Age is a funny thing, especially after you have children. In some ways I feel old. I feel old because I have a toddler. There is this little person whose life depends on myself and my husband to succeed at life. I mean this in every sense of the word. We must succeed at being honest, calm, loving, stern, strong, giving, understanding, patient people. I have to put my son before me. And that makes me feel old. When you’re young you think only of yourself and how others affect you. Now I think about how my actions shape the little human I am sending off into the world some day. At times my son keeps me young as well. I play games, I roll around on the floor, I get to make silly noises and faces I dance like no one (and everyone) is watching, I sing like I'm Whitney Houston (but terribly off key). And I read and watch children's stories and let my imagination run free. I guess, at the age of 27, I just feel comfortable with who I am and I'm excited to still see the adult I become.
I'm just learning to be more comfortable being myself, being comfortable with my humor, my friends, what I look like, whatever. When you're a teenager, you're real insecure about a lot of things, and that can hang onto you I think unless you make an effort to change it. I think the older I get the more real and rewarding my friendships and relationships are, but I also feel like some of that magic of falling in love when you're young is gone. Maybe that comes back at some point, but the colors of life aren't as vibrant as they used to be.
My dad recently told me the best thing about being my age was that I couldn't really mess anything up beyond repair at this stage in my life. In essence, there isn't any mistake I can't make right now that can't be fixed. Probably not completely true, but I really liked hearing it anyway. I think the hardest part is how much we end up saying good bye when we're constantly on the run. I've been fortunate to meet so many amazing people but when you're moving all over the place it's impossible to stay close to them all. Inevitably, some relationships lose their intensity because of time and distance. That's still hard for me. I am a glutton for my relationships with friends and family; a total pig. That being said, I love being a single, young adult because I only have to check in with myself. I can change my life plans every half hour and no one gets offended or confused or feels left out.
I don't think you can really prepare for adulthood. It's hard to say when we even cross the threshold. I think when I was young, I associated being an adult with having a very well-established sense of daily purpose and a high level of overall organization. Now that I'm in my late twenties, and a father, I don't see myself as being nearly as organized as I imagined my parents were at my age - which can lead to occasional feelings of inadequacy, like I'm still just a kid playing at being grown-up. Then there other times where I roll with the punches in complicated situations where a younger version of myself would have been absolutely paralyzed by inexperience - those are the moments when I sense how much I've aged.
Dreams! Those elusive bastards. This is something I have struggled with a lot in my 20's, because I never had a "this is what I want to be when I grow up" moment. I know a lot of people don't have that, and like, the world is my oyster, you always want what you don't have, and all that, but it just seems like it would make everything so much easier. To have that one thing to aspire to, to fall back on when everything else is falling apart. Just a thread to tie my past present and future together.
The thing I am learning about myself is that the best life path is the life path completely dictated by me. I am trying to live my like as if it were a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. No, I don’t know what will happen if I choose the an option and turn to page 93, but I chose it and feel confident in the instinct that led me to make that choice. Too often in the past I have let my choices, ambitions, and interests be dictated by others. I’m 26 and may not know where I am going, but now I try to follow my own heart. I know my roots, I’m just not sure what direction they are growing.
I think our age group suffers the most from ageism. At our workplace, in government, in our families, we are expected to fulfill our role, to accept our responsibilities but fail to be taken seriously for what we believe in and how we can contribute to the future.
It’s kind of strange. I’m only 27, but I keep convincing myself that I’m almost 40. I can find lines in my face that freak me out to the point of tears. I don’t think I had the right training in becoming an adult. I put on a good act, but most days I’d rather be around a campfire listening to a bunch of teenagers sing songs about how hard it is to grow up.
I was talking to a four-year-old a couple weeks back and she was telling me about how she wanted to be a teen. I told her, “Me too.”
My father was out of full time work for a few years and out of work all together for a year and a half. He is the main breadwinner for my family so it affected me a lot. It affected me physiologically watching my parents go through this tough time and the strain and stress it put on the house hold. It wasn’t fun hearing “we are flat broke” weekly from my father. I always looked at my parents as my safety net, somewhere I could go if things got real tough. I realized that they were in no position to help me out financially. They always told me not to worry about it but I couldn’t help but worry about it. The other way the recession has affected me is by staying in a low paying, unfulfilling job. I am grateful to have a steady paycheck but I haven’t been confident in finding a new job and moving to a new place. I tried moving out and finding a new job in a new city and I failed miserably.
Older adults are actually quite proud of us. I spend a lot of time working with folks in their 80s and 90s, and I never hear them complaining about “those young, lazy kids”. I think our generation is faced with difficulties that older people weren’t- like not being able to stay at home with kids easily- and they’re impressed at how we make it work. I have heard people complain that we aren’t as proud of our country as they were, or willing to fight for it, but part of that to me is that we see things on a more global level.
The best part of being young right now is that no one expects you to be an expert at anything. You can try a million different things and go a million places and experience whatever you want because its still a time of exploration. The hardest part is that I still feel like I am confused about how old I am and what that means for me. I feel stuck between "young adult" and "actual adult".
My future looks great! There's a garden, a bunch of cats and dogs, maybe a kid or two, and a strong woman that doesn't mind how ridiculous I am. My dreams involve community work and education right now. Also, I'd love to spend a lot of time researching serial killers- maybe even talk to one. It's hard to imagine achieving my dreams right now, but I think it's just because I'm still fearful of the future and of turning out to be some kind of loser. I think as I learn more about myself, I’ll be ready to drop the fear act and start making mistakes I can build off of.
My favorite metaphor is the "jump in and see if you can swim" metaphor. I was born a super shy and anxious kid, but luckily I've always had the strength to force myself out of my comfort zone. I've seen people's anxiety and fears totally stunt them, and it's jarring for me, because I'm always like, a millimeter away from being that person. In college I used to drive to the ocean in the middle of winter and force myself to run and jump in. I think I'm lucky that I realized at a young age that pretty much everything I do, no matter how easy for some people, is always going to be an exercise in jumping into ice water for me. I'm never gonna wanna do it, I'm going to fight it, but I have to find the strength to dive in because it's going feel good, and it gets a little easier each time.
Your parents will laud you for graduating college and you will receive praise from their friends after they post a photo of you in graduation garb on their Facebook page. You will read comments like "Congrats! So hard to believe!!! A college grad!" "Where has time gone?!?!" and say to yourself, "Wow, maybe I am an adult." This is a fleeting moment of realization. After you graduate, you are thrust into a weird world where your life doesn't feel as structured anymore. Being a twenty-something means to perpetually ask yourself: "Am I doing this right?"
When I was little, I think I thought that in my twenties I'd be like someone in a movie. That I'd have an impressive job in New York City or be impressively unemployed like characters in Joni Mitchell songs. I thought I would know exactly who I was and be her always, in all her glory. Now I am 26. I am not romantically detached and I do not live in a big city. I am only occasionally sure of who I am. When I was little, my biggest misconception was probably that possibilities never narrowed. That I could “be” whatever I wanted to be, whenever I wanted to be it. But in your twenties you realize that experience in one area of life means a lack of experience in others, and that what you do defines you more than what you’d like to do. It feels a little claustrophobic, and even sad sometimes, for time to tie us down this way. I think it’s also kind of wonderful in that it forces us twentysomethings to learn the importance of being good at where we are. To realize that in moment stacked on top of moment we become who we are, and each moment is a moment we might do something good with. The happiest people I know do hundreds of tiny kind things every day.
Twenty one, and the early twenties in general, definitely seems like a transition age to me. We're all just exiting our teenage years, and it seems a lot of "growing up" is crammed into the few years from 19 to one's mid-twenties. I'm trying to figure out what it means to be mature: my interests are changing, the way I organize and structure my life is very different now from how it would've been a couple of years ago. I know I'm still so young, but I feel like an old person compared to my nineteen or even twenty-year-old self. It's an exciting transition, and the more time passes, the more comfortable and successful I feel about being myself.
Adulthood. To be honest, I’m still working on that. High school should scrimp on the sports funding and go ahead and create a life skills course. “How to be a real person.” Girls like me would graduate and know how to fill out every tax form ever made, be able to change a tire like we run Nascar, and build a log cabin for our retirement.