I turned 22 today. Now, I haven’t been one to make an enormous deal out of my birthday, but this year, my birthday was something I downright dreaded.
When you’re a kid, your birthday was something to look forward to, as it meant having a wider variety of options opening up to you, like being allowed to watch movies or get on more exciting amusement park rides. Growing up was also considered as being another milestone, as you move up in school or finally get old old enough to start being considered a “teenager.” Hell, I still even remember the time I finally turned 18 and could ditch the fake I.D. and confidently show the bouncer my real driver’s license to get into clubs.
What happens when that stops? When each year has nothing more to give you for you to look forward to?
Your birthday turns into a countdown timer. It starts being an alarm that asks you for an update: “What have you accomplished in your X number of years of life?” When you’re like me—a 20 something unsure of what you want in life and with no concrete plans for your next steps—it’s a question that isn’t welcome at all. And yet, it’s there. It lingers. It’s there as if to tell you that the clock is ticking and to rub it in your face that you should have accomplished more at this point, or at the very least, know where you’re headed.
This made the days leading up to my birthday a gruelling experience. It made me evaluate the past 22 years of my life and look into what I wanted 22 years from now. I looked inwardly with a very unforgiving eye, criticizing my own lack of progress, telling myself I should already know what I want at this point, and making it seem like any form of success for me is already unattainable because I’ve gone past the deadline.
I listed down all the unpleasant facts of the current state of my life: I’ve gone over a year work in an industry I don’t even like or even want to stay in, I have no interest in our family business, I don’t what I want to spend my life doing, and I don’t know my next steps—except maybe stay in my current job until I figure it out.
And then, I started working timelines. By this point, I should move out of my parents’ house. At this age, I should already have travelled to this and this. All this led me to ask myself a question that changed everything: “I’m young, but why do I feel pressed for time?”
I realized how much could change in a year, and how even more could happen in 5 or 10. I mean, do the math: how different is your life from 10 years ago? There are people I never even met, skills I developed I never even knew I had, and surprises that brought me to even more surprises—all of which I’m undeniably grateful for.
Still, the life of a 20 something isn’t easy. There’s a lot to figure out in a fast-paced environment such as the one we live in. I know at one point I would have to make the decisions I’m avoiding and do necessary steps to cultivate my own growth. I also know, however, that I have the time to become who I need to be to do those things in a much better state of mind.
And with that, happy birthday to me. I’m thankful for the past 22 years, and I’m looking ahead at what 22 years will bring. No plans, no set goals, and no expectations. Life will figure it out in its own time, and it will surely mold me into who I’m meant to be when it’s time.