on hold while you wait for the day you find your partner. Your life is so worth living no matter what stage you're in.
Start saving money now. It doesn't get much easier as you start making more money. The more you make, the more you'll want to spend. Create a rhythm of saving. Make it a habit.
Believe in the highs, but feel the lows. Life will always be a series of ups and downs. If we never felt the sad times, we wouldn't be able to appreciate the happy times. Believe in your own joy - fight for it, pursue it, let it carry you. But don't run away from pain; it's a part of life and it's the hard times that give us grit, teach us who we are and shape us into strong human beings.
Life will be good to you. It will love you. Love it back, with all of your heart.
Oh - and by the way - the best is yet to come.