Alice Weiss was 21-years-old when she moved to New York to follow her dream of being a photographer, and like other other women in their 20s, she would learn many things about life (and herself) along the way. These are some of the lessons I learned with (and from) Alice, while reading Park Avenue Summer (you can read my review of this book here).
1. Your 20s can be an incredibly lonely period of your life (and that’s ok)
When Alice moved to New York with almost no money, she felt lonely. And even as she got herself an apartment, a job, explored the city and made friends, sometimes she still felt overwhelmed with, you know, life. I think that’s how many people feel in their 20s – or at least I do -, and in a way, the loneliness comes from the incertainty of not knowing where you’re going (or if what you’re currently doing is right). I’m still learning that it’s ok to feel alone, and that it’s completely fine to not only spend time alone, but to also ask for help when it all becomes too much.
2. Your first job won’t be your dream job, but you can learn a lot from it
There’s still this fantasy that, as soon as you finish college, you’ll get your dream job right away. I know I believed that was what would happen to me once I left, but looking back now, I wonder where I’d be if I’d landed that position. Would I be in the same place, scared of leaving and never finding something better? Would I be terribly disappointed, not knowing where to turn to? Well, I didn’t land my dream job, but every job I’ve gotten so far has been a lesson (or multiple lessons). Some of them, by the way, were jobs I hated. But they always led me to something good in the end. So I’m trying to stop forcing things, and start trusting the process. Which is what Alice did, when she saw an opportunity to do something she wasn’t really interested in, but that would, eventually, lead her to where she she needed to be.
3. Life is kinda like New York: sometimes it treats you right, sometimes it breaks your heart
Living in a big city is tough, and even though you’re constantly surrounded by people, that’s also where you tend to feel the most lonely. Big places are usually more dangerous, so people tend to keep things to themselves and avoid strangers whenever they can – I noticed that same change in myself when I moved from a small town to a bigger city, and it’s hard to stay soft, and kind, and compassionate, when you never know other people’s intentions.
As for Alice Weiss’ life, even though she never stopped loving New York, sometimes it felt like the city just wanted her to leave. Bad things happen (they do everywhere), but when we feel as lonely as ever, it’s easy to question every choice we’ve made so far.
4. The thing you’ve always thought you wanted might not be what you want anymore
I’ve given up on being determined for the sake of being determined a long time ago. I had the same dream for most of my life, and when I realized I didn’t want to do that anymore, I didn’t know what to do. In your 20s – and maybe all your life -, that seems to happen a lot, because we’re still figuring out who we are and what we want. In my case, I’ve just accepted that what I want today may not be what I want tomorrow, and the only thing I can do about it is adapt and be grateful that I’m growing and changing.
5. Find powerful women to look up to
In Alice’s case, it was Helen Gurley Brown – the amazing editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan -, but in my case, I find powerful women pretty much everywhere. Some of them are powerful because they’re incredibly kind, or smart, or creative, and some of them are powerful because they left tragic pasts behind -, but regardless of who they are, I always find something I could learn from them. To me, that’s very important in this period of my life – not only because I’ll take all the advice I can get, but also because it helps me figure out what kind of woman I want to be.