First of all I’m not even a 20 something, I’m just plain old 20 (6 days away from being 20 while I start writing this if you want to get technical). Getting older is generally exciting and there all these milestones you hit and every year you learn things and grow even if you don’t realize it. At 10 you reach “double digits” at 13 you’re a teenager, 14 you go to high school, 16 you can drive (unless you put it off like me), 17 you can see rated R movies, 18 you graduate high school and gain the ability to vote and buy cigarettes and lottery tickets (and all those other fulfilling things) you can even call yourself an adult (even though you won’t act or feel like one, or necessarily be treated like one, for a while), then at 19 you can legally drink in Canada (great). But even if none of those things are especially intriguing to you, the fresh slate of a new orbit around the sun brings at least some extent of excitement right? It always did for me. I say did because 20 is different than all of the rest. “The hardest part in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re at your most gorgeous and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt, when you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening”, Helen Mirren. Yes, now I’m only 1 year away from being able to legally drink (but come on seriously what 20 year old doesn’t already openly drink in most settings anyways). 20 is strange, it feels like the death of something, the birth of something too maybe, but ether way it feels like starting all over in new skin and taking on a new role and it feels like being dropped off on an unknown island (like in those survival reality shows) and being expected to figure out the skills you need to make it out alive (quickly realizing that no matter how much you prepared nothing could have made you truly ready for all of the unforeseen challenges) while simultaneously making alliances and enemies, needing help but not knowing who you could trust to ask for it. Turning 20 feels like that initial moment when you’re dropped off. The minute the clock strikes 12 on your 20th birthday turns into the “real world” aka hunger games, where everyone races to the pile of weapons without having a clue of which ones would even benefit them in their new uncharted environment. Yeah. Turning 20 is exactly like the Hunger Game movies, complete with actors and pretending, ingenue and dramatic romances and fake sounding lines (except without any of the funding or glamor or ultimate crowd-pleasing resolution. Turning 20 of course has some of that forever excitement like the rest, but turning 20 is honestly terrifying.
Twenty carries so many expectations. Each year is a new milestone (like all of the rest of the years) but these ones are more serious and whether they happen or not is in our own hands, rather than just an automatic legalization of something. We don’t know exactly how to hit these milestones on time (or at all in many cases), or if we even want to, or what happens if we don’t? But we all have this invisible pressure on us to at least try, and we become fixated on time and each passing year and it wears on us and I think that’s the cause of old age and gray hairs, if I had to guess. This dude named Ryan O’connell sums up some of these milestones I keep referring to when he says “I think the reason why twentysomethings are so fixated on age is that we feel a certain pressure to be a certain way at 23, at 25, at 29. There are all of these invisible deadlines with our careers and with love and drinking and drugs. I cant do coke at 25. I need to be in a LTR at 27. I cant vomit from drinking at 26. I just cant! We feel so much guilt for essentially acting our age and making mistakes. We’re obsessed with this idea of being domesticated and having our shit together. It’s kind of sad actually because I don’t think we ever fully get a chance to enjoy our youth. We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing things the wrong way. Youth may be truly wasted on the young”. Basically the conclusion his quote seems to dwell on is that these milestones are utter bullshit and go against any natural instinct we have. They take away from our time to fuck up and fall behind, which in result, prevents us from reevaluating, taking steps back, learning, and growing into people we actually want to be, instead of lesser imitations of ourselves. It’s like the cores of our beings and life paths are hastily pieced together, when they deserve to be handled with care, edited, and molded, reconfigured until they are masterpieces to be proud of.
Everything expected of us at this age is so backwards if you think about it. We are expected to be mature and stop making mistakes at the exact time that we are finally allowed to live on our own and start doing things for ourselves. We are expected to be responsible with our money, while paying off student loans. We are expected to move out of our parents homes, but god forbid we move in with the wrong person. We are expected to act like adults, but we still aren’t treated like them. We are told to be educated and serious and then scoffed at and not taken seriously. We are at our prime, we have time and freedom to travel, adventure, meet new people and let go of others, to gather experiences, while simultaneously being told to settle down. We are expected to do the opposite of what we have the time, energy, and interest in doing. Those who trust their guts, take risks, and go against the norm are looked down upon and viewed as the abnormal, when really they are just acting on what all of us are thinking. There is no way to win during your 20’s and maybe blink 182 was correct in saying “nobody likes you when you’re 23” (yes, the band who’s album I had my friend tattoo on my ankle over jello shots on my dorm room floor.. but fret not, that was before I was 20 and was still an acceptably immature and rebelling mess of 19). If we cant make our professors, parents, friends, younger and older selves, society happy with how we handle these monumental years, then why aren’t more of us trying to at least make our present selves happy and taking reclaim over our own lives?They are OUR lives after all, we only get one each. But even though many people will acknowledge all of what I just sad, and relate to it, very few actually hope off their preplanned life paths and take the time to become their true selves rather than rushed, sloppy, and in genuine impostures of them. So if you know a twenty something (I know so many), any image they portray of “togetherness” “order” or “knowing what they are doing” is either an entirely false front, or a delusion, that will soon be shattered for both you and themselves. We are all a mess, have no idea what we should be doing, are trying our best, inevitably screwing up, and probably need a hug.