7 Successful Women Share Their Stories Of Life At 22

What was life like at 22 for some of your favorite successful women? If you're having a quarter life crisis, you're a recent college grad, or your just struggling with your 20s, this post will help!

When I was 22, I was working for a horrible, horrible boss in an office without windows. Between rent and college debt, I had $15 (yes, really) of disposable income per week. Even though I knew my life wouldn’t be like that forever, I had a really hard time imagining a future that didn’t involve ramen noodles and Sunday night oh-god-I-have-to-work-tomorrow stomachaches.

In an attempt to show you guys that really, it gets better, I asked some of my favorite, most successful ladies to share their stories of life at 22 versus their life now.

Life at 22

Christina Holm-Sandok, Style Architects

At 22: My boss would take credit for my work, had unrealistic expectations and made me cry weekly. I spent every chance I could hitting the town with my girlfriends…crossing our fingers that guys would buy us drinks – we certainly couldn’t afford our lifestyle. I lived with my best friend in a tiny yet adorable apartment that was in a shady part of town.

Now: I own my own business yet still manage to put unrealistic expectations on myself. Now I spend every chance I can traveling or relaxing on our patio. My cocktails no longer require flirting although my husband appreciates it! We live in a 1920’s home in a quaint neighborhood. Life is simpler…and most importantly, happier!

Rachel Hills, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman

At 22: I knew I wanted to write smart things about gender and social issues, but I didn’t have the foggiest of how to go about it. I took a day job doing communications work for an NGO and spent my evenings running a youth media organization with a bunch of friends, including the guy who would later become my husband.

Now: I’ve written a couple of hundred articles for most of my favorite magazines, newspapers and websites. I live in London, and have traveled to 12 countries in the past two years. Right now I’m working on a book on sex, power and identity for Simon and Schuster and Penguin.

What was life like at 22 for some of your favorite successful women? If you're having a quarter life crisis, you're a recent college grad, or your just struggling with your 20s, this post will help!

Ana Alexandre, Life coach + nutritionist

At 22: I was working in a bar for a gross boss who would hit on a different waitress every shift. Although I made decent cash, I hated waitressing and never having a weekend to myself. I lived in a tiny bachelor apartment in a neighborhood I wasn’t crazy about.

Now: I love what I do! I can put in a lot of hours but it doesn’t feel like WORK. For this I am super grateful. I live in my favorite neighborhood in a city that I am at most 20 min away from the sea.

Karina Cousineau, dress designer + business owner

At 22: I was living on Bali in Indonesia working for S.L.I.I (space island light industry) My job was head of production for a small apparel company. Not speaking Indonesian was challenging, but slowly slowly I learned. The people were generous and joyful. It was a wonderful learning experience!

Now: Some years later, my life is similar in many ways. Heading design and production for my company Karina Dresses entails many of the same type work. Our Brooklyn production house does not require me to ride a motorcycle through streets filled with cows, chickens and village activity: Similar tasks are required and the streets of Brooklyn can be equally hectic. I lived at the beach on Bali and now live in a jungle in Brooklyn – both are full of life and exciting!

What was life like at 22 for some of your favorite successful women? If you're having a quarter life crisis, you're a recent college grad, or your just struggling with your 20s, this post will help!

Dr. Danielle Dowling, life coach Los Angeles

At 22: I was working as a buyer for Bloomingdale’s in NYC. And it really wasn’t my bag. The cubicles, constant number crunching and corporate pressure choked my soul. I remember running out of money on the Wednesday before payday and rummaging at the bottom of my purses and desk drawers to find change for a coffee!

I lived on the 5th floor of a 5 story walk up with 3 other roommates and a dark bathroom that was clearly was once a hallway closet. I also distinctly remember loving a boy who despite his best efforts, broke my heart.

Now: I am 35 years old with a Master’s in Psychology and graduating this December with a Ph.D. I own my own company, Danielle-Dowling.com, where I help women leaders balance professional success + love. I am part relationship expert + part spiritual ass-kicker. My spacious one bedroom is bright + airy and all mine! Although many a day and night I share it with my gem of a boyfriend + loving soulmate, Jose.

Julie Merriman Wray, Olivine Atelier

At 22: I was working at my Dad’s office as a receptionist. Boring! Don’t tell my Dad, but while I was sitting there answering the phones I was secretly doing all the research and making plans to open my first business. I lived in a basement studio apartment that had the most adorable pink depression glass knobs. I loved that kitchen. Oh yeah, I also got dumped by my first love. That was heartbreaking.

Now: I work for myself and I run four different businesses! I have the most beautiful 2 year old son who makes me laugh constantly and a husband that I am head over heels in love with. We go on fun beach vacations every year for my birthday which I love. I own a real house now! No more basement! Although I do still think about those pink knobs…

Carly Jacobs, Smaggle.com

At 22: I was living with my parents, working in a well-paid but not overly stimulating university job. I’d just started dating a gorgeous boy, I was acting in a few plays and had just started a blog called Smaggle.

Now: I’m a freelance writer, presenter and actor. I live in a bigger city, I’m still with the gorgeous boy and we now live together in a funky loft in a trendy suburb. My blog contributes more and more significantly towards my regular income and I’m dangerously close to being 100% self employed. I’m also slightly taller.

Readers who are older than 22! Share your stories!

P.S. If you want 1-on-1 help and support making your life look + feel the way you want, I do that!

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  1. Mary

    How inspiring! I'm only BARELY older than 22 (just turned 24), so I don't count myself among the ranks of those ready to tell my tale yet. I'm still living in the "before" part of these stories. But it is ever so encouraging to hear these empowering stories about how much life can change in the ten plus years after 22! I don't hate where I am now; I have a decent job and a decent apartment in a decent town. But I too live paycheck to paycheck and feel unfilled. To see these stories fills me with a sense of hope at how much more I could be by the time I'm 32!
    Thanks for sharing, ladies. 🙂

  2.  Amy

    Oh, you and your always timely posts!! I needed this MORE THAN EVER. I have an interview with a professor tomorrow about grad school for a COMPLETELY different line of work than I'm in now, and this is the boost I needed. THank you thank you thank you thank you.

  3. Cassie @ WittyTitleHere.com

    As a 22-year-old, I very much appreciate reading stories like these. I've been at my first post-college job for a year now, and I have a boyfriend of 3+ years whom I believe will be in my own "after" story– when I'm wiser and more successful. 🙂 I'm lucky to be living with my family and saving money, though it is difficult sometimes. I know what I'm doing now will pay off in a big way down the road. Next step: grad school.

  4. Lê

    Lovely stories! I'm really glad to see how these women empowered with time. I'm only 18, doing a so-so college course, writing in a blog and publishing books, but I feel an enormous pressure to decide what to do in the future. These stories showed that it's always time to change and get a better way.
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Anonymous

    Is that a picture of the singer Lights?

  6. Jeannie Miernik

    Hey, this is funny! Coincidentally, yesterday I posted a poem I wrote when I was 22.

    I was about to graduate college. I was dating a grad student at a very fancy university. I had plans to do a fancy internship in his trendy state and get married and get an advanced degree.

    I was miserable. I was living the life I imagined my parents and teachers wanted for me, not what I wanted. In a burst of self-preservation, I dumped the guy, jumped the "fast track" to "success," and followed my heart–into a dark and dangerous place. I now live a slightly eccentric but pleasurable and fulfilling life with a cherished husband and daughter and work that doesn't pay much but brings a lot of light to the world. My 29-year-old self is so grateful to my 22-year-old self for trusting her heart for once!

  7. Sonya

    When I was 22, I was dating an incredibly emotionally abusive man that I stayed with because he was my first love. He prevented me from following my dreams to make films and to travel.

    I'm about to be 27 and that boy is long gone and I'm glad to say I've made up for lost time by becoming a film director and getting a film into a local festival as well as following my dream to travel to Australia. 🙂

  8. Life [Comma] Etc

    Even though 22 was only five years ago, I was just entering the field of teaching and had no idea what I was in for. I was also blissfully not budgeting or thinking about the future…

    NOW I am getting more and more of a grip on things, in my career and in my lovelife, and I am trying to pass that on to the rest of the world through my blog!

  9. Kait

    I can't wait to sign up for this course! I just graduated from grad school and I'm making a big move across the country without a full-time job waiting for me. I can take all the helpful wisdom I can get 🙂

  10. Tera

    at 22 I was working as my father's receptionist, going to school and going out way too often. I was dating a man who disrespected me and put my feelings last almost daily and renting a room from a lesbian couple I went to school with (who fought ALL THE TIME).

    Now that I am 30 I live in a 2 bedroom alone near the ocean (no more roommates!). I am Lead Site Producer for five Disney travel sites and respect myself enough to never let a man make me feel like second best ever again.

  11. SEOkik

    this is excellent quality blog. I hope, the author will present another great blog just shortly thanks..

  12. Marie

    Age 17 flashback: living in the tiny village I hrew up in in the Highlands of Scotland. Not had a boyfriend. Not very worldly.
    Age 20: living in posh university city, studying a lot, having no money but learning a lot of things, go to USA for a summer programme and discover booze, cigarettes, boys, live in a frat house
    Age 22: doing a PhD in Quebec, loving the province, made good pals (I still miss the food)
    Age 24: married to a Canadian. Living back in posh university city in UK. Doing a PhD with a horrible supervisor. Hating my life. No money, no morale, working all the hours for little reward.
    Fast forward: got divorced. Quit PhD. Went travelling. Had fun. Moved to a small town. Got job. Had money. Made the bestest friends. Went back to uni.
    Now, aged 35: Married (again) to the loveliest English man. Own a house. Live in a village. Working as a junior doctor. Start training to be a radiologist come August.
    Life was very different for me at 17 as it was at 20-22-28-30 as it is now at 35.

    ABSOLUTELY enjoying the journey. Even the sad times (at one point sleeping on a floor in Australia covering my hands in socks to stop bed bugs biting while working in a massage parlour to make ends meet) were also great times (nights out on little money with brilliant friends, mango smoothies, sunshine and blue skies).

    Bad boss taught me never to be a bad boss and to look out for warning signs in others. People tell you whi they are.
    Being married already for the first time taught me what was important in relationships when I met my now husband.
    Living in village-city-town-city-town-city-village taught me how to make friends and what sort of lifestyle I enjoy, as well as the joy of new things and how to entertain yourself in a new city when you know nothing and no-one.

    This blog has been with me through all of these times and I have loved it always! Such posts as getting over a bad breakup, personalising a rental home, making new friends, upping your friendship game… well Sarah your posts have really influenced my life and my saying “yes” to many things that brought be great experiences and a wonderful life. You make me strive to want to be better, do better, love better.

    Sorry- I originally started posting a comment about age 22vs now and then realised at all ages your life can change so much in 3 or 6 months, and how much I had to thank you for. Keep going with the epic writing, I miss some of your old posts (I even printed some off and took them in a folder with me when I went travelling as I found them so inspiring- saddo alert!). I will have to go and find and re-read them for posterity. Thanks for coming on the journey with me!


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