Every Mistake You Make In Your 20s Has Consequences

“I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it.” — “Goodbye To All That” by Joan Didion

Your worst fear is suddenly realizing that it all counted for something. Your mistakes did have consequences. The people you dated and quickly disposed of all added up to something; they all kept you away from really figuring out how to really love someone else. “There are so many other fishes in the sea,” you tell yourself. “I can keep dating nobodies until I find a somebody. I’m young, My heart can take it.”

Time moves slowly until it doesn’t, until all of a sudden you realize that it’s been years since you’ve had something real and you’re moving farther and farther away from where you want to be. Are you becoming damaged goods? Are you becoming someone you would’ve pitied five years ago? Tick tock, tick tock.

People think nothing matters and nothing sticks when you’re young. You’re entitled to spend your weekends hungover in bed and watching the television. You’re entitled to spend your Sunday drifting from one place to the next in a sleep-like state. You’re still a baby. You don’t need to be awake yet.

When I first moved to New York, I was 21. This was almost five years ago, a time when my face looked thinner and I could still spend my days with people who didn’t make a whole lot of sense and who I didn’t even really like. My energy was high and I would go to anything I was invited to. A house party in Sunset Park that’s being thrown by some lesbian in my Gender Studies class? Be there in five, babe! Sneaking into a random rooftop party? I’m game! Today I have trouble showing up to my own friends’ birthday parties.

You are a cliche. Things will change without your permission and you will find yourself becoming someone you promised yourself you would never be. The quicker you come to terms with this, the sooner you can move on and learn to be comfortable in your new skin.

Sometimes I feel like an asshole for thinking that I can’t relate to people who are 21, 22, or 23. I’m a week shy of my 26th birthday. I’m not ancient. But I think of who I was at 21, 22, and 23, and I think of a stranger. I think of someone who dated men he knew he would never care about but did it anyway out of fear, out of some bizarre obligation to experience different types of lovers. I hurt people because I didn’t want to sleep alone, because I would’ve rather been with someone I had no feelings for than no one at all. I thought none of these men mattered but, in fact, they did. In a way, they matter now more than ever.

I think of someone who puked in a bucket on his 23rd birthday. I think of someone whose ups and downs were so severe, he learned to never trust his feelings. I think of someone who had more friends than he knew what to do with and never imagined it ever being any other way. I think of someone who never imagined anything to be different or to ever change.

This past year, I’ve realized that the mistakes have added up. I’m paying for everything now. Life has come to collect and I’ve been charged major interest. This is okay. This is fine. This is life. Just another thing to figure out and deal with to the best of your ability.

I do miss it though. I miss not knowing that it all matters. I miss thinking that nothing would ever stick and I had no limit on the mistakes that I could make. The naïveté may have been secretly hurting me in the long run but damn it if it didn’t feel good at the time.TC Mark

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