Life doesn't end in your 20s, ladies

    In a society in which young women feel pressured to idolize and model themselves after glamorous celebrities, it is difficult for them to embrace the uniqueness that makes them special. But as college women enter their 20s, they struggle with both their identities and with life. Reality definitely doesn’t mirror many of the images seen on television and in movies, depicting people as beautiful, thin and having nothing to worry about.

    Julia Bourland, the author of “”The Go-Girl Guide: Surviving our 20s with Savvy, Soul and Style,”” spoke with a group of young women as part of o.b.U Indie Days on April 21 on the importance of individuality and getting the most out of life, especially during your 20s. The full-time freelance writer and former associate editor of Parenting knows a thing or two about the subject. Her writing, which has appeared in major magazines such as Shape, Parenting and Cosmopolitan, focuses on celebrating the individual spirit and go-getter attitude, empowering women and giving them the confidence and ability to feel sure about themselves.

    Bourland wrote “”The Go-Girl Guide”” at the age of 29, in the hopes of putting together a universal guide for what the 20s are all about. Although the 20s are “”a fantastic decade,”” she notes that it does not come without its frustrations.

    “”Having gone through my 20s, I realized there wasn’t a guide to deal with the issues, like how to manage your finances, the climb women go through in their careers and the discouragements they go through. I hadn’t expected the challenges. I thought life would be like a ‘Friends’ episode,”” she said.

    After turning 28 and having been through the difficult stage of her 20s, she realized that there was a lot she could do to help other women. Soon, she began to take the steps to make “”The Go-Girl Guide”” a reality.

    In preparing the book, Bourland spoke with women and experts about relationships, careers, finances and friendships women find in their 20s. She combined this with humor and hopeful anecdotes to give the guide a special touch. Most of the feedback Bourland has received on her book has come from customer reviews on Amazon.com.

    “”The feedback on Amazon.com has been amazing,”” she said. “”[The customers] feel that it’s so great to hear about other women going through the same challenges and how they dealt with it. It’s encouraging [for me] to know that the book is helping other women.””

    Attributes that are often thought of as flaws can also contribute to one’s uniqueness, she said.

    “”People often confuse flaws with individuality,”” Bourland said. “”Even the smallest things can make you a unique person and separate you from everyone else in business, academics and relationships. Knowing how unique you are is a valuable asset.””

    She encourages women to recognize and believe in their unique traits.

    “”They make [you] more marketable in business and give you relationship skills,”” she said.

    Bourland also discussed factors that could discourage women from embracing their uniqueness.

    “”The media and Hollywood present images of women that don’t look anything like us — that are similar and perfect. When we are constantly confronted with these images, we wonder why our bodies aren’t represented, and it is difficult to be happy in your own skin,”” she said.

    Bad body images are often triggered by such images and life experiences.

    “”Jealousy also discourages women from being individuals,”” she said. “”It dampens ambitions and individuality and won’t let you go after what you want.””

    She also noted that low self-esteem is another barrier to celebrating life.

    “”Loneliness is another detriment to expressing individuality. With changes going on — people changing and a support system reinvents itself — it leads to desires to conform, become part of a group you don’t feel supported in, and discourages individuality,”” she said.

    In dealing with setbacks, Bourland encourages women to “”be themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin. You should trust yourself and take risks — as many as possible. Surround yourself with supportive friends and relatives, and stay away from people who pressure you to conform and are not supportive. It will help you get through the rough times.””

    Some students were attracted to the subject of the event.

    “”I came out of interest. It seemed like an interesting topic,”” said Revelle College junior Lacy Hines.

    Others had been inspired by Bourland’s book.

    “”It was really good and thoughtful,”” said John Muir College junior Amanda Miller. “”She shared a lot of her experiences and put a lot of hard work into it.””

    Bourland’s next book, “”Hitched: The Go-Girl Guide to the First Year of Marriage,”” which deals with the changes women go through in their identities after marriage, will be released in June. Her next project, a go-girl guide to nesting, will be more fun and lighter than her previous work. This time, the focus will be on turning a house or apartment into a cozy and creative sanctuary.

    Currently, Bourland is living her dream of being a full-time writer. With the same attitude and perspective, other young women may also be able to accomplish what they want in life while allowing themselves to seek out the attributes that make them unique.

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