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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Another year around the sun. Goodbye, lowly 21, and hello, bright, symmetrical 22.

Of course, my birthday was just another day, with the exception of some balloons and presents. But it’s not really just another day, is it? Certainly not just another year.

I remember listening to Taylor Swift’s “22” in elementary school, imagining the day when I, too, could sing that song and actually mean it. But I don’t think I can.

Unlike Swift, I’m not partying or enjoying — I’m just here. Stressing, wondering, and lost. Though I guess she goes over those feelings, too, doesn’t she?

I’m about to be free, but I’m confused and lonely at the same time. Magical, not so much, but the strained misery certainly prevails.

Like many around my age, I’m finishing my undergraduate degree (what…) and will be leaving school for good. I’ve been anticipating this day for years. I’m excited to leave exams and discussion boards in my dust, but at the same time, school is all I’ve ever known. 

I complain about the workload and mind-melting, three-hour-long lectures during the semester, but during the summer, I become bored out of my mind without work to do. Now, it’s not just a break for a few months but forever.

What on earth am I supposed to do on my own? School provided guidelines, certain expectations, and an agenda. Now, everything is wide open. Life is wide open.

Or is it?

I thought a person’s 20s were supposed to be exciting, adventurous, and new. Perhaps now that school is gearing towards an end, that’s what it’ll be. But how can I pursue adventure without any money? How can I pursue anything if everything requires experience and expenses? How can I start if everyone expects me to have already started?

And money… how am I supposed to buy my “gothic-cottagecore” dream house — or even a basic apartment — in this economy? Am I just supposed to lower my standards and settle on whatever I can get? Are dreams just too expensive now? Have we all settled on basic survival and foregone the excitement and joy that’s meant to accompany being alive?

Man, I’m getting dizzy.

Just two years ago, I wrote a similar article about my fears of turning 20. Now, two years later, those very same fears persist, only the realities are much closer than they were then. After four years of work — and years more before that — I’ll finally get my bachelor’s degree. Now, it’s up to me to figure out how I’m going to use it.

Life is coming at me way too fast. I’ve been longing for the end of my university career so I can sit around and enjoy some free time: catch up on reading, write a little bit, discover some new hobbies, and maybe even travel. Instead, it’s out of the frying pan and into the raging fire.

And, let me tell you: I am already burnt.

It’s time to look for a job — painstakingly (so I’ve heard). Time to get married (so they tell me, over and over again). Time to have kids and struggle as I try to balance a career and motherhood.

Oh, God. How on earth did I get here? I don’t even want any of this.

Want. Dreams, desire. These are all supposed to come to life during this age. But what if I don’t want anything I’m supposed to want? What if I don’t even know what I want?

These expectations are pretty heavy, aren’t they? I can never tell if they’re motivating me or weighing me down, sails or anchors.

I want to explore those vast seas; I really do. But the harbour is so much safer. What if I get lost? What if I sink? Would any of my efforts be worth it if I sailed ahead but crashed before I even found any treasure? Then again, I’ve remained in this harbour all my life; there’s nothing left for me here. If I stay, there’s a zero percent chance of finding anything at all.

Moving on is scary — of course, it is. But it’s the scariest things that hold the most weight, and that’s how we know they’re the most important. Life spent in one place is boring and repetitive, and I’m sick of being bored. It’s time to break the cycle.

As much as I’d like to forfeit the responsibility to anyone other than myself, I can’t rely on the world to grant me solace, adventure, or any of the things I want. No, it’s up to me to find and make these things for myself. 

This year is somewhat of a rebirth: I am entering a new era, one that I will have to learn to traverse on my own. My legs may be unsteady at first, and my eyes may need time to adjust, but I will eventually make my way forward. Moving slowly is moving nonetheless.

Lack of direction can be exciting, can’t it? I’m in charge of my own life now. This is when I learn what I want and what I need. Time to discover what my passions are and how I can use them to provide for myself. Time to (slowly) find and build my dream home and my future, brick by brick.

Is there a word for an anxiety so terrifying it’s practically thrilling? Adrenaline?

That seems about right.

I hope that anyone else around my age who’s feeling the weight of the future finds some solace in knowing you’re not alone. The best we can do is trudge forward and hope that, at 25 or 30, or maybe even later, we will have a clearer view of our path forward — if even just a little bit. If not, that’s all right. Life is discovery, and that itself is an adventure, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

So long, safe harbour. You’ve kept me long enough. Time to see how far my sails can take me.

🎂 Related: Entering my Terrifying Twenties
Sariya Adnan

Toronto MU '24

Sariya Adnan is currently an English student at TMU. She's been writing her whole life and hopes to use words to create a positive impact on others and the world around her.