Growing up, you hear many things about what your 20s will be like. However, nothing anyone says can really prepare you for the real thing.
This is the time in our lives when the hopes we’ve always had for the future get yanked out from the backs of our minds and are displayed right before our faces. When dreams are not dreams anymore, but decisions; reality. There’s no more time to say, “I’ll see how it goes,” or, “I’ll decide when the time comes.” The time has come, and the crossroads of your life are no longer in the future, they’re right before you.
This is the age that fears we’ve never even conceived of having to deal with become very, very real. Will I spend the rest of my life alone? Will I marry someone who’s not right for me? Will I end up selling my soul for a job I hate? Will my life amount to nothing? Will the path I embark on now lead me to nowhere?
And to think that you used to be afraid of getting rejected by your crush or of being unpopular in school. How silly you were. How you wish you could go back to simpler times and trade in your existential dread for your childhood fear of the monster under your bed.
When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up and be independent. But now that we’re here, we want nothing more than to go back. Because you don’t know what you have, till it’s gone and lost forever to the past.
They say 25 is the age your body goes downhill.
Well, they were right.
Your step gets sluggish. Training for IPPT becomes so much more of a slog. Your sex drive takes a nose dive. When you used to climb mountains and surf waves and party all night, now all you want to do is curl up in bed with a bowl of chips and Netflix on your laptop. Your body begins to ache in ways you’ve never known it could, and while you used to feel immortal, you now begin to genuinely worry for your health and you see how that worry will control the rest of your life with endless check-ups and doctor’s appointments.
They said to enjoy your life as a student, because working life will suck ass.
And again, they were right.
You worry if you’ve become one of the “boring old people” you’ve always criticized, and you freak out at the prospect of becoming too much like your parents, a future that teenage you swore to steer clear of at all costs.
You wonder if the times you had partying and living it up as a student in college will be the most fun you will ever have had in your life. You fear that you’ll never enjoy your life any more than you did then.
But it’s not all bad.
You begin to learn that life is not simply a pursuit of fun and pleasure, but a journey laden with responsibility and a far deeper meaning than getting laid at the club. You stop looking for superficial connections, and start hoping for something real. Because while the fun years of your life might be over, the truly happy ones might just be beginning.
You start to consider the legacy you’ll be leaving, the mark you’ll have on this world that will endure after you’re gone. You hope to make an impact in a way and to a degree that teenage you could never realistically aspire to. To make the world a better place; spearhead research and development of new advancements; positively influence public opinion; help those desperately in need. And perhaps most importantly, you can begin to repay your parents for everything they’ve done for you.
You might even begin to entertain the notion of taking on life’s ultimate challenge – having children. You realize that while as a kid you thought your parents knew everything, parents are just kids having kids. The prospect of shaping the life of another the way your parents shaped yours scares you shitless, but also fills you with hope and excitement. We all long to do something meaningful and great with our lives. Maybe this is it.
20-somethings hope for and fear a great many things, because such is the nature of life. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time, but every journey worth travelling is.