The inglorious twenties

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Hearing older people ordain that their college years were “the best years of their lives” and they “would give anything to go back” should make us happy, right? The fact that “it’ll only be a long downhill slope from here” (downhill in the sense of ease and not decline) should inspire us to seize the day, revel in our youth and live it up. Right? For most Berkeley students, this wizened commentary usually has the opposite effect. It freaks us out. It makes us feel like we aren’t doing enough, like we’re somehow failing at something we didn’t know we were trying to succeed at. Not only does this attitude make us anxious that we are not existing to the extent of our YOLO potential, it paints us a bleak picture of what our futures will look like — if we don’t feel that our lives have turned out just as we have wanted thus far, how bad is it going to get when we’re past our prime? We at the Clog don’t believe in this cynical view on life, however. We’ve compiled a list of some people you probably only know as successful who, based on their less-than-shining years of youth, you would have never predicted would become much of anything.

1. Walt Disney. By the age of 24, Disney had dropped out of high school, been rejected by the army, failed to get his comic strips into any newspapers and had his one pride and joy, cartoon character Oswaldo the Rabbit, stolen from him by Universal Studios. Disney was so poor in his 20s that he resorted to eating dog food at one point. The kicker? By 25, MGM had told him no one would ever like Mickey Mouse. Talk about discouraging circumstances. But look at Mr. Mouse now.

2. Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey was fired from a news station in her twenties for getting too emotionally invested in the stories she was reporting. She was “demoted” to daytime television … and look how that turned out!

3. Jennifer Lopez. After a single semester of college, J-Lo dropped out and lived on the floor of a dance studio, performing in small clubs while pursuing her dreams of becoming a dancer.

4. Bethenny Frankel. The perfect “if at first you don’t succeed” story, Frankel failed at both an acting career and her entrepreneurial undertakings her whole life, only recently (at age 42) succeeding in both. Lesson to learn? If at first you don’t succeed, get yourself on “The Real Housewives,” stat.

5. Zach Galifianakis. For a good chunk of his 20s, Galifianakis worked as a busboy in a Manhattan strip club. He’s now one of the most recognizable figures on Halloween for his character in “The Hangover.”

6. Bill Gates. He dropped out of Harvard University in his junior year. Sure, it was to start a multibillion dollar company, but still. He must have felt a little twinge of parental disappointment, no?

7. J.K. Rowling. By the end of her 20s, Rowling was a single mother, unemployed and getting by on welfare. She was rejected by a whopping eight publishers before becoming the author of one of the bestselling series of all time.

8. Kristen Wiig. The hilarious “Saturday Night Live” actress worked odd jobs, such as selling peaches and drawing bodies of plastic surgery patients, before making it in the acting world at age 32.

9. Tim Allen. Allen spent two years in federal prison for selling cocaine in his mid-20s. Think of that the next time you feel like you’ve hit a personal low.

These celebrities are only a few of the individuals who rose from the ashes of post-college burnout or the ultimate stress of seemingly stagnant youth. Everyone is different — some people do experience the best years of their life in their 20s, while others aren’t satisfied with their lives until their hair is grey. We at the Clog believe it’s an uphill slope, dear friends! Life gets progressively more interesting, and while it may seem like the end is near, you’ll have copious opportunities to succeed (and fail) in your future.

Image source: curcak1 under Creative Commons.

Contact Sarah Branoff at [email protected]