A black and white image of a woman's feet crossed as she stands outside on a sidewalk

When Alessia Cara’s song “Growing Pains” came out in 2018, you could find me streaming the song almost every day. It was catchy and fun. Although I knew the popular singer-songwriter wasn’t belting out an ode to physical growing pains, I was somewhat unsure of what she was actually addressing. 

Of course, I had gone through major life changes by then. I’d endured the death of my mother, started college, moved out of my childhood home and lived on my own for the first time. 

But what were the growing pains that Alessia was singing about? I had no idea what those felt like. At least, that’s what I thought. 

In the fall of that year, I graduated from college. I was a newly 21-year-old, wide-eyed, young woman who was ready for whatever life brought my way. I landed a job as a reporter at a local newspaper, and even though it wasn’t exactly my dream job, it was one I was thankful to have and a starting point for my writing career. 

This change was great in theory. However, a few weeks into the job, panic attacks, impostor syndrome, fear and stress set in. A knot settled in my stomach. I had fully stepped into adulthood, leaving the carefree innocence of my childhood behind forever. 

I had fully stepped into adulthood, leaving the carefree innocence of my childhood behind forever. 

The idea of this should have been beautiful. Instead, all I felt was terror. These were the symptoms of my growing pains, and they were definitely keeping me up all night.

As it turns out, these heightened levels of self-doubt, fear and anxiety—my growing pains—were not new sensations. They appeared during every big change of my life; however, they had never been quite as intense as they were this time. These growing pains sent me to therapy for the very first time, where I began learning how to cope with and grow through the pain of change. 

The process began with acknowledging my feelings without judgment. My default was to berate myself any time the anxiety crept in. 

Other people handle change well every day, my inner critic would screech. You have no right to freak out. This is adulthood; deal with it. 

Once I gave myself space to feel the discomfort fully, I began the hard work of pushing through it. I learned to give myself a break as I fumbled through this new chapter of my life. After all, every bit of it was brand new; it only made sense that there would be some difficulty as I adjusted. 

I learned to give myself a break as I fumbled through this new chapter of my life….Grace became a central part of my life.

Grace became a central part of my life. Sometimes, it looked like devoting just a few minutes of my lunch break to breathing or choosing to speak positive truths over myself as soon as the negative thoughts creeped in. 

Finally, I reminded myself that change is a good thing. It’s a necessary part of life. Once you make it through the difficult parts of change, you’ll discover it often leads to so much beauty, a valuable life lesson or two and opportunities you may not have otherwise had. 

I admit, I still wrestle with growing pains as I fumble through this crazy, confusing decade that is my 20s. However, now, I believe that although change and growing pains are uncomfortable and a bit scary at times, they can lead to something good. You just have to push through.

How have you learned to navigate growing pains? What are some valuable lessons you learned in your 20s?

Image via Frank Terry, Darling Issue No. 7

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