As the end of my degree edges closer and closer, I can feel the existential dread washing over me. What happens next? Where do I go? Who am I? The weight of nosy Indian relatives, social media and creeping closer to the big 21 feels intense on my shoulders, and I know that I’m not the only one who feels it.
Why is it that every other 20-something’s life seems so perfect? From the Kylie Jenners to the Kylies from high school, it seems that everybody is getting everything done all before they turn 25. Somehow, it feels as though I’m lagging behind. I often find myself being the double-tapper instead of the double-tapped, with each moment between 20 and 25 feeling like an hourglass that I have to accomplish everything within.
The never-ending applications for graduate schemes and job placements feel more frantic as final year edges closer. There is a need to grab whatever you can get and hold onto it tightly. Somehow it is this urgency that defines ‘success’ and grants the validation from others that we have always wanted. Now we can be just as good as that one girl from sixth form who keeps posting about how much she loves her job. You too have squeezed everything in before turning 25. You have achieved what everyone is forced to want. A false idea of success, with a false sell-by-date on its packaging. Come Graduation Day, and following your passion loses itself with the curious mind that you have to walk away from. We are thrown into an abrupt reality of ‘growing up’ that feels way too fast.
But why is it wrong to be feeling lost and unsure about your path in life? And even if it is, is that sense of certainty as real as we think?
The put-together period of your twenties feels as artificial as the Instagram filters that we see them through. There is a desperation to sell ourselves to others as something that we are not. This image that we are trying to attain does not exist for anybody. Of course, we see the wedding photos and graduation selfies, and we hear the brags of proud parents shrilling through our ears. But does this not devalue what growth actually is? Will we ever grow if we force a false impression of growth into this five year hourglass?
Behind each graduation photo on Instagram is a story of blood, sweat and tears. For some reason, this undermines the image of success that we want to sell. It feels completely ironic that this is the case, and yet we fear the world seeing the truth of our inevitably flawed late teens and twenties. When I began my degree as a shy, awkward 19-year-old, I found myself both anxious and excited, and never hesitated to express those emotions with others. I knew that great things were around the corner: I would be graduating in the course that I had always dreamed of doing, at a university I could never have imagined myself attending. Life did not feel pressurising, but felt exciting, and the honesty that everybody shared about this was what allowed us all to grow together.
Our twenties, thirties and beyond should be about that same honesty and excitement. It’s okay to not have everything figured out just yet. We are all human and growth is an ongoing process. Share your honest self with the world: be true about your struggles and emotions, so that we can dismantle the put-together period of our twenties as something that we have to achieve. We are no longer going to let our twenties suffocate us. We are going to live, and in living we are going to grow!