When I was 13, I couldn’t wait to be 18. I thought I’d know it all by then — have all the answers and that prized freedom. And when I was 16, I planned to be married by age 23 with two kids. I’ll always smile to myself when I think about how time changes things. And when I turned 24, I made a list of as many goals as I had in years. By my 25th birthday, I’d accomplished them all.
And a funny thing happens about the time you turn 25. People start asking about marriage and kids and houses. And you begin to worry about savings, retirement, and health insurance. You start spending your money on plates. Pots. New tires. Short term sacrifices for long term gains, right? And sometimes you start to compare your 25 years with everyone else’s. You wonder if you’re on the right track because it’s different from all the people you’re surrounded by. You start going to your friends’ weddings and buying baby gifts for second birthdays. And suddenly you realize you’re at the exact age that seemed so far away just five years ago.
I’ve always liked including myself in the 20-something category. Growing up, but not quite grown up. You’re an adult, but still recognize that you’re part kid. I’ve enjoyed the navigating of adulthood and all of my new first time experiences. A new job. My first ‘grown-up’ paycheck. Growth. Being old enough to rent a car. But it seems like the older I’ve gotten, the more aware I’ve become of my short-lived stay in the ‘20s’ and the pressure to fit the mold of all of the rest of the 25ers.
I’ve started to think about how easy it is to become controlled by our age. and the expectation of what your age signifies to everyone else. How old you should be by the time you graduate. Buy your first house. Get married. Have kids. Start your retirement. Suddenly, it seems like there are all these benchmarks to meet, even when they don’t match the goals you are trying to reach.
Because as easy it is to forget, you’re free to do what you want with your life. The problem is, that can be quite the responsibility, to live your life the way you want to, rather than they way you are expected to. Especially if that means taking a big jump. And especially when that jump may feel like a free fall. Maybe quit your first job and go back to school if that feels right. Get married or don’t. Maybe you drop out of school or chop off your hair. Maybe you change your mind. End a relationship that no longer serves you. Become a different person. Maybe you move away or move back home. Or maybe you’re scared to do these things because it’s uncomfortable and unexpected. Maybe it’s because you don’t know if everything would fall into place or you’re scared what that would mean if it did.
And when you’re in your 20s, I hope you buy a plane ticket to Paris. I hope you get lost wandering all of the streets. I hope you travel the world and read lots of new books. I hope you have interesting conversations over warm cups of tea. I hope you drink out of mason jars while dancing barefoot in the grass. I hope you have a water fight in Central Park. Set goals and change them. Quit your day job. I hope you don’t do any of these things or that you do them all. Write a book. Change your mind. Start new friendships and let go of the ones that you need to. Say goodbye to all of the things that have kept you stagnant and vow to keep moving forward.
I hope your 50s mean going back to school or starting yoga. I hope your 40s include falling in love with someone new — a friend, child, or partner. I hope you stay up all night laughing with your friends. And when you’re 30, learn something new. I hope your life is one of wisdom and youth, adventure and old age — no matter what year it was that you were born.
But what I really mean to say is that I hope you aren’t held back because of a number. And that you don’t rush into things because it feels like time is slipping by. I hope you do what’s right for you. Hold on. Slow down. And breathe in. Your age is your age. But more importantly, your life is your life. Don’t change your journey so that it matches someone else’s. We need to walk different paths so the whole world can be explored. Revel in the differences. And enjoy where you are.
Here. Right here.