7 Quotes that Explain Work During Your 20s

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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine got a job and he was completely excited about it. Actually, it was weird how excited he was. He was actually genuinely happy. What?

I suppose I found it so odd, because I don’t know anyone my age who really loves their job. In fact, usually when we get together and talk about our lives, stories are filled with annoying co-workers, low pay, and condescension from superiors.

Everyone I know would rather be pursuing something they love than working in an office all day.

work during your 20s

My friend Paul Angone releases his second book today and I have to share some passages with you because it was just that good. The book, All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!, shares Paul’s story of pursuing his dream of being a writer all while working a job at his former university after graduation, quitting, going on a road trip, filming a documentary…sound familiar?

It was like reading a more hilarious and entertaining version of my story–except Paul lasted in cubicle nation much longer than I did.

I grabbed some of my favorite quotes about work during your 20s from Paul’s book to share with you. This post got too long really quickly, so I cut a few great passages from this blog, but you can order the book on Amazon here to read the rest! I guarantee you will love it.

“People say our generation is entitled. In some ways, maybe. But we’re also fiercely competitive with an obsession for success. We don’t know how to fail. And even when we do fail, we’re pretty sure we actually won.”

If I was smart enough to have written this description, I would’ve added at the end: “And even when we do fail, we Instagram and tweet about it enough to make it sound like we are really successful and amazing so that we can make all of our friends wish they were as cool as we are even though we are just as lame and lonely as everyone else.”

“I have nothing against jobs or hard work; what I have a problem with is hard work in a field I don’t really care about, to be promoted to a job I never wanted, in a cubicle that makes me ever so slightly die inside… Do I want to live as someone’s employee, accepting a paycheck (or sedative, whatever you want to call it) in exchange for my creativity, hard work, ideas, and life, which someone else profits from?”

This quote embodies everything I felt while I worked at my university after graduation. I knew that I wouldn’t be there long and that anything I set in motion would be credited to my successor anyway. So why would I work hard at a job that I don’t want and don’t care about? Why not do something I love?

Living For Chocolate Frosting

“I remember the exact moment I realized this. It happened in the back corner of my office with ten other employees as we sang the most depressing rendition of “Happy Birthday” I’ve ever heard…But the song wasn’t the most depressing part. Not even close. Much more depressing was realizing how excited I was for a piece of cake. I was ecstatic. A piece of cake that would take my mind off of my cubicle cage just for a moment. I didn’t even know whose birthday it was, nor did I really care. All I knew was that there was chocolate frosting, and chocolate frosting had become my reason for showing up to work.

I thought the Freshman Fifteen was bad. It’s nothing compared to the Cubicle Cincuenta. My waistline expanding as my big dreams deflated.”

I recently spoke at a conference where I began talking about how the highlight of my day was eating Dark Chocolate Almond Hershey’s Kisses out of my desk drawer. That’s when I knew I had to quit. Chocolate is one of the best things in this world, but it’s not worth staying in a job you hate.

“I don’t want the job I never wanted to become that job I can’t escape.”

When you get a new job, you’re excited. Job = Money! But soon, or at least this is the pattern I’ve seen in my friends, you realize you never really wanted this job. You just wanted security and salary. I love this quote because I could never quite put this feeling into words. The feeling of not being able to leave a job for fear of what life is like without security.

“We were both wrestling with the same nagging fear that our lives were turning out nothing like we hoped. We felt like there was something more, we just had no idea what it was or how to get there.”

Have you felt this? Of course you have, because life never goes as we plan. After I quit my job in New Orleans and moved back to Texas, I felt this emptiness. I felt like there was something more out there for me, but I couldn’t find it. Heath felt the same way, and so was birthed our 50-state honeymoon adventure. There is something more out there, and it’s probably not at all what you imagined it would be.

“I couldn’t shake this unshakable feeling that my life had no purpose. Leading up to this point my life had been so structured. Now I feel lost in an abyss of ambiguity. I thrived in a tight stairwell lined with syllabi, curfews, rules, Bible verses, and prompts to just keep taking that next step. Keep climbing higher. Because after college, you’d open up that door at the top and you’d arrive. At what, who knew, but you were pretty sure it entailed ample amounts of success and purpose, making all the steps you took to get there completely worth it. But when we got to the top, swung open the door, and yelled “Here I am!” no one was there to even pretend to care… Instead, we opened the door and found ourselves back in the basement.”

This quote perfectly embodies everything I felt after I graduated. I thrived when I had the structure of school. I made perfect grades and knew exactly what each day would bring. Then after graduation, I expected the elation of my school success to transfer into my job, but instead, surrounded by real adults who had been working for a decade or two, I found myself under qualified and too young to do anything worthy of attention or praise.

And of course, here is my favorite quote, for obvious reasons:

“It’s a scientific fact that 87.3% of all confused twenty somethings believe a road trip will fix everything. I was definitely in the majority.”

You and me both, Paul. Me and you both.


Paul’s book talks about a lot more than just work, but about falling in love, pursuing your passion in the face on conflict, and finding faith when your life is at rock bottom. His story is truly inspiring and hilarious all at once. If you’re looking for someone who understands your 20s, it’s Paul. It’s this book.

5 Responses

  • Wait. Road trips aren’t the answer to all of our problems?! Damn.

    When Paul talks about purpose, I think about how a lot of us twenty-somethings just follow the expected path because *we have no freakin clue* what our life purpose is or what will give our life meaning. That’s the nature of being in our twenties! So while I have a slight sense that you and Heath still aren’t sure of what’s to come (well, who is?!), I have to give you MAJOR props for doing something different. You’re working towards figuring things out for yourselves and had the guts to take a leap! That is seriously admirable. Keep being awesome!

    Did reading All Groan Up inspire you to write down more of your own stories?

    • HA! I know, road trips are my answer.

      Love hearing your thoughts on this. You’re so right. We follow the prescribed path because we have no clue what else to do! That’s definitely how we started out, and quickly realized that that kind of life SUCKED. Life is so much more fun now 🙂

      All Groan Up definitely inspired me to finish my book, because his story so influenced me and I want my story to influence others! Your comments are so encouraging for me to want to keep writing and sharing!

  • Love this article Alyssa. Even as a 40-something, this all resonates with me. I see a lot of people who don’t enjoy their work but stick around in cubicle nation because they have a mortgage, auto payment and children to care for. When I was in my 20’s, I took the opportunity to backpack across Australia and then took a job that allowed me to travel the world. It was all part of my master plan. I would encourage anyone in their 20’s to really, really hone in on the things that make them feel alive and then figure out a way to make a living out of it. Even if you don’t make any money or have to live on a friend’s couch (you know, the ones who are Accountants, etc.) commit to figuring out what you enjoy, what you’re good at and how you can make some money (if that’s what you want). Thanks for sharing!

    • Wow! Backpacking across Australia sounds awesome! There’s something about travel that really makes you feel alive like you said, and gives you perspective on the world. You’re so right. If more 20somethings spent time figuring out how to make money doing what they love, we could have a much happier, more fulfilled next generation.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Paul! I love what you and your family are doing to break the mold. Y’all are awesome.

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