I remember when I turned twenty and it felt like the end of my life. I was convinced that it was the herald of adulthood, the end of all fun, the start of getting serious and being expected to know where you were going in life because you were no longer in your teens you had officially entered your twenties and that was where grown ups lived. It didn’t take me long to figure out that very few grown ups actually reside in that time period, specifically between the ages of twenty to twenty-four. Not much had changed except for the number and as I slowly made my way through my early twenties, approaching mid-twenties with every passing day, I began to realize something very important: adulthood was more than just a number.
Perhaps it is shameful to admit (except I hardly think so since I don’t believe I’m the only one) but I really did believe that being grown up was something that came to you with your birthday, like a present wrapped in a shiny bow that you only had to open and it would spring from the box, wash itself over you, and voila – adult! After many false starts, bumps, setbacks, and a few triumphs, I realized that being an adult was not something that was just given to you – you had to work for it. It wasn’t a glamorous thing to work towards, by any means, but some goals are not spectacular. Some goals you need to achieve in order to get on with the more fantastic things.
As of today I am twenty-five, officially in the middle of that decade of everything: tumult, discovery, passion, depression, achievements, failures, finding yourself, losing yourself, and hope. In the past five years I have not only learned that maturing is a choice, not an automatic reaction to the days passing, but that the things I was so worried about when I turned twenty needn’t worry me at all. There is a truth out there that many parents and teachers would rather I didn’t share but, at risk of disappointing them, I’m going to let you all know now: you have absolutely no obligation to figure out what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
The rest of your life is a long fucking time. And we’re no longer in the days of working for a company for thirty years and leaving with a pretty pension. Brand loyalty hardly exists and neither does employer loyalty. You may be loyal to a craft, have a passion that drives you, and that could very well be what you will do for the rest of your life but please don’t fret if it’s not what pays your bills. If you’re lucky one day it might but if you’re not at least you have something to ease your mind when you come home from the thing that does.
I feel more confident now that I’m twenty-five. I am even, as opposite as this is going to sound, more confident in recognizing and wearing my insecurities proudly. I know the skills I lack and the things I would like to improve. I know where I fall short. These things may not make me proud but they certainly don’t make me hate myself. If anything they make me who I am and they allow those other parts of me, the ones not bred in insecurity, to shine even brighter.
And I love who I am. I could not have said that when I was twenty. At least not truthfully.
I may not be my twenty year old self’s definition of “fun” anymore – the idea of heading out for mini jug night every Saturday makes me want to curl up under the covers and fall asleep until everyone forgets they invited me. Now I go out every once in awhile for drinks, for dinner, for tea, and it’s a special occasion. It’s nice to see the people I’m sitting there with. And we can talk about all sorts of things of all sorts of maturity levels and it is wonderful. I have learned to choose my friends wisely and not worry about insulting people if I don’t invite them out.
I have learned that being honest is the best way to feel satisfied.
I feel completely calm about where my life is at right now. I don’t make enough money and I don’t have all the physical things I would like, this is true. But it always works out and there are some things that are worth much more than my bank account balance. I have some incredible people in my life. I have fulfilled lifelong dreams in the past year that I never thought would come true. This morning, Fred Penner called me to sing Happy Birthday to me thanks to my lovely boyfriend. And I cried. I cried out of happiness and I feel, at times, that I could cry out of happiness every day for everything I have been given.
I may not have figured out what I’m meant to do for work for the rest of my life but, as I’ve said, that’s not what you really need – what you need to figure out for the rest of your life is what is going to make you happy, what is going to make you fulfilled, what is going to make you come home at the end of the worst day and say, “But thank goodness I have this.”
I have never felt better than I do at this very moment. And I have so many people to thank for that.
Here’s to the next quarter century.