What is it about this age that seems so overwhelmingly scary? I thought it was just me who noticed that the closer I was to this age, the more anxiety I started to feel. But after having many conversations with friends and hearing others on social media, I realised that actually, quite a few people felt this way too.
I’m sure we are all aware we are still so young, but what is it that just makes us feel so far behind at this age?
When I was younger I always assumed that, by now, I would be married, have a kid or two with a pet, and a house bought with the money from my (very successful) career – which I think a lot of us did! It’s good to dream. I’m happy that I am not married and I’m child-free, but the career side of things always felt a bit more personal for me. I always liked the idea of hearing someone say, ‘wow, you have that job and you’re only 21’. Now, at 23, I feel like certain things are more expected from me and have less wow factor.
My friends and I have conversations about how we are so shocked that some of us will be turning 25 this year, as we haven’t had time to process anything past our 21st birthdays. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘where did the time go?’
I asked a few of my friends why they felt anxious about the number 23 and two gave very valid reasons, one being that she didn’t feel like she had experienced her early 20’s due to covid and the other saying that the two years in lockdown made her realise she was getting older and needed to get her life together.
The constant use of social media during the lockdown and seeing how others were spending their time by bettering themselves through fitness & wellness, to building businesses, had a big part to play on a lot of our anxieties of feeling like we should be doing more exciting things, especially seeing people younger than you achieve so much; things that you’re not even close to achieving. As much as I separate my story from others and believe we are all on our own paths, it’s hard to not start wondering if I – we – were doing something wrong.
But why do we tell ourselves that achievements can only be celebrated based on the age we achieve them by? A friend of mine mentioned how her moving to a different city sounded more plausible at 21, rather than her now at 23, when something great like that should be exciting at any age! I still understood exactly what she meant. I had a hard time accepting that if I decided to go to university at 19 when I was considering it, I’d be finishing up at around 23. Now I’m 23 with no degree or social experience, all because of the pressure I was putting on myself by assuming I should be doing more at this time in my life.
This is why I want to say that if you are putting something off due to how old you are or how old you’ll be by the time you achieve it, it’s a waste of mental space. You will always be older, but you won’t always have the experience or achievement in the future if you don’t change your mindset.
As I’m saying this to you, I am also saying this to myself. Aspiration shouldn’t have an age limit and shouldn’t put you off going after the things you enjoy. So, I hope in the future we can begin to go easier on ourselves with some more compassion, there is no rule book to this life thing, our timeline is simply ours to write.