what it means to be twenty-two

In each new day, new life forms. For my case, my life began twenty-two years ago yesterday. I don’t ever plan much special celebration; it’s basically just another twenty-four hours of existence. Whether people remember or not (which I secretly hope they do even though I really don’t tell anybody) won’t make or break things.

If Taylor Swift sang all about it, it MUST be good, right? Obviously it’s just another day on the calendar, and I don’t magically feel like a full-fledged adult overnight. My mind feels ancient, but I’m technically quite young. It’s probably why I don’t give much thought to a birthday. I’m in a perpetual state of existence, constantly evolving. My self-growth is not defined by candles on a cake.

And yet the age, my twenties, has a lot of baggage with it. Lots of people in many different places, doing many different things. Some have already started families. Some are engaged to be married. Some are pursuing post-graduate degrees. If they have the resources, some are backpacking around the world. Even those in the workforce, they’re on their way to making a life for themselves.

At twenty-two, you’re past the haze of drunken fun. It’s like an unspoken rite of passage: you’re an adult, and this is the real deal. But what does that even mean? How do I confidently move forward in this year, taking full advantage of this opportunity? Here’s what I think it means to be twenty-two.

under pressure

There’s so much unknown ahead I cannot even fathom; a sense of excitement and insecurity rage in my psyche. Expectations I weigh on my own shoulders, to live out this decade with simultaneous spontaneity and professional/personal establishment. Basically, if you aren’t doing something…then you’re nothing. Or you at least feel like you’re falling behind.

As we speak, I’m in the middle of job hunting. What a joy that is (sarcasm heavily implied). It’s quite the tedious process, full of form-filling and rejection-receiving. Although I’m still teaching in American Samoa for another five months, I already feel this looming pressure to have the next step in place. To me, it feels like a security blanket; a reassurance that whatever happens next won’t feel like a giant question mark.

Productivity equals success which equals worth. If we agree of not, it’s how this world operates. There’s an assumed timeline of work, marriage, family, all within these allotted years. You need to have it figured out. You shouldn’t be living at home with your parents anymore. If you don’t have a clear career path in mind, then that’s a problem. Labels start creeping up in your mind: lazy, unfocused, confused, inadequate, lost…this list goes on.

Simply put, you’re wasting precious time. The clock is ticking away. There are places to go, people to see and meet, things to do. Go and do something with your life.

but…what is that something?

Here’s the problem: if everyone’s off exploring, creating, developing…you cannot help but wonder how you stack up. The age of social media only perpetuates this ongoing anxiety. You’re fighting your butt off trying to get your foot in the door, and it feels like everyone else is already inside. Probably throwing a shindig without you, too. They’ll post about it online later.

Even as you’re trying to find your way, the road to get there is treacherous. Applying for positions that all require some number of years of experience? Without offering the first chance to do so? Quite the confidence booster. And when you land a gig, will it even be enough to cover the costs of simply living comfortably in a capitalistic world of inflation?

The questions begin to pile up. The self-doubt is overwhelming. If you’re like me, you really don’t even know where to start. All you want is to feel confident and validated where you are, the effort you’re mustering every day. You want some kind of sign to smack you in the face as a reminder that yes, you’re okay. Yes, you’re where you should be. Yes, all you’re doing or are trying to do matters. It’ll be worth it.

here’s your sign.

Guess what: we’re not all living in a fairytale, or a TV drama, or an Instagram feed. Most people don’t have a clear path laid out for them, a yellow brick road they’re skipping down. You likely won’t see it, but everyone at some point has doubts. A quarter-life crisis, if you will. We all have a morning (or many) where we wake up completely terrified about life as we know it.

If everyone was meant for the same purpose, then there would be zero variance in careers, relationships, any life choices. It’d be like we all came out of a copy machine. One person’s situation, the chapter they’re on in their unique life story, could be a hundred pages off where you’re at. That’s okay.

Everything works out as it should. That’s the beauty of God, the universe, science, whatever you believe. There’s something greater than our smidgen of existence. The details you’re worried about right now are microscopic compared to the magnitude of your and our impacts. You’ve figured things out this far; that streak won’t be breaking anytime soon.

And even if it does feel like you’re in a pit of despair, lost without a compass, a blob of cells just taking up space…this too shall pass. Maybe not tomorrow, or next month, or next year, but there is a rebirth in your midst. We are more resilient than we realize. A phoenix is just another bird unless it rises from the ashes.

Failure and hopelessness do not define you. Regardless of your age, 20 or 120, struggle is a testimony of strength. Sure, it’d be nice to not worry about your next meal or next job or next step…but if it all came easily, then we’d never fully appreciate the blessed outcome. We can look at the future, a concept not promised to any of us, through many lenses: cower in fear of the unknown, or rejoice in the possibilities that could await, much greater than a mere human could plan.

You’re in your twenties. There’s so much in store. What will come, will come. What’s meant for you, will be. Do your best every day. Find the good. Cherish the love surrounding you. Get off your phone. Work hard. Accept change. Learn new things. Don’t stress too much.

And, as always… Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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