Reading the headline above probably causes you as the reader to roll your eyes and comment, “wow, what an interesting opinion. I bet no one has ever thought of that before!” I agree. The opinion of your 20s being a challenging time is not particularly life-changing or profound. But it is real. As an opinion editor for the last two semesters, I have found that the best writing comes from what you know.
So, drawing from what I know, recently I have been going through a quarter life crisis. This is particularly annoying because unlike my adolescent years, I am actually relatively happy and fulfilled in my 20s. I am genuinely passionate about my major. I have a loving family. And I have friends that genuinely care about me. So, to admit that my 20s have led me to an existential crisis almost seems ungrateful.
My mother was told by her uncle during her early 20s that these years were her make or break years. What she did now would set the blueprint for the rest of her life. My mom passed this advice down to my sister and me.
My sister followed the straightforward path of graduating at 21, going to grad school at 22, and getting married at 23.
As for me, at 20, I went on an exchange program here and then transferred. I decided to do a double major, and graduate later than I was supposed to, so I could figure out what I want to do next. At 21, I am mentally as far away from a stable relationship as humanly possible, and I have just recently begun to pick up life skills like cooking, laundry, or balancing my finances.
This is not to put myself down though. I love the fact that my life isn’t a straight-line path because the world is my oyster. I am fitting in puzzle pieces with no idea how the puzzle will turn out.
But for this very reason, the 20s are uncertain. No one knows for sure what they are going to end up doing, who they are going to surround themselves with, and where they are going to end up.
My happy moments here are always tainted by the realization at the back of my mind that I have no idea what’s next.
Am I going to graduate school or getting a job? Will I get to make it here or will I have to move back home? Will my friendships last or are they momentary?
Will I ever be able to get over my expectations and the need to clearly define my personal bubble to finally be ready to be open to people? And the most important question: do I and will I even make a difference in the lives of the people around me? Whoops, beats me.
I often get called a princess because of my sheltered upbringing and my eccentric ways. While I secretly enjoy the fond nickname, it also triggers a mild sense of annoyance. I spent the last two years breaking the mold of everything I was used to, forcing myself to do things out of my comfort zone because I did not want to be limited to one label. I want to matter, and more importantly I want what I do in these years to matter.
Some words gave me respite from this constant cycle of worries. In my ethics class, my professor said something that stuck with me. She said, “You should always remember that there is something inside you that is matters than you.” That’s when it clicked.
Wanting your 20s to work out exactly like your tailor-made plan is a little narcissistic. We as individuals think we are way more important than we actually are. The truth is we are all part of a random, chaotic universe where our plans can crumble in a second, without warning.
What should actually matter is our larger connection to humanity. What we should aim for in our twenties is to make a difference in the world while we are young, energetic and brave. To speak up for what we believe in, regardless of peer pressure. To stand up for the underdog. And to ultimately trust the process of our individual journey.
I grew up loving fairy tales and romantic comedies because they always gave me hope that things would work out in the end. I thought that’s what I loved most about them. The happy ending. But in the 20s, everything seemed to be a race towards this happy ending.
So I decided to step back and reassess my love for these stories. Was everything I grew up believing a fanciful lie? Were all my idealistic dreams pointless since a happy ending is never guaranteed? The answer I finally arrived at was, in reality, my favorite part about fairy tales and rom-coms was everything in between: the laughter, the tears, the witty banter, the friendships made along the way. The happy ending was just the cherry on top!
To all my fellow 20 somethings, I can’t promise you a happy ending. What I can promise you is that regardless of where you are going to end up, if you aim to positively impact the people around you and are passionate about what you love and who you love, the rest will eventually fall into place!