Why Do Twentysomethings Always Feel So Old?

I’m turning 25 next month, which by my estimate, is the oldest I have ever been. And of course I’m freaking out about it and think I’m super old. When in your twenties, it’s your job to feel old. Whether you’re 22 or 28, you just think you’re sooooo old, oh my god, such a grandma and I’m not really sure why this is. Because 25, or any age in your twenties for that matter, isn’t old. In fact, you could argue that any age before 65 is still considered young. By definition, being old would mean reaching senior citizen status, right? That kind of old is unfathomable to us though.

When I was in high school, people in their twenties were seen as ancient. I remember saying things to my friends like, “Oh, he’s really old. Like 24.” I think 24 was perceived to be an old age because their lives were so foreign to us. They graduated college, lived on their own, and held jobs. Those were things that represented an adult life, things we didn’t have and couldn’t have. Of course now I cringe when I think about the fact that I ever considered 24 to be an old age but I’m sure I will feel the same when I turn 35. When that happens, I will look back at this blog entry and think, “Oh, you silly 24-year-old. You thought 25 was old? You were just a baby and you didn’t even know it.”

When do you know it? I’m trying to remember the last time I ever felt young, the last time I ever turned an age that wasn’t accompanied with a sense of dread. I guess it had to be seventeen because it was my last year as a minor. I couldn’t buy cigarettes, couldn’t drink, couldn’t even rent a hotel room. How could I possibly feel old? But after that, it all changed. I remember first feeling uncomfortable about turning 19, which is such a baby age! 19 is I’m a freshman in college and does anyone have a fake ID? It’s laughable to think that I ever could feel old back then, but maybe it’s laughable that I feel old now. When is it no longer ridiculous to feel old? When is it like, “Oh, shoot. Yeah, you’re old. That’s an old age.”

I think the reason why twentysomethings are so fixated on age is because we feel a pressure to be a certain way at 23, at 25, at 29. There are all of these invisible deadlines with our careers and with love and drinking and drugs. I can’t do coke at 25. I need to be in a LTR at 27. I can’t vomit from drinking at 26. I just can’t! We feel so much guilt for essentially acting our age and making mistakes. We’re obsessed with this idea of being domesticated and having our shit together. It’s kind of sad actually because I don’t think we ever fully get a chance to enjoy our youth. We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing things the wrong way. Youth may be truly wasted on the young. TC mark

image – jessica.diamond

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    it’s because 30 is the next step… 

    • S.H.

      …Really? At the age of twenty-one, turning thirty is pretty much the last thing on my mind, but I can still relate to the feeling-ancient-prematurely-ness of “twentysomethings”.

      • Arturo

        Yes but 21 is different from 25.  21 comes with all of its own milestones…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    it’s because 30 is the next step… 

  • SippyCup

    The real question is why are twentysomethings so narcissistic.

  • SippyCup

    The real question is why are twentysomethings so narcissistic.

  • Jinna

    this is great Ryan. I wish we all could just take time to enjoy instead of being stressed about career/money/love/the future.

  • Jinna

    this is great Ryan. I wish we all could just take time to enjoy instead of being stressed about career/money/love/the future.

  • lala

    Hey Ryan – I read TC obsessively, so I just wanted to let you guys know that while this new brickwall background looks good, it makes reading harder. I really did like your previous cleancut white background theme. Maybe you guys will consider going back to that? I am not sure if this is a permanent change…

  • http://twitter.com/CTrembz Caitlin Tremblay

    This is the story of my life. I’ll be 23 at the end of the month and I often struggle with “I should go out, I’m only 22….but I can’t because I have a job and I have to work in the morning, plus I’m tired so I’ll watch Jeopardy and go to bed…except I’m 22, how lame.” Sigh.

    • http://twitter.com/CTrembz Caitlin Tremblay

      Or it could be because most of us are saddled with student loan debt and no longer have time to have fun for fear of default and financial ruin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      sometimes just avoiding the party riffraff is nice, though.

      you definitely look lame, and your friends will probably be disappointed that you didn’t come out, but ultimately it was for the better good of your existence as a human life form.

  • Z.

    That’s true. I honestly feel like I went through a midlife crisis during my 20’s. It’s like you’re expected to become a grown-up over night. There is all that talk about being a teenager, but no one prepares you for your twenties. At 25 I felt so old, like my life was over. Then I turned 30 and as if I rebooted. Now, at 35, I feel younger than I felt then, but I also see how fragile those years were. Btw. felt the same as you at 17 and 19. I wish you a happy birthday and I hope you enjoy it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    getting older is fun, though.

    your interests change completely from when you’re younger.  eventually you like reading, not excessively partying, eating right, exercising regularly, taking on silly “projects”, and most importantly, just relaxing on a porch somewhere with a six pack.

  • ASIL

    When I turned 25, I fell into the trap of “oh I’m so old and if I don’t meet a person to marry soon, I will be barren by the time I want kids” and “everyone else my age has 3 kids already and I don’t even have a boyfriend!”  (damn facebook.)  So what did I do?  I married the first guy who paid any attention to me, was miserable and now am turning 31 next week and right back in the same spot.  (Except that now I’m not sure that I even WANT kids.)  Enjoy 25 (and 26, 27, 28, and 29), it’s NOT as old as you think!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Social_Sam Sam Bishop-Strand

    I struggled with this in my 20’s too. Society sends mixed messages to 20 somethings. On the one hand, no one takes you seriously if you’re under 30, chalking up everything you say as coming without the life experience to back it up.  So they treat you like you’re still a 17 year old kid who should get permission from mom and dad to be participating in that conversation. 

    But, at the same time they expect you to hold down a full time job, be the most energetic person on the staff and have the most amazing ideas because your mind is untainted by years of back breaking corporate hooey. 

    Now that I’m in my 30s it’s much the same way – I can’t believe how “old” I feel on a Friday night. I am ready for PJ’s and bedtime by 10pm! Of course, sharing this with my colleagues who are in their 50s results in same responses I got from my 30-something colleagues when I was in my 20’s. “oh you’re just a baby!” 

    The hardest part of aging for me is remember that when I was 10 or 15 years younger, I thought people at my current age were “so old.”  Back then, I also thought having my own car was the pinnacle of success. 

    Age is relative. The definition of “old” is always just a year away from where you are now. The definition of “young” is the falsely remembered ability to do things you can’t/don’t want to do any more. 

    • Sallyissocool

      I get tired by 10pm too. And I’m 22! 

  • @SumnerSays

    I don’t agree. I just turned 25 and I feel young as hell. Can’t do drugs at 25? Why, because you’re too old? Well, I think it’s far more reasonable (romantic?) to light up a J at 35 than at 15. It just seems to be more… thought-through? But then again, I’ve always felt young. When I was 17, it was for your reasons. When I was 18, I was the youngest of all the (legal) smokers ; 21, the youngest of all the (legal) drinkers. 25? I’m the youngest of all the professionals. When I’m 35 or 40, I’ll be the youngest of all the geezers; 65, the youngest of all the seniors. Maybe it’s a state of mind – I like youth because I still feel like I have a lot to learn, still feel okay about fucking up – and these things I like. If making mistakes, becoming better, knowing about what I am ignorant and trying to change that, are the hallmarks of youth, then I think I’ll be young forever.

  • Reed

    This is phenomenal!!! I feel that all the time!! Everyones imposing deadlines and saying you’re not successful if you do this, this or this.. and everyones always got something to say about your supposed “failures”. Oh well. I’ll do life on my time.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    When I turned 25 I had a weekend-long crisis that concluded with me realizing that by NY standards I am still a baby. If I still lived in LA I bet it would’ve been way, way worse. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=28600550 Anita Jane Saw

      It’s also vastly different between the city and the suburbs. When I lived in NYC, there were tons of other people my age, some had their shit together and some didn’t, and most were varying degrees of inbetween. More importantly, there were people in my social circle who were 10 years older  – some had their shit together and some didn’t, some were living their artistic dreams or partying all the time or working all the time or balancing work and fun. It pretty much ran the gamut.
      Living further out in the suburbs, I feel there is more of a disconnect. People move here to settle down, whether they are 21 or 25 or 30 or 40, so there is a massive pressure to “settle down,” and the gap between “kid” and “adult” is more artifically pronounced.  People look at me – a 26-year-old, tattooed, single woman who dresses a little crazy and works full time in the arts  – like I’m from another planet. I have to go to the city every once in a while to get back to that state of mind again – to stop internalizing this idea that I’m somehow freakish for not being visibly a member of the EITHER kids’ group OR the adults’ group.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        I think that’s the thing about suburban living; it’s expected you’re there because you want to settle down. When my friends leave the city for midwestern, suburban pastures that’s usually the reason–not that that’s the case for everyone, obviously.

        That being said, sometimes hiding out somewhere a little… sleepier… sounds like a great idea.

  • margaret

    25 is not old, the end. when i’m 30, i’m still going to do the same things as in my 20’s even if i’m a “grown up”. some people are so easily intimidated by age and i have no idea why.

  • Anonymous

    I feel old sometimes too. My roommate is 19 and makes me feel like a grandma. It is just that as soon as you really stop having to think about getting IDed for things and so much of the formerly adult world becomes open to you that you become truly disillusioned with the idea of being an adult because all of the things that seemed so awesome so clearly aren’t. I have drunk far less since I turned 21, I don’t stay out late often, I quit smoking when I was 19, I stress about my office job, I update my resume and worry that my blazer looks rumpled because I left it in a ball on the couch all night. Being a grownup sucks. That is what makes us feel old. It is just that we are older than we want to be. We miss that brief period where you can do the things you want to do but don’t have stupid grownup responsibilities.

    • Guest

      Well, whatever.

    • Tir_na_noir

      wow I know what you mean. My roomates 19 and I’m only 3 years older but I still feel old as hell.

  • Bridget

    Please get over yourself. I’m 24 and feel young and vibrant every day!

    • IAmABear

      Of course you do. You’re only 25.

      • IAmABear

        that awkward moment when my typo ruins the joke …

      • WhoLetDaDogsOut

        haha yea especially on here, you can’t delete your posts and re-do.

  • ariel

    I’m about to turn 24, I don’t feel old. Sometimes I feel old, for example I am now too old for college house parties. But then I remind myself I’m in my 20s and it’s okay again. I moved out when I was 18 and pay my bills and work. I’ve got loans to pay back, but who doesn’t? Many of my friends feel old and I think they are silly.  Sometimes being around them makes me feel like I should feel like I am old. Maybe I don’t party as hard as I did a couple years back but there’s more to life and youth than going out.

    Put some don’t worry about it sauce on it.

  • Kim

    I’m 23 and I love my age!! I’m young enough to do whatever the fuck I want, go wherever I want, no strings attached, no one else to consider in the equation. No grimaces made when I tell people I’m single, I don’t feel the pressure of my college LTR (though I do kinda miss being loved). I’m young enough to not have it all figured out yet, to avoid judgment when I tell people I live in Africa and don’t really like my job or think its leading me anywhere significant. But, I’m old enough to be independent, support myself, finance my whims and desires, pay off my student loans, manage serious and not so serious relationships without too much emotional damage…. life is good!

    By 25, though, the existential crisis might be approaching… I better have my future husband and successful career lined up!

    • Oldman

      haha, I’m glad you added that last little quip cause I was gonna say, there seems to me (25) to have been a big difference in the way I felt just two years ago. But you’re right. 23 is perfect. At 25 I feel some invisible mysterious whip being cracked behind me

  • http://thewrightmachine.tumblr.com Jaime Wright

    I waited in absolute terror the night before my twentieth birthday, absolutely convinced that I would turn into a pumpkin at midnight.  I didn’t.  But I did find myself in a cab driven by an 85 year old woman moving at less than 5 mph just after the clock struck.  I’m pretty sure that was the slow carriage back to the rest of my life.

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head about turning 19.  I thought I was ANCIENT.  Now, my 22-year-old self scoffs at how tiny, and immature I was.

    22 was the first year that actually felt like a step out of youth for me.  Especially because at the time, I was out of town, working on a production of my first non-college produced show.  But if you had asked me at age 17 what adult thing I would be doing at 22, it would be far from what the reality was.

    I think I imagined myself in a blazer and pencil skirt, humming around the offices of some sterile but aesthetically magnificent high-rise office with a pencil in my hair, and a million phone calls to make.  It’s funny- I have so many images of what responsibility LOOKS like, but so often it FEELS like chaos.  I think our twenties are about just that- responsibility as chaos, and hopefully, by the time we reach our thirties (or DEFINITELY by the time we reach our 40’s), it will feel more like a routine.  Though, if Liz Lemon is who I’m supposed to be looking up to, it might just be chaos for the rest of my life.  Maybe what being an adult is, is accepting that chaos will always be the norm.

  • FC

    You had to go and publish this on the day before my 27th birthday, #dark?

  • Guest

    I’m about to turn 25 and I feel young as hell.  

  • Anonymous

    I’m 23 and I can’t believe how much this post resonates with me. I wake up tired everyday and feeling like my heart’s going to fail at any moment even though my family has great genetics. Nobody’s died before 90 in my family but I still feel like death is right around the corner. Been trying to get over it. Thanks for this piece of thought.

  • dechonmustard

    I think people feel this way because there are typical happenings at these ages, but they’re  not necessarily what MUST happen. Some people outgrow the desire to drink til they vom by the time they’re 25, some people at 30, some people probably never do. 

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