With recent reports coming out that child psychologists have been instructed to extend the cutoff for our notions of adulthood from 18 to 25, the natural question points to how this reflects on the analytically in-vogue Millenial Generation. The news does little to allay fears that we are continuing to breed a wave of stunted adolescents asking “Mom what’s for dinner?” having grown entitled from that sick Obamacare deal. But there is a very real change in self-image and general togetherness that seems to time-release pretty close to your twenty-fifth year.
Advances in neuroscience now show that the development of the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for emotional stability and our capacity for rationale—continues well past the arbitrary admission age to vote and die overseas, so twenty-five isn’t an unreasonable place to recalibrate our framework for real maturity. It is at this point that our illusions from childhood really come into focus.
In the spirit of 2013, the following is a list of ways we can better ourselves at this threshold, in hopes that it will help you to keep being you afterwards. There is little to no continuity, and I keep losing count of how many there actually are because some are grouped together, and others don’t have much to do with being twenty-five, really. But it’s broken down and easy to skim because conventional reading is still around mostly for people who have trouble making friends. On to the list!
1. Stop eating sandwiches (stop specifying that they’re “homemade”) over the sink because it saves a plate. You didn’t figure out a more efficient way to do things, as it’s borderline sociopathic behavior at this point. Piggybacking on this, do not designate a drawer in your kitchen for plastic cutlery that you have foraged from various takeaway eateries. It’s kind of a weird conversation to have when discovered, and the number of times this stash will actually “come in handy” (your reasons for starting it) are very few.
2. Start letting go of the people in your life, at this point, who have less than your best interest at heart, no matter how much fun you have together in the nighttime. It’s not worth it, and as the saying goes, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. As another saying goes, ain’t nobody got time for that. As one more saying goes, shut up.
3. Don’t become one of those people who keep the plastic covering on electronics that are meant to be removed upon purchase because “I’ll just let it be until it starts to peel itself.” Please don’t?
4. Learn to like brie so you can say things at dinner parties like, “Whoa this rind is tasty” and then invite someone back to your place.
5. From time to time, try to be conscious of self-imposed boundaries and let yourself off the hook for so-called childish behavior. Sleep at 4am if you have to, go to that thing during the week if you’d like to, put your feet up on the wall, and have breakfast for dinner because eggs are tasty and who makes the rules?
6. Develop an average of keeping your word, it means something to the right people.
7. Figure out the difference between being a nice person and being a kind person. Nice people always say the nice thing in company, but are always worrying about the rules of Proper Behavior, like it’s something that can drop out of their back pocket if not handled with extra care. There’s a level of self-awareness to all their actions, a dodginess to their demeanor, in fear of being uncovered as not such a kind person beneath it all—because that’s what the supposed qualities of being nice ultimately lead back to—the self. Kindness comes from outside the ego. You know when you’ve met a kind person.
8. Don’t be passive to your own development as a living thing. We get so conditioned by the mechanics of schooling that we start to just accept the passing years, the grade advancements as indicators of our annual growth, that once we are our of that cycle, we expect some system to still move us along. We give over power, in certain ways, to mapping our own progress, and have to relearn an awareness of ourselves once we get out, outside of schedules, outside of structure. Be aware of when it’s time to walk away from a situation, when you’ve grown all that you can grow, and make your peace with it.
9. If you fall asleep on a Saturday night watching Netflix on your chest, and you happened to be “checking out” New Girl, maybe just keep it to yourself. Even if you come to feel it’s a misunderstood and underrated comedy, get it together, or whisper it to someone in their sleep.
10. Find the friends that, more than anything, keep you honest. Honest in your ambitions and in the way you treat other people, honest in the way you’re living your life. They’re your safety net when you’re feeling really lost in what you want, and at 25, that’s going to happen a lot.
11. If the nice lady from your dentist’s office calls to tell you she undercharged you for your visit and needs your credit card info to correct her mistake, don’t just decide to change your voicemail, find a new dentist, and never go back so you can save the $30 to buy a bunch of bagels that you’ll eat in bed. She’s just doing her job, and you can’t run away from everyone all the time.
12. Look up at the sky from time to time to remind yourself that, with everything in mind, you’re not that cool. Religious, agnostic, or somewhere in between, we’re suspended on a giant rock floating in the sky and that’s not really rational, so start to give yourself up to that.
13. Call your parents back. We grew up with the idea of these people being tethered to us, their existence an extension of our own, like good parents can make us feel. But once you’re off their string, you have to make the constant effort to remind yourself that they’re real people too, with day-to-days that are still going on without you. Also, it probably feels pretty bad to spend twenty years raising someone you can’t even get a hold of on a Sunday afternoon.
14. As best you can, don’t let people who were important to you become Facebook updates. The ones you love so casually in memory, that one day you wake up and realize you haven’t seen each other in two years, talked in months. You grew up a bit together, and they knew you on your way. Remember? Years from now, these are the people who will tell your kids your worst stories, and you’ll be glad for it.
15. Figure out if what you think you want is what you really want. Not what your parents want for you, or what your friends think you’re good at, or what sounds good and makes sense. What would you wake up every day for, regardless of pay or circumstance. Not the thing that you could do, or that you think you should do, but the thing you must do, that will make this whole strange experience make more sense every day. Don’t quit your job to find yourself, but figure out your options to work towards a life that’s really yours, apart from all the bullshit. It’s scary, but what’s the alternative?
16. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Even if you aren’t where you thought you’d be, even if you’re tired of being told how bad we have it, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning RT @WinstonChurchill
17. “And instead of looking for answers all the time, my wish for you is that you get comfortable living the questions.”
18. Trust yourself.