Being 20-something is exactly what it sounds like. Its being something, without knowing exactly what that something is. Sometimes you feel its all figured out before it all unravels and you’re back to square one. Here’s my learnings so far about being a 20-something … something.
Am I an adult?
Who knows? Apparently everybody has a different version of being an adult. Legally, you’re an adult when you turn 18. Personally, I don’t believe anyone ever reaches the false image of adulthood that is engraved in our minds as children. The idea of adults made us feel secure, because we’re taught as kids that your teachers, your parents, your relatives know better than you, for you. It made us believe that the number of years they have on us made them wiser and near perfection. The idea of an adult screwing up almost never existed because adults never made or admitted their mistakes in front of us and even if they did, we ourselves didn’t know any better. But now that we’re nearing their stage, I would like to call massive bullshit. Even if a 13/14 year old comes to me for advice, my 10 year headstart on them does not seem much. But I apply the same tactics as the great ones before me, make the person believe that my 10 year headstart gives me insights and knowledge that they don’t possess, making my advice the holy grail. Because now i’m the adult. Only I know that i’m faking it till make it.
What does it mean to be ‘settled in life’?
Again, who knows? In the Indian society, being ‘settled’ means following a set path of school, college, job, marriage, kids, grandkids and death. Not really sure at which part does the ‘settle’ come into play. I place my bet on death.
In today’s world, 20-somethings are more confused than ever. Because the amount of options, and the sudden ability to chose from those options has overwhelmed many. During our childhood, the world was still different. Globalisation and the digital world had yet not married each other, and certain professions were still the dominant staple in every school, household and career counsellor discussion. But by the time we hit 20, the marriage had been conducted and its offsprings took us by a storm. Platforms such as YouTube and Instagram gave new meaning to industries that were still considered hippie and niche and were reserved for those who dared to go on the path of non main stream careers. Now being a comic creater, make up artist and the generic ‘influencer’ is the new sought after staple. Not running after the monotonous, stable and secure 9-5 desk job is the new culture. Basically, many of us are at a crossover where we have to unlearn a lot of ideas and norms to not only accept ourselves but others in this new world.
There is a new scope and moreover acceptance for self discovery. To look beyond the textbook knowledge we were taught and consumed. Calls for revolutionising the education system in different countries is evidence of how the old system that was engraved in our brains is coming under fire and there is a call to adapt to this new world. So today, being a 20 something means that the previously fixed path to a ‘settled’ life is not so settled itself.
Zig zag, u-turns, stopovers, detours is encouraged and preferred. And while the new generation will be raised around these ideas and principles from birth, we are practicing it, but with caution. Deviating from the known and taught path still gives many of us anxiety and guilt. We will still think twice before quitting a job to take time off or to switch careers. We will still feel guilty about not going for the well known money earning life and instead trying our luck as an influencer. We’ll still be slightly judgemental when someone introduces their profession as a make up artist or youtuber. There’s a lot for us to learn and unlearn from the old and new. So being ‘settled’ has no meaning for us now. We are busy creating our own unique definations for it.
The ‘Love Life’ dilemna
Some are getting married, some are getting engaged, some have stable relationships since high school and some seem to find a new love interest with every new season. All the fairytales and rom-com expectations come crashing down when we reach our 20’s. Movies shows us the idea of ‘perfect love’ in a 2 hour timeframe but forgets to mention the aftermath of it. Butterflies in stomach, dancing to ‘You Belong with Me’ by Taylor Swift, flirting through texts seems to be too cumbersome now. You look for more in your partner than just good looks, social popularity and lust. You start thinking about stability, finances, a long term future and all of a sudden all the rom coms annoy you because they potray an unattainable love story. But somewhere, you still can’t think of a serious adult-like relationship and commitment. Putting in that effort in your early 20’s especially seems overwhelming. Another crossroad.
We’re just all really confused. Our parents and grandparents tell us tales of jobs, marriage, house by 25. What they forget to mention and what we fail to realise is that with a more interconnected well, we have a world which has more options than ever before. Options in career, travel, knowledge and even to meet and connect with strangers. Options to raise and voice your opinion and find solidarity for it globally. Options to take the smallest resource possible and turn it into something big. But we were not prepared for these options. Growing up, our options were limited and well defined. Clear pathways were dictated, right from the streams you would select in school and which colleges and courses you could take based on that. To be thrust into this world of options, expected to be more aware and ‘tech savvy’ than our parents but forgetting that we were trained in a similar fashion to them. The conditioning is nearly the same, its just that we now have the option to question it and break away from it. But we’re still learning. And therefore, we shall be confused. At least, I will. For quite a while.