Lately, several conversations with friends in my age range (mid-late twenties) have revolved around the topic of this developmental “limbo” we’re in.
We just feel so… old.
Yet we recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, we're still so very young.
Face to face with the real shit in life – holding down a stable job, filing taxes, maintaining our health, fostering a promising relationship (organically, which is hard because it requires the drowning out of the increasingly loud ticking of our biological clocks), and trying (this gets more frustrating with each passing day) trying not to get fat as fuck cuz our metabolisms are like “Yo, I’m tired" – while feeling, at the core, unready (and quite frankly, too lazy) to actually “grow up.”
The things we know we need to do... feel at war with the things we want.
We still feel like children at heart.
As Britney Spears would say, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.”
Bitch I FEEL U.
I avoided those “adulting” responsibilities for a long time.
K fine – I thought I was exempt from having to deal with them.
My short-sightedness could be to blame. I chased the immediate gratification of fulfilling my wants, while seeing any possible long-term reward only as a sacrifice in the present – and not an investment for the future.
Basically, I spent all 4 years of college dancing because it was fun. And having fun was enough of a reason to direct all my time and money toward it. I trudged through my expensive UC education just to get a degree I knew I wouldn't use and never much thought about planting seeds for my career.
I gave my heart to guys I knew I had no future with. Which, to be fair, is totally fine if this is you and you're dating just to date. But I, the hopeless romantic who always dreamed of finding The Love Of Her Life, settled for The Loves Of Right Now.
I wrote and wrote and wrote because I loved it, got several jobs writing, then when the writing started to feel like work, I quit. How could I compromise my passion like that???
Yep, it was all rainbows and butterflies, no responsibilities or ramifications. Designing this Neverland was my antidote, my blatant denial of a reality I didn't want to admit I lived in.
Because giving in to the demands of the world would mean that I lose me. My spirit. My inner child.
So I defended her.
"I'm a free spirit! I do what I want."
Last year, my sister gave me this reality check:
“Being a free spirit doesn't excuse you from growing up or thinking about others’ feelings.”
Since then, I’ve noticed how guilty I am of acting rashly, impulsively, insensitively – often at the expense of others – and excusing it as “just how I am.”
Perhaps it is "how I am,” but it is definitely not how I’d like to be.
While it’s fun to prance around and give no fucks, that lifestyle is certainly not sustainable.
That lifestyle cannot foster relationships, pay the bills, stay healthy, or pursue goals.
It forces you to confront crises, tragedies, and emergencies big and small with no idea how to navigate the situation because you never prepared for them.
Yet another narrative of a Millennial blaming the world for her lack of practical skills...
Well, not really.
Growing pains are not specific to our generation.
But with mine, I feel like I am playing catch-up to my peers, because instead of recognizing my weaknesses and trying to gear up for the real world...
My Peter-Pan mentality convinced me that, if I traded in my time to do more "adulty" things, my ability to see the world with curiosity, creativity, and wonderful appreciation would be in jeopardy.
Perhaps my naiveté compounded the situation, but we are too often told that cynicism is an unavoidable side effect of growing up. We witness ways that society will kill your inner child and rob you of the inherent joy and wonder that makes life worth living...
Getting older, working full time, settling down with a partner = no more funs.
Growing up means that we give up everything we want
for the things that we need in life.
A lot of needs have become my wants.
And it doesn't feel like sacrifice.
I work (this is also because I work for a start-up) virtually non-stop. I spend several nights a week visiting my mom’s house, typing away while she watches Korean dramas. I stopped checking Snapchat to see the ratchetry my friends are up to on Friday nights; I got money to make.
I went from being the most anti-relationship cynic, giving up on love and chasing watered-down affirmation from guys who barely know me, to being in a committed relationship with someone I Love with a capital mutha fuckin' L. Being with him feels both like having a middle school crush and a 50 year marriage at the same time.
I spend less time making excruciating small-talk and more time nurturing friendships with people in whom I'm genuinely interested, whom I care for, who I know reciprocate my love and support.
I don't do anything begrudgingly. I still do what I want.
And what I want, now, is to take care of myself and the people around me.
I will always aim to preserve my free spirit.
Without it, I'd have no words to write, no love to give, and a much less thorough idea of who I am.
But I’m also evolving to be more mindful. More present. More responsible, productive, efficient, and empathetic. Finances, changing a tire, a serious relationship – these aren't things I can master over night, but they are things I can work on.
And working on them doesn't feel like I'm losing myself.
I actually kinda like it. And I still feel like myself.
My sister was definitely right. Being free-spirited does not excuse you from life.
But you also don't have to lose that part of you.
You can be disciplined yet spontaneous,
pragmatic yet hopeful.
If I could give my early-20's self advice, it'd be this:
Don't be afraid to grow up.
Because even as an adult,
You can still do what you want, kid.
(In fact, check out my meme page where I am more extra than ever. F4F?)