Twenty-five is a unique age. For many people at this stage of life, there's been a straightforward path up until this point. High school led to college; college led to a first job in the real world. And then all of a sudden, there's no obvious direction.
The options are overwhelming, and it's hard to know which path to choose. The thought that life could go so many different ways can be paralyzing.
I just turned 25, and I'm trying to figure out how to claim this age. I spoke with Leslie Bell, a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California, to learn more about the science behind this period of life.
I also asked for advice from our readers on Facebook and via email. Below is a roundup of some of the submitted answers to the question: What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
"Adopt a healthy lifestyle. You are currently at your physical peak, and will be for at least the next 10 years. Exercise, and watch what you eat." –Joseph Hofstader
"Embrace the flow! And get an internist." –Ben Koltun
"Wear earplugs to all those concerts you're attending." –Harry Sherman
"The thing I always tell people coming out of college is that the idea that you have to 'find something you're passionate about' and do it for a living is, often, a dangerous myth. It's okay to just go to work. It's okay to just have a job. Do that stuff and make money and pay rent, and then hopefully that job leaves you some free time in which you can pursue what you're passionate about in some other way. But your life's passion and 9-to-5 don't have to intersect. And sometimes it's healthier that they don't — if you burn out on a job, fine. If you burn out on a job that is also your passion, that can be pretty devastating." –Charlie Stephan
"Take chances with your career. Look for opportunities that will keep your bills paid (mostly) on time, but always put your interests and goals first as often as you can. Your mid-20s should be about trying to make your professional dreams come true." –Lindsay Nieman
"Get it in writing." –Elliott Smith
"Don't be afraid to apply for a job!" –Jenna Deutsch
"You never truly know if what you're doing is the right thing, but it is something and an opportunity for growth; good or bad chalk it up as an experience." –Dominique Bellisario
"There's no one linear path to success." –Hallie Jacobs
"Be fearless. You have more information about your choices than ever before. It is likely you have several good choices open to you. Take a risk. Go for one of those choices that will fulfill you. Don't take a risk by doing something self-destructive. You are young. You have time to recover from bad luck. Be positive. Be patient." –Rod Cameron
"It's not a race — don't be so busy trying to be grown-up and ‘successful.' You have time for that later. You don't have to fit into the box that society says is successful. Learn to listen to what really matters in your heart. –Angela Downs
"I would tell myself these two words: 'Don't worry.' I was petrified all the time — scared I couldn't find a decent job, worried I'd never be able to save money, scared that I would always be living in my childhood room, unsure if I'd ever be able to buy a house, a car, or even the cool new thing that everyone was talking about. Sure, it's okay to worry, Mr. 25-year-old self, but don't let it take over your life — I promise you'll regret it." –Matthew Jussim
"Don't be afraid of getting older; whatever you didn't do in your 20s you will get a chance to do again in your 40s (it's called midlife crisis, and it's a lot of fun!)" –Mike Harney
"For me, being 25 today means I'm still finding my feet. It means I'm still waiting to meet my future husband. It means I am still laying the foundations to building my media empire. So what will I do in the meantime? I'll volunteer my time to those who need assistance. I'll travel as much as I can now before I settle down. I'll focus on my spiritual life and build a better relationship with God. Being 25 for me means I'm waiting to see what 26 will bring." –Lindelwe Mgodla
"There is no template for your life, nor should there be." –Tracy Cambre
"Don't be in a rush to have it all figured out!" –Andrew Rice
"I would tell myself at 25 to take the long view — not all big life decisions have to be made right now, and things change as we grow." –Deborah Jo Sandler
"Don't you change a thing. You didn't know that all the pain you were running from was going to take you places you never imagined. And, as always, don't let the bastards grind you down." –Adrian Thompson
"We are as good as we can be, as smart as we need to be, and very motivated to be better every day." –Sabina Grenaderova
"If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it's that I should have believed in myself more. ... I'd just give myself a hug and say, ‘Everything's going to be all right.'" –Elie Challita
"Be confident with what I know and don't change/act differently in different circumstances." –Vijay Jayaraman
"Eat dinner out alone." –Lorraine Purcell
"You're doing better than you think you are." –Levi Davis
"You look fine. Better than fine. You look great. Now forget about it and go have fun." –Laura Lorson
"I should have considered and understood marrying more. It is not a lifelong honeymoon." –Kelly Jewett
"Incurable STDs are very much transmissible through oral sex." –Sam Preer
"Make friends. Put them first over relationships. Friends outlast most relationships, and you'll need your friends when your relationships end." –Gerry Conway
"Dear 25-year-old, you're strong, capable, magical, beautiful inside, outside, and worthy of affection, worthy of people's best. Because your parents or teachers said it, believe it, doesn't make it true. Find out what you believe, honestly, in your heart. Stay out late. Go to that party. Talk to that boy, that girl. Eat decent. Go to the gym. That invincibility is almost gone.
"Remember how finite you are, this is. At night, everyone is looking up with you, seeing the dark, the stars, feeling small. We are these tiny architects, making plans in a universe full of plans, full of noise. So go make a dent. Erosion is slow, and it takes time, but don't give up. So I'm asking you to let the news piss you off, and I'm asking you to never quit questioning everything, shoehorning intelligence into all you do and say.
In your lifetime, you might not see bad things end. That's okay. If we all accept that, and work to erode it away, our kids' kids might see an end to something. Might wake up to a world just a little more fair, a little less violent, a little less xenophobic, terrifying, uncertain.
"They may never know the tiny, minuscule part you played. Whether you were an activist on the front lines, whether you were a handle behind a blog, whether you handed out sandwiches during a disaster, whether you donated blood, whether you said a kind thing to someone who needed it." –Nick Orsini
"I wish I knew it was okay to live in a town that made me feel comfortable, that it was okay to still be working in a coffee shop instead of a big-shot office, and that hearts go on after life-shattering breakups. Some of those things are still hard to come to terms with, but everything starts to settle when you grow up." –Jessica Thormer
"When older women talk about their gendered experiences, don't be dismissive of them, because you will have similar ones." –Sara Mitchell
"Spend your money and your time on experiences, not things. Oh, and contribute at least 10 percent to your 401(k)." –Adrienne Moravec
Have advice to share? Tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #Vox25Advice.