Assuming (generously) that I live to be 100, in three days, I will have completed one-fifth of my life.
I also will have entered a terrifying period in my life, for which I’ve gathered plenty of expectations. I don’t know where it came from, but I have this list of what my twenties should hold.
It’s supposed to be a time for personal growth. It’s time to explore the world, and also myself. My opinions should be changing, and above all, I should be maturing. Of course it will be painful, but everything will be obviously worth it, each struggle completed with a rewarding resolution and a valuable life lesson to take away.
There’s all these preconceived notions of what your twenties should hold, and the idea that if you don’t hit them you’re somehow behind or not on the right track. I’ve been trying to remind myself it doesn’t actually matter if I follow this track, but that’s easier said than done.
In three days, I will have gone around the sun 20 times.
One of the only truths my near 175,000 hours alive has brought me is that there is no right way to be a human being. Similarly, there’s no wrong way to come of age. Whether you’re diving headfirst into adulthood with your career planned out and your wedding date already saved, or stumbling into it the same way you stumbled into your dorm room hungover last weekend, you’re not doing anything wrong. I’m not doing anything wrong if my day, week, life doesn’t pan out how I thought it would.
Yet for some reason, instead, I feel this increasingly narrow set of constraints on how I should look, act, or think creeping up on me.
My experience isn’t unique. It might be hitting me harder than many of the billions of other people who have already exited their teenage years, but for many of us, it’s weird, and terrifying, and comes with all sorts of ideas about milestones I should have hit and milestones that will be coming soon.
In three days, I will have beaten teen pregnancy!
I will also enter a new existential crisis about whether or not I wasted those teenage years. Did I party enough? Did I party too much? What rites of passage did I miss out on, and how can I make up for them by experiencing the hell out of the rites of passage a young person in their twenties is supposed to go through?
In three days, I will be twenty. I’m working on dismantling the fears and expectations I have, but it’s hard. Maybe I will have incredibly rewarding growth periods, and I’m sure I’ll collect plenty of life-changing moments for future me to reflect upon fondly, but they aren’t going to look how I expect, and the ones I’m picturing probably won’t come to fruition exactly how I planned. That’s normal.
Youth is fleeting. I feel ephemeral. I will now refer to things that happened last week as something that occured “back when I was a teenager,” and call friends mere months younger than me “children.” So it goes.