An Open Letter to Mid-20-Somethings
Things seem a little different these days. It’s as if we are slowly but surely moving along a scale of continuity, where we’ve moved on from having absolutely no fucking idea what tickles us. We know now what we like to do, but we’re starting to wonder if we can make a living doing yoga on beaches, drinking coco bongos, talking to strangers and then writing about it all.
It seems like we have a lot to prove. The pressure of impressing others weighs heavily, because at this age, success seems to equate to how many people we know, how many countries we have visited, a promising career path, an Instagram feed portraying exotic locations and beautiful people. We feel we have to make our mark on this world, but there’s a wide gaping space between where we are now and where we think we probably should be, or where it would appear everyone else is. Other people have jobs and houses and partners, whereas all we physically have to show for the last few years is a passport full of stamps and some bodily scars. Everything else, we carry on the inside.
We are still a strange hybrid between adult and child, enticed by the security of by being gainfully employed and going home to a family and a cupboard full of herbs and spices. But we also just want to go home to Mother for a night and sleep in a single bed, be brought cups of tea and forget the big wide scary world of responsibility and “making an impact” that lurks outside. We haven’t yet realised that all of these things that externally represent security are just a facade – something that could crumble at any moment, and that we should just enjoy being young, wild and free. Untethered.
All of us are remarkably selfish, in the sense that 90 per cent of our decisions are based on our own desires and intentions, and we sometimes forget that there’s a world outside of our bubble of obsessions, of worries, of goals, of wants. We are the centre of our own universes, and surely that will never change?
Our parents are becoming more and more human to us. We are learning that they have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s both a relief and a terrifying thing – the people we always believed to be invincible and completely “on purpose” have also been 25 once, and experienced all these very same things, and made mistakes and fumbled through life with ups and downs and tears and triumphs. They created us and it was just a thing that they did as humans, and something we will probably do as well, and they didn’t know what they were doing and we won’t either, and that is just the way it is.
Feelings of empathy for elderly people and small children are starting to overwhelm us, because we see ourselves in both. We were kids not long ago, yet old age seems increasingly inevitable as each year ticks past. Though we recognise it as a gift, it doesn’t stop it from feeling scary, like our life has taken on a momentum of its own, and we couldn’t stop it if we tried.
We’re still finding our groove in this world. Internally, we argue with ourselves, unsure of which voice we should be listening to. We start to feel we fit into a certain category, then we question and overanalyse that choice of lifestyle, for we tend to over-identify with the opinions and experiences of other people who live very different lives. The process of gathering opinions and experiences of our own is still underway, so we tend to be more malleable to those of the people we spend the most time with. Soon, we will hold our own, but we will probably learn to do so the hard way.
Perhaps we have fallen in love with the idea of a person as a reflection of the kind of human we would like to become. Perhaps we have experienced heart-aching, time-halting love that takes us out of ourselves and into someone else. Or maybe we haven’t, and are curious about how that would feel, but also terrified, because we know how fickle our own emotions are, let alone someone else’s. Love is something we fear for its evasiveness, its inevitability and its unpredictability. We don’t know ourselves when we’re in love, and that’s scary, because we barely know ourselves as it is.
Either way, we are learning to feel everything in its entirety, safe in the knowledge that this too, shall pass.
Equally, we enjoy big nights in and big nights out, and we seem to ride a wave that ebbs and flows between partying hard and kissing strangers to curling up in a blanket and drinking peppermint tea, retiring to bed at 10pm. We are conscious of eating healthily and keeping ourselves fit, aware that we can’t rely on a youthful glow as our primary source of beauty in the long run, so we practice yoga and eat our greens most of the time. We still go wild, but then we focus. Unravel, then bring it all back to centre. Shake up the snow globe, then let it re-settle in a slightly different formation at the bottom. Still all here, but constantly evolving, moving, changing shape in subtle ways.
Most significantly, in our mid-20s, we think we’re alone in all of this. That life is happening to us most intensely, above anybody else.
Or maybe that’s just me?
Love, a fellow 25-year-old
Cover by Sam Manns