I woke up on my 23rd birthday last week feeling a conglomeration of things: relief of not having to be 22 anymore, sorrow at no longer being able to identify with Taylor Swift’s party anthem, and excitement for another set of 365 days to fill with memories.
I’ll be honest – I hated 22. It was a confusing time, with so many things ending and others simultaneously beginning. I’m not prone to change, and the last year was overflowing with it. A new age means another opportunity to live life to the fullest. But as I looked around my apartment, I wondered exactly what that meant. What was I striving toward? What is my next goal/milestone? What else is there for me to achieve?
Remember when we were young and we couldn’t wait to get older? When you were 9 just waiting to get to double-digits; or at 12 desperately waiting for 13, because then you were really part of the “cool” crowd. Or at 14 waiting for your driver’s permit, 15 for your driver’s license, and 16 for a big house party (that’s wasn’t on par with your fantasy – thanks a lot MTV). 18 for going to college, 21 for finally being able to say to a cop “Yes this drink in my hand is legal,” and 22 for leaving college to enter the real world.
All through our younger years we’re waiting on the next milestone. There’s always something new coming up, something to look forward to or achieve. Once you’ve passed age 22, the obligatory milestones of life kind of stall out. Sure, there’s other big milestones to hit (if you haven’t already): getting engaged, getting married, buying your first house, having your first child…there’s plenty of things to look forward to. The problem is, they’re not set in stone.
I have friends getting married at 21 and friends getting married at 30. Children being born to 23 year old couples and couples just cresting their 30’s who are finally considering the option. The milestones are totally dependent on your life, your situation, your financial standing; nothing is set in stone. We’re adults floating around in a kind of milestone wasteland, waiting for the next one to occur. Some people space them out over ten years, and some people I know have hit the big ones in less than 4.
For life’s “freer” spirits, not knowing when the next big event will happen is exciting. But, if you’re classic Type A (like me,) it can be wildly frustrating. I had a 10-year plan at 18 that, in my mind, was rock solid. (I thought my life was so together then.) I would be engaged at 24, married at 25, traveling the world with my husband until our first kid at age 29 in our brand new house. Sounds great, right? As I hit 23 last week, I realized my young adult dreams couldn’t be farther from the truth. To be engaged at 24, I would need to be in a serious relationship starting tomorrow, on a high speed path towards “forever” and all the milestones that follow (HA). It’s definitely not going to happen – my 10-year plan is essentially worthless, and I’m strangely okay with that.
23-year-old Sarah has a new plan: let life happen. Don’t try to plan it out or control it, just let the chips fall where they may. Do I like not knowing what’s going to happen next in my life? No. I’m definitely an organizer (as evidenced above,) and it’s scary to not have a plan or something I’m waiting on. But am I grateful for the opportunity? Absolutely.