23 Year Old Woes

23 years old is awkward.
I’m supposed to do grown up things like pay taxes (omg) and have real food (chocolate syrup doesn’t count?) in my refrigerator.
I have a job title that feels like I’m wearing my big sister’s clothing that I stole from her closet. I’m waiting for someone to call me out for not having a clue what I’m doing.
I walk to the subway every morning thinking about how serious everyone looks shuffling across the streets, only to look down and realize that I’m shuffling along too.
I longingly stare at Manhattan Moms and their Bugaboo strollers, yet chicken out when trying to adopt a kitten.
I’m redefining friendships and falling asleep at 7pm on Friday nights. I can’t keep a poker face if my life depended on it. I blush over cute text messages. My diet consists primarily of coffee, popcorn, Skittles, and Brussels Sprouts. I save 70% of my income and still feel guilty buying cute celebratory dresses. I read books on the subway and can’t get enough of Dance Moms and (ugh, help me) Bunheads.
When is it all supposed to make sense?
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You're doing great – just keep working hard! I'm watching Dance Moms on Hulu as we speak and devoted a whole post to that gorgeous dress 🙂

xx Emily @


Lovely, this means you're in pretty much the same boat as the rest of us. Don't beat yourself up too much about it, because things making sense isn't a one time chunk of "aha!" that falls out of the sky all at once. As far as I can tell it happens in much smaller pieces spread out. I'm only three years along ahead of you, and as impatient as I get too for life to just get on with it, looking back I see a lot of small things making sense along the way. You're doing so great. Except for Dance Moms, no way I can sign off on that 😉


Thank you for putting into words exactly how I'm feeling. I'm 22, so I feel like I exist in this weird limbo between being an adult and not being quite all grown up. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!



Welcome to your 20s! You're right, 23 is rough. I'm 27 and much happier here than I was at 23, largely because at 23 I also felt like I had no idea what I was doing and I was going to get busted for it at any minute. And then I realized that NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING, we're all just doing the best we can and putting on a brave face. Over time you become more skilled and more confident, but if you continue to challenge yourself and push ahead in your career you should always be doing things just outside of your comfort zone. It's how you learn when you're out of school. You might screw up, but if you take responsibility for it and learn how to fix it, people will respect you for it. When you're 23 you're doing more new things at once than most humans have the capacity for, but you're smart and capable and you'll be just fine.


Saving 70% of your income is boss. Don't even fret about that one! I'm 28 and still do well to save $10. =)

Don't grow up too fast and never take yourself too seriously. You don't wanna end up turning into one of those serious adults you see everywhere anyway!! Life's too short for that shiz.

Shay Lianna

You're fine! If it makes you feel better (or it might make you feel worse,I'm not sure) I feel the same way and I'm 25. Except I don't particularly like my job title right now, but I'm working to change that 😀

xo Shay


I'm sorry but this post sounds a little like poor me/aren't I great. Plenty of people would be delighted to have a job like yours, and saving 70% of income is well beyond the norm. Honestly, I think your blog has fantastic ideas/style, but reading things like this makes me think you are completely out of touch and hard to relate to.


I've been feeling this way too lately. I feel like being a young professional I don't get taken as seriously, although I know I'm smart and know more about certain things than the older people I work with.
I feel like I'm in such an awkward place, between post-grad life, friends having babies and getting married and me just trying to decide what wine to by for this weekend when my best friend comes to visit.

carelessly graceful

Leah T

I agree, 23 is weird for me too. I feel like stuck in an awkward in-between. What makes it worse… I'm often mistaken for a high schooler. I am almost done with my second degree and I get asked where I go to high school! Geez… Be so proud of what you have accomplished so far at 23. Not many people I went to high school with are where we are!! 🙂


i just tweeted you back. we need a club. coast to coast, 23 and pretending to know what the hell we are doing. and i am really impressed you can save 70% of your income, i barely make it paycheck to paycheck. you work your ass off so splurge when you find things you love. 23 is so strange because you have one set of friends that are getting married and having babies and another that is still in party mode. it's an odd in between place. hopefully it starts to get better.

Meghan Banke


I'm 21 and am having a hard time! I guess its something we all go through in our 20's! I say adopt the kitten, there's nothing wrong with chocolate syrup in you refrigerator, and your style is fantastic! I love looking at you OOTD's for inspiration!


The Yuppie Files

Enjoy it because this is your 20's! I'm looking at the old age of 30 this month but I think everyone pretty much feels that way throughout a large chunk of their 20's. I definitely didn't feel more settled until I was about 27 and can tell that I'm transitioning into adulthood. You get used to being in between though or at least in embracing it!


As a 31 year old (OMG, hyperventilating here just writing that down!) I have to say I totally relate, I went through all this and then went through another phase of it as I approached 30 (panicking about my friends all getting married and having babies and Mr Bertie and me are nowhere near ready for that we are even talking about moving to LA for 2-3 years for work to have an experience before we have kids) The best advice is there is no secret to how people do it or get their lives together etc. Inside we are all a bit lost and just wandering, some people just seem to have a bit of a better map than others (myself included in that, I think my map is faded and has holes in it lol)

The best thing to remember is your life is your journey and no matter how you live it or what path you follow on your journey, as long as you are happy and healthy and enjoy your life you are going in the right direction.

You are doing good 🙂

Janine xx


I honestly think that everyone feels like this at this point in their life, including me. Thanks for putting this into words. Just keep your head up, keep working hard and good things will head your way 🙂

Miss Fallen Timbers 2012


As a fellow 23 year old who frequently feels the exact same way… Thank you. For being one of the few to admit how overwhelming this time can be. I actually read this at work and burst out in tears because today has been one of those days where I would rather crawl under my desk and watch Pretty Little Liars then function like a grown up (mind you my lunch consisted of two chocolate chip cookies, hot tea, and cough drops; cut me some slack, I'm sick. It's been a rough day). But never the less, we press on. Thank you, for making me feel a little less alone in this scary world.



Life is all about figuring it out! Everyone feels this way, and it's nice to know that you, my ultra-organized-has-it-all-together inspiration feels this way too! Thank you for motivating me, inspiring me and making me smile every single day!


Carly, this post really hit home for me, as this morning, I realized that I turn 23 this year, graduate college in 100 days, and have a future that is seeming quite surreal to me at the moment. Thanks for letting me know that I'm not alone!

Emily Anderson

I think this is pretty much how every 20-something feels, myself included! We don't see ourselves as grown ups, nor do we really want to see ourselves as grown ups. However, lots of other people do…eeks!


well i recently turned 24 and it's still not making much sense, lol. let me know when you get there and i'll do the same 😉


I'm still in college and I already feel this way, I have a big girl apartment, big girl bills (for the most part) and a my job involves taking care of children everyday. I feel like a mini mom! It's crazy how much I've grown up over the past six months, yet at the same time I still want to paint my nails sparkly pink, have sleepovers with my bestfriends and eat ice cream for breakfast. I think back on the way I thought of my age (21) when I was in high school and I expected myself to have it together by now and just know things, haha. I wonder if we ever have this epiphany moment where we feel as if we have our lives together or if everyone is just going about their lives doing their best and hoping! Great post Carly!


Sarah hood

It's comforting to know that, while I'm 18 and so worried about growing up and moving to college, I don't have to be all sophisticated just yet. You are so inspiring and helpful for a young girl who is trying to figure life out. I love your blog and follow it ardently! If I've learned anything from you, it's that everything will work itself out into the greatest product possible, so you have no need to stress or worry. Enjoy the ride 🙂


When you're happy with your life that's when it all works, there's nowhere that sas at age 23 you have to have it all together and watch only tvland. If you like your life, are excited and happy then that's all that matters


Lol. I completely understand. This is how I felt right after I graduated college and started my first "real" job 3 days later. The early bedtime thing is a tough adjustment!


Oh dear, how to break this to you….every age is awkward. I'm 50, I have my own law practice, house, kid , husband and that's all lovely. But inside every 50 year old there is a 15 year old wondering just what the hell happened.

Good luck and don't worry about it. Enjoy. In future years you'll look back and say "wasn't 23 a breeze!"


Oh my gosh, I so relate! I just turned 21 and totally feel the same. Like, I'm in college and I work about 20 hrs a week, I cook my own food a lot, cox my crew team,and I think a lot about my career, but I love going home on the weekends and I'm a year behind in school because I waited a year after high school to go to college, so sometimes I can feel really babyish sometimes. Wouldn't worry too much, though. I Everyone does things differently!


Oh girl, I felt that way at 23, starting a job that came from an internship, so it felt like I was still on summer break interning…. and then the harsh realization that I was NOT going back to college, I was the in real world for good! I thought it would get better at 24, but now that I'm 25, I still feel awkward at times – that I'd rather sit in on my couch on a Friday night than go out, and keeping up long distance friendships take A LOT of work! You just have to make your own little garden grow, no matter how big the field is 🙂

And good for you saving 70% of your income, not a small feat!


I remember feeling the.exact.same.way. Some days I would stop and say, when did I become a grown up, and is it OK that I'm still eating cereal for dinner more days than not? The good news is, it gets better. It wasn't something I noticed on a day to day basis, but when I would look up every few months, I felt more confident and comfortable, in all my decisions– friends, work, food, falling asleep at 7pm on a Friday night.. It does get better and easier. And when I realized that, I got excited, that the best days are still yet to come! I can't imagine how much more confident and comfortable I'll be in 5 years.

Side note– HOW are you saving 70% of your income? I know you did apostrophe before, but more details would be appreciated! I save 20% and thought I was doing well..


I think it's wonderful that you're saving so much! Do you think you could share some tips as to how you're able to save so much of your income? I know I would appreciate it 🙂


Dabbling in Dixie

I'm 24, and now I have OJ, chocolate syrup and wine in my fridge. Sometimes it's all about the baby steps 🙂

And taxes are enough to scare anyone but like anything, knowledge is power. The more you know and learn about grown up things the less they seem grown up and become just things!

L'altre stelle

You're living your early 20s with ton of grace and wisdom. Those big scary adult things will become clearer soon, simply because you'll figure out exactly you want and how you're going to achieve those goals. This time is really bittersweet, but it's so essential to personal growth. My early 20s were *so* hard, but I came out of those years feeling like a "real" adult. Keep doing what you're doing!

P.S. – Would you mind sharing how you save a large percentage of your income in a future post?

Julia D.

Personally, I don't think it ever makes sense everyone just gets better at hiding their confusion. You're doing great, and everyone feels the same.


I would give anything to be in your place right now! Please take my advice and enjoy your 20's. I am 45 and have 3 kids and live in the suburbs. Trust me when I say things will fall into place – You will find your" purpose"! Time is a scary thing – it does fly by! Enjoy TODAY!


I will be turning 23 next year. Even though I am not there yet, I feel like I can relate to this post so much. It is truly an awkward (and confusing) time for me too. It is nice seeing other people point of view of “this age”.