When you’ve finally reached a quarter of a century old, that’s when the truth of mom’s nagging adage starts to sink in: You’ll never stay young forever.
It’s easy to overlook this fact when you are young, and truth be told being in your 20s is still considered (for most people’s standards) “young.” What makes your 20s distinct from, say, your teenage years, is that you become more conscious of passing of time but can’t internalize its full consequences.
I think your early 20s are a perfect example of this emerging consciousness. For some, it’s the hardest period of adjustment. For one thing, you feel 17—in the sense that though your friends, activities and sense of humor have matured (hopefully), the same fundamental dreams and values remain. On the other hand, you’re aware of the mounting pressure to “grow out” of adolescent years.
I think a quote from the band Twenty One Pilots illustrates this the best: “Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face / Saying, ‘Wake up you need to make money.’”
Alas, the world keeps turning no matter how bittersweet our farewells to our childhood are. Going back, I used to think everything would remain stagnant and constant. I’d like to think that although I had dreams of such-and-such, that such dreams were far away, and that I could put off thinking about them. You could say I looked through life with a sort of Peter Pan idealism.
When you hit your early 20s, the dreams you’ve held, which once enchanted you as a child, begin to haunt you. You start to worry about achieving these dreams; if you’ll be able to achieve them at all.
Following this, certain societal expectations that you used to be immune to begin to surface.
Friends have told me that they’ve felt the pressure to get into serious relationships, start a career and have a “normal life.” All the while conforming to these expectations is the pressure of succeeding in each aspect, and I think this is the part where most people crumble. It’s hard, if not impossible, to achieve perfection in anything in life and having such a high expectation to do so can be self-undermining.
But for those dipping their toes in the ocean of young adulthood for the first time, it’s also key to remember that this is an exciting period in our life, as well. Not every change will be welcome, but each one will hopefully drive us to the person we aspire to be (one day). Perhaps the numerous opportunities that emerge in your 20s are what make this period such a memorable aspect of life. So, while you’re at it and while you still can, remember that the privilege to experiment and explore the aspects of our identity can be very rewarding.