As a ten-year-old, I thought that life would be pretty simple once you hit your twenties. You graduate from school, and then college, and maybe get your master’s, and then you work.
You work at your first job for the experience, maybe stick with the second one a little longer, and finally work at the company of your dreams until you decide to retire. Right?
Turns out it isn’t really as easy as one, two, three.
When I completed my undergrad, I looked around me and saw that all my friends had found their paths pretty quickly. Some were working in their dream job already, some had their own startups, and a few were pursuing graduate school. I, on the other hand, felt as messed up as a Rubik’s Cube. How was I supposed to sort this all out? I spent nights and weeks wondering.
I thought that there must certainly be something wrong with me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the only one who couldn’t seem to get my act together.
Time went by, years went by actually, years of trying the this and the that which I grew up thinking I should be doing, but the wind kept calling me elsewhere and I always followed. Even when it was painful, even when it was confusing, even when it felt like it would lead me to a dead end, I followed.
Hippie culture, some of them called it. She believes in strange things now, wears her hair a funny way, she doesn’t take that extra half hour in the morning to make sure she looks presentable. Sure, some of it was true, but it wasn’t hippie culture, it was what you call being in your twenties.
It has been three years now, and every day another friend who I thought had found their path tells me that they are now more lost than ever. So, I thought to myself the other day, maybe they didn’t get there before I did, I got here first and now here they come.
I then realized that your twenties, especially the earlier half, is about un-learning a lot of things we grew up learning. That belief you could never let go of? You let go of it. That religion you could never date? You date it. That city you thought was appalling? You fall in love with it. It is a time you have lived enough to realize that you have not lived at all, a time you know enough to know that you know nothing and never may, a time you set out to really find out what it is that needs to be done in this life, and are brave enough to break down every last brick that you allowed to define who you are, if it means you get to rebuild it, and this time by yourself.
As time went by, I began to see my own self-doubt and uncertainty mirrored in the eyes of so many other twenty-somethings, as they squirmed in their seats when faced with the question “What do you do?” – the answer being an awkward “I am not doing anything right now.”
And if you are one of the lucky ones who seems to be doing something half decent, there is always the “Are you happy?” question that follows. You can’t blame people really, because more people in their twenties are lost and unhappy than you would imagine.
But as twenty-somethings, we have found comfort in each other’s company because we know so well that it is a time when we learn to let go of judgement, mostly because you understand what it feels like to be looked down upon. Even so, your kindness and compassion can’t find a way to become all-encompassing. Its boundaries only stretch as far as your experiences, maybe a few steps more.
It is an age we realize how large the world is, and how each place we visit changes us a little bit. We all want to take off and travel, and few of us can afford to. But we know that there are things out there, people out there who are meant to be a part of our journey and who we need to meet. John Greene pretty much summed up the tagline of most of us twenty-somethings when he wrote, “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been and people I’ve never met.”
While we hop, skip, and – let’s be honest – crawl through our days, realizing that the word ‘learn’ never made more sense than it does right now, we find inspiration lurking in places we never imagined, in an old Akon song, in a pathetic chick flick, in a strong mug of coffee, in blinding pain. And we grow a little. Every day we grow a little.
Then there comes a day, mine is mostly at a year’s end, when you pause and place together all your learnings and understand what that whole life-is-the-greatest-teacher-ish saying meant. And one day, as you wake up and decide to try on another day of this insanity that is your twenties, you stumble upon dreams. The ones you forgot. The ones you let go of when the world made you tell yourself who to be.
In the wake of our dreams coming true, we hear the voice of a trumpet call to help those who are still stumbling, and we try to be their North Star, taking ever so many blows ourselves before we realize that everyone’s journey is different. When placing ourselves in another’s shoes, we learn that everyone is not us, and their feet would feel different in that pair of methiyadis. Being a guide does not mean telling anyone where to go, but inspiring others by your walk.
Most of us are broken really, and we only realize how much as we stumble into our twenties. But you can’t fix someone up in a month, this isn’t a movie. It takes time, lots and lots of time, years. But if you stay by them and encourage them to fix themselves, there is nothing more rewarding. We learn patience and we learn to forgive those who never asked our forgiveness.
We learn to be. And we learn to keep going.