I remember being a teenager (it’s not such a long time, to be fair) and among other things, I remember that it was pretty hard, from time to time. I still remember all the confusion, insecurities and chaos that accompanied me during that time. But even though that teenagehood can be without any doubt complicated part of your life, what makes it easier is that everyone around you will tell you that all of that will soon get better. That all this confusion will disappear when your hormones get to normal, that being in your teens is just like that and after that you will be a responsible adult. An adult fully aware of what he’s doing, where he’s headed and why.
But no one warned me about my 20s.
Because this might just as well be the most confusing and most complicated era that you will go through. And nowadays more than ever. Why is that?
Because of the expectations put on you.
The expectations that are, whether you want it or not, imposed on you, by the society, by the media, even by your peers and your friends, pretty much by anyone who’s in the same age and especially by anyone you talk to about your future.
You are expected to study. To study something that you’re interested in and that you enjoy learning about. At the same time, something that is “useful” – that will safely get you a job later on and give you great career prospects.
You are expected to find a job. A job that will be fulfilling, that will make sense, that will contribute to helping to make the world a better place and one that you will actually enjoy. But you’re also expected to find a job where you’ll be making loads of money, with prospects to make even more money in future, a one that will make you generally ‘a successful person’.
You are expected to have a perfect and responsible relationship. If you don’t have one, you should at least know exactly what you’re looking for and get one as soon as possible.
You are expected to be crazy, to explore, travel and try new things, not to let yourself tie down and enjoy your youth. But you are also expected to be responsible for yourself and for your decisions, to build your career, think about your future and plan ahead, to be aware of where you’re going.
You are expected to do all of those things that mostly contradict each other, to be walking down on many different paths at once, while they are all leading in different directions and they are only rarely crossing each other.
You’re all the time pushed into two attitudes: “Life is long, there’s plenty of time and you only live it once, so fuck it and be wild and free, because you ain’t gonna be young again. Live in the moment. #YOLO.” and “You can’t waste your time, you have to start being responsible and work hard, because there is never too soon to build your life. Make long-term plans and smart choices and never be reckless.” When pushed into “randomly exploring” and “knowing exactly where you are going” attitudes, soon, you might find yourself caught between those two. Hopelessly trying to do both, most of the time with a feeling of guilt that you should rather be somewhere else, doing something different than you are doing right now.
So you are going through a time in your life when you have virtually no idea what you’re doing but it still feels somehow important. I don’t even know which pants I should put on in the morning and I should be making crucial decisions which will affect my life for long in advance pretty much every day.
You are trying to figure out who you are and who you want be, at the same time when the choices you make will probably define the rest of your life.
Although not fully realizing it, I felt this struggle, this dilemma for more than a year now. It took me a while to realize it and it took me even longer to figure out, at least sort of, what to do about it.
I just need to do things that I want to do.
Not things that others want me to do, not something that someone think is right for me and not what I am expected to do. Not even the things that sound smart and reasonable. Just what I feel that is right to do.
Something else that I figured out that helps is focus more on the actions that I can take right now, rather than on the consequences that might follow . Because I can only hardly anticipate the consequences, what is going to happen and how it is going to affect me. But the actions are purely my own choice. And I want to be sure that the choices that I am making are my own. Because when I have to make a choice, and one option may sound smart and the other one not that much, any of these choices can still be a huge mistake in the end. However, I am quite sure that if it is going to be my own mistake, one that happened because I wanted to do it at that time, I can live with that. If it would be something that I was pushed into, it would be much, much harder.
It is pretty much saying “Fuck what everyone else thinks, it is my life to live” and holding onto it. Which is exactly one of the things that might sound easy, logical and almost obvious to do and yet they prove to be too hard for most people to manage in the end. As I am starting to feel, this attitude takes away safety, or rather the feeling of safety, but at the same time it gives you unexpected freedom. Because it turns all the things that you are supposed to do, into the things that you can do.
And it turns your twenties from a scary and stressful decade into a pretty awesome one.