“So how does 25 feel?”
“Are you freaking out?”
“Did you have a meltdown?”
“Are you having an existential crisis?”
Last week, I turned 25 and people are acting like I just found out I’m terminally ill. Don’t get me wrong — I get that getting older can be hard and put a lot of pressure on us, especially approaching 30 — and I’m not immune to that. But at the same time, I think people around my age put way too much emphasis on these ultimately arbitrary numbers.
Growing up definitely sucks in some respects. The older you get, the more responsibility tends to fall on your shoulders and unless you’re spoiled rotten and/or extremely lucky, your parents are just about done bailing you out or subsidizing your choices by the time you hit 25.
You have bills, if you’re like most millennials, you have debt, and you have real, grown up concerns and problems. You have to budget. You have to get up and go to work every day. You have to subject yourself to maaajor FOMO and miss out on the trips and events that everyone and their ex boyfriend is posting on Instagram because you have adult responsibilities that have to take priority. And let’s face it, your body probably isn’t what it was in high school.
But if you’re lucky, you also have more freedom than you’ve ever had before. You don’t just have more responsibilities than you’ve ever had — but more disposable income and control over your schedule than you’ve ever had. You can travel. You can start crossing items off of your bucket list. You can start seeing and experiencing the world in ways you couldn’t before — unless you were rich and spoiled and one of those annoying kids that went somewhere for spring break every single year of college.
If you’re lucky at 25, you have a job that both challenges you and teaches you and gives you opportunities that you never imagined you’d ever have. No matter how frustrating or exhausting a day of work may be at 25, if you’re lucky, you’re light years ahead of where you were at 22 — and able to actually see the value in what you do and point to something and take pride in what you’ve accomplished. You’re able to see the hard work and sleepless nights from college and your first years postgrad actually pay off. You’re able to look back at some of your darkest moments — when you doubted yourself, your future, and your potential, and laugh.
At 25, if you’re lucky, you’re the most confident you’ve ever been. I won’t lie to you. Sometimes I walk into a room full of women taller than me, prettier than me, with nicer clothes than me, and I feel uncomfortable. I feel like a little idiot seagull fumbling its way through a room of flamingos. But there will always be someone taller than you, prettier than you, and with more money to spend on cosmetic enhancements than you. You can’t go through life letting every 5’10 trust fund baby you run into completely undermine your sense of self. Yes, she’s pretty. I might be more awkward and weird looking, but I am too. Now find the bartender and a cute boy to talk to, you know?
And speaking of cute boys, at 25, if you’re lucky, you’re in a relationship that you want to be in, or you’re alone. You’re in love with someone that’s in love with you, that inspires you, and that makes you a better person without even trying, or you have the patience and self respect to wait for someone that does. One thing I can say to my credit is that I’ve never been one to waste my time or anyone else’s. In high school, I broke up with my first boyfriend because as sweet as he was, and even though we were attracted to each other on a physical level, the chemistry just wasn’t there. I could tell my second high school boyfriend was losing interest in me, so I texted him “we can break up if you want to” and ripped it off like a band aid. Sure, I was sad about it, but I never want to be a person begging someone to be with me. I’ve seen so many people stay in relationships they didn’t want to be in because it was convenient, or because they thought it beat being single, but in the words of my preacher “the only thing that’s worse than being lonely is wishing you were.”
No matter where you are in life, at some point you will find yourself uncertain of what the future holds. You will find yourself nervous, and even afraid. I felt that at 18, getting rejected from every college I actually wanted to go to. I felt that at 23 after getting fired. And I feel that now at 25, trying to take on a work load that I honestly don’t know if I can handle. But I’m not afraid of growing up, because no matter what the future holds I’ll be having fun for the rest of my life. I’m not going to tell myself I can’t have fun with my friends any more or show off my immaculate rack or go see Tiesto on a Wednesday night because I’m trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what 25 should entail.
Sure; now that I’m 25 I can’t black out every weekend or eat like a mammoth without consequence. I have to be an adult even when I don’t feel like it, and I have to be aware of what I want out of life and the timeline I have to get it. But the best years of my life weren’t 18 through 22, and they don’t have to be yours either.