It was the best of times, it was the worst of time, it was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness.
Not to quote Charles Dickens in vain, I am just using his precious words to describe a period of extreme shakiness, ambiguities and indefinite levels of self-confidence. Being in your early 20s. What a time!
Two of my closest friends are in these most glorious years of their life right now and every time I hear about their exciting adventures and unfortunate setbacks, I miss being 21!
Don’t get me wrong; life after 25 is better than I expected it to be. In fact, I’ve never been more at peace with myself.
But it’s nothing like being young and inexperienced. The thrills, the insecurities, the sudden rush of excitement, the indecisiveness and the false sense of stability.
‘Consequences’ was an unknown concept. And all you could think of were ways to escape reality.
I miss my ‘I can conquer the world’ attitude. Fresh and unfazed zest for life. Nights that were spent talking to like-minded people about taking charge of your life and making things happen for you. Watching friends fall in and out of love faster than you can get through a gooey chocolate cake. Pep talking them out of a broken heart and back to life.
Ignoring all signs of growing up and listening to ‘Chop suey’ on the repeat mode.
For me, my early twenties were full of contradictions. Like most twenty somethings, at one point I had it all. I had a plan and I knew where I was headed. The best job, great friends and a life that was a complete joy ride.
And then one day, it all came crashing down. Don’t ask me how. It just did. It always does. It’s not just an early 20s phenomenon. But this is when it is the most significant, because you have deal with it on your own. No one really helps. Honestly, no one can help. Even if they want to. You’re so far along in your evolution process, that they can’t play catch up.
You drift away from your friends. On various pretexts. Most of these are pure crap. Deep down you know you are just isolating yourself, because they remind you of how good your life was and what it’s not anymore. It’s never about them. It’s all about what you had and what you’ve lost.
But moving away from these people helps. Extreme desperation pushes you out of your comfort zone. Now, you’re truly alone. And guess what, you survive. Cause, you’ve just spent two horrible years in a haunted house infested with rats, bats, centipedes and honeybees. And you’ve made it to the other side, without so much as a physical scratch. Although, let’s not get in to the emotional aspects of this phase, you’re pretty damaged on that front and you know you’re beyond repair. But you’re fine. And you can walk. Soon, you’ll be up and about your business.
What else? You meet new people. You make safer relationships. Relationships that don’t consume you. People that don’t hold you back. You no longer feel the need to explain yourself to irrelevant parties. You can hold your fort and well. Your concepts of space are stronger. Better.
You are no longer chasing a wild dream. You don’t see yourself covering the greatest story in the history of journalism or winning the Pulitzer. Rather, you see yourself chalking out your way towards these goals. Slowly. One step at a time.
You no longer read autobiographies and self-help books. You’ve moved on to more solid literary readings and soaking in as much as you can. You’ve got to make a stronger point at the next constructive, intellectual conversation you have with that person who has an over inflated image of herself.
You are letting go of your grudges. You’ve made a conscious effort to recognize your mistakes and you’ve stopped blaming others for the mess your life is.
Above all, you stop planning. If my 20s have taught me anything and reinforced it time and again, is that I have to stop planning every step of my life. Because plans just don’t work. And by stop planning I also mean, not having back up. They are for the escapists.
Life is an orchestrated mess. And the sooner you accept it, the better it is.
The greatest gift of your early 20s to your late 20s is waking up each morning with the enthusiasm of a six year old and the wisdom of a 27 year old.
Sincerely, there couldn’t have been a better time to experience the ups and downs the early 20s bring. Teens have their own issues, what with sibling rivalry and all. And after 30, you’ve got all these societal pressures you’ve got to concentrate on ignoring. Early 20s is when you have the strength to survive. Late 20s is when you write about it!
-Inspired by two of the most interesting 20 somethings I know.