Monday, January 23, 2012

Being 23 is hard

Commence scoffs from everyone over the age of 35. And you know what, when I'm 35, I will scoff too. In 10-15 years when I read this blog post (not unlike when I found the diary I wrote at 14 and laughed until I cried) I will think "Shannon, you were an idiot and you needed to chill out," but this is young me telling old me to SHUT IT.

Because when I do look back, I will remember life events, and I will undoubtedly have experienced more hardship than I have thus far, but I will also have forgotten how hard life feels when you're 23. The problem with looking back is you forget that at 23, or at 14, you had no other frame of reference to compare life to besides the past...a past that feels far easier than the present. I spend so much time trying to be strong and toughing it out, but man, being in your 20's is emotionally exhausting.

I cannot recall ever feeling so utterly lost. It's different than being in a haze of grief. You know there's no road map to it, but the one reprieve you're given by the world is the fact that you are, in fact, grieving. But feeling lost when things are basically fine? In our society, that's inexcusable. You have to man up, get over it, and be a human being.

For the past, I dunno, 4 months, I've spent a lot of time learning about generations and reading about mine in particular. Most of what I've read has been relatively supportive of the mess us 20 somethings are sorting through. College loans exceeding income, why sex is the new standard of romance, technology teaching us instant but fleeting satisfaction, etc. All of these articles explain what we're living through, and they explain that it's not really our fault. Some of the articles are essays a lot like this, that speak from my point of view and for the most part, get my life pretty spot on. A few are critical, but as I am from the generation of exorbitant self-confidence, I don't pay those much mind. ;)

But they don't really help. Sure, it's nice to know that whatever affliction I seem to have, I'm not the only one cursed by it. That my quest for lasting happiness is not a new-found idea, and that I'm not on an untraveled path in my pursuit of it. I'm not alone in feeling mediocre. But that doesn't change the fact that I had expectations for my life, and by not meeting them, I feel like a failure. SO. MUCH.

When you're young your life is laid out simply for you. You go to school, you go to college, you work, you get married, you have kids, you work more, you have grandkids, you retire, and then...well, we all know how it ends.

But what you fail to realize is that these things don't always happen in the order you expect them to, the order that you were told they were...and that there is a heck of a lot more time in between the things at the back end of that list than at the front. Which leaves you with a lot of TIME. But no one really tells you how you're supposed to fill that time.

I'm 23, which means that I am broke. Always. I get ahead and suddenly I have to get new brakes on my car and bam. Broke again. So it's not like I have a lot of resources to occupy my time. So mostly I feel like I'm just waiting. Waiting for the next life milestone. And I'm not the type of person usually content to wait. I am a product of my generation...I'm used to instant happiness. So the fact that I'm still just waiting for happiness to "happen" to me is beyond frustrating.

There have been times that I have decided I will create my own happiness, rather than just waiting for it to happen to me. That's a gamble usually; sometimes it works, and other times it crashes and burns. Sometimes I wonder if I actually gain much by running from the waiting or if it's really just way of filling the time. Sometimes I find activities to distract myself. But the uncertainty that is life as a 23 year old is not something you can escape forever, and at the end of the day, that uncertainty is all you can think about.

They say you need to live for the journey and not for the destination. But what if you don't even KNOW your destination? How are you even supposed to attempt a journey when you don't know where you want to go?

So we wander aimlessly. Because we're expected to do SOMETHING in the meantime. And whether or not we admit it, that's what we're all doing. Even once we reach those milestones; when we get that job, or when we meet that Mr. Right, we continue to trudge along until we figure out our purpose. College was hard, but at least there was a goal and an end in sight. This is unmarked territory. This is the point where most of us are left to decide completely on our own what it is that's going to make us happy...and I think for most of us...we have no idea. No EARTHLY idea. So we either wait until we do, or we keep leaping until we finally land on happiness island.

I wish the end of this blog was Shannon's magical answer. Her well-crafted, thoughtful, poignant conclusion. How we can all combat the 20-something blues. But if I had the answer, I don't think this post would even exist. I am just as confused and lonely as the rest of my generation. For a Class A certified, self-proclaimed know-it-all, I don't have the answers. And that scares me. I won't accept the attempts at answers from my peers, and I won't accept the seemingly unrelatable answers from my elders. So what am I left with?

Not much. But I am left with my brain, my heart, and my future. One day, maybe as my 35 year old self looks back and reads this for fun, I'll eventually realize that a brain, a heart and a future? That's more than enough.

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