20 Qs on 20s: Question 1, on issues in general
This is a series of interviews with friends between 20 and 29 years of age. The aim of this series is not to capture anyone’s individual identity, but rather to glimpse the bigger picture beyond of what it’s kinda, generally like to be a “twentysomething” these days. I’m attempting a word-based pointillism.
Question 1: What’s an issue you have seen or are experiencing that seems particular to your 20s? (Or, at least, you really hope so.)
For me it’s been the process of realizing that “being an adult” does not mean you know what you’re doing or where you’re going or what your life should look like. It’s the moment when Dorothy peeks behind the curtain only to discover that the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is actually just this scrawny, pathetic man from Kansas. Go figure. It’s surprising to see how very human the people you once saw as Flawless, All-Knowing Adults actually are. I mean, it makes sense, but it’s still surprising – especially when you realize that you are now supposed to be one of those Flawless, All-Knowing Adults – except that you’re not and no one ever was and you were just a child. And now you’re not. Welcome to adulthood. (It’s an adjustment…)
I think there’s also this immense pressure to “arrive” somewhere in your twenties. Or to at least be heading Somewhere – Wherever or Whatever Somewhere happens to be. Especially after having gone to a university like Stanford (but, I think, just in general too). There’s this saying – it’s about the journey, not about the destination. Which (rather annoyingly) makes all the sense in the world, except that in your twenties it does not feel that way. At all. It feels like you have exactly one decade to accomplish all the Big Stuff. To get the hell to all of the destinations NOW. And, I think, as a woman it can be especially hard. Graduate from college, find the right guy, figure out your career, maybe keep studying…And if you want the whole “traditional family thing” (you know, with a house and a white picket fence perhaps), maybe get married, maybe have your first kid – ideally before 35 (you know, so that if you want a second one you can space them out)…And so, yeah, I think there’s a lot of pressure and expectations in your twenties, but I suppose it’s some consolation to know that everyone is just trying to figure it out. It’s (unexpectedly) messy and it’s not linear. It’s organic and frustrating and there’s no script and no obviously right answer. And (maybe) it’ll be OK.
(I am 25, married, and living in the (south) Bay Area, California. I’ve been in the South Bay since 2008 when I came out to Stanford for my undergrad. Before then I did middle and high school in the Deep South (a place I’m pretty sure should require a passport to go to), and before that I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. I was born in San Antonio, and I am Mexican-American. I am currently “exploring” and learning to be okay with that.)
The first book without illustrations I remember reading from cover to cover is Ghost Camp, part of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. It wasn’t a memorable book since I can’t quite recall the plot – though the title and cover are very obvious: it involved a camp… with ghosts – , but it must have been fascinating to my eight-year-old self because I remember myself turning page after page, lying in the old couch that took most of the living room in my aunt’s rest house in McAllen, Texas (aka, the Town Where Nothing Happens Once You Get Your Holiday Shopping Done). My sister was outside, swimming, my mom was probably cooking, my dad dozing off while the TV was on, and I was inside a creation of Stine’s mind: someone else’s world within my own world, available to me through pieces of paper.
Ghost Camp made me feel I was in two places at once, but I never truly acknowledged this sensation or where it was coming from. Only until very recently, nearly a hundred books and twenty years later, I have realized how powerful books are in this way. The words in them are doors into other people’s thoughts, and, as my Dad says, “every mind is a planet of its own”. The planets I’ve visited since – from classics that were forced upon me by my middle-school teachers, to award-winning authors I picked up at the bookstore and the ones friends have shared with me as gifts or recommendations, to mediocre articles I’ve encountered in magazines from my hairdresser’s waiting room – have become a part of my own cartography, my map collection from which I make up my own space in this world. My identity, if one must label it. I’m almost twenty-eight years old, and after more than a decade of yes, reading, but also of stumbling in the dark, hands stretched out and heart slit open, trying to find such a place, I can finally say I’m there. And I know this feeling is shared among my fellow twenty-somethings, particularly those of us who are closer to the dreaded 30s. However it is we find our placemats in life’s big, wonderful, buffet table, doing so before we are thirty makes us, I believe, bolder, stronger, empowered. And, as I learned from being in Archimedes’ own planet, give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.
(27 year-old Mexican insert in Brooklyn’s South Slope. I’ve loved books, coffee and apples all my life, whiskey ever since I sipped it, and zoning out amongst crowds since I moved to New York.)
Being in your twenties means being lost. After you thought it can’t get any worse during the teenage times when everything seemed to go down the drain one day and then the world was as good as it gets the day after, the twenties suddenly get serious with questions and decisions that have an impact on the rest of your life, and that can mean being lost sometimes, especially if you’ve already seen a lot of the world during the last twenty-some years.
Even though it can be a little intimidating at times, it is also definitely a wonderful feeling. I personally loved being lost until now in my twenties, and continue to enjoy it, even though it seems to get less and less the less time as a twentysomething is left. Being lost means being free, and free to be spontaneous, adventurous, trying things and learning as much as never before in one’s life.
So to all the fellow twentysomethings: Don’t be afraid to be lost, embrace it, live it, love it. And let’s not lose our ability to be lost at times, even after being twentysomething.
(Originally from Germany in the Dortmund area and currently live in beautiful Barcelona with my girlfriend Melina from Argentina.)
With 27, I feel I am already quite close to the end of my twenties, which is kind of frightening, because I certainly do not feel like that. I think I still haven’t achieved anything, despite that age. People have told me that this way of thinking is not supportive, but I can’t help to feel this way, while being on job hunt for several months now after graduating from my double master’s programme and being constantly rejected due to inexperience. I think this is one way to depict our generation: always wanting more, never being satisfied. I know my own perspective is always forward-directed, while living in the moment and appreciating the current state has never being easy for me. There have been moments of pure fulfilment and satisfaction, though. Like at the beginning of this year. I can still remember that time when I was purely happy with my life at that time: I had the job I wanted, I lived in the city I wanted and I had the people around me I wanted. Everything seemed perfect. But this moment slipped away pretty quickly and ever since I am wondering how this moment of happiness could vanish so easily and how it could be recreated. Life seems to be built of milestones that you are striving for. May it be the master’s degree, the first job, the ideal partner. But when one goal is accomplished the next one is already rising at the horizon. I feel it is a never ending struggle and right now I am just tired of this success-oriented pathway. Sometimes I do think it would be so much easier if I would neglect the ideas of a perfect job, a perfect partner, a perfect life and just start to live in the moment here and now. I have some friends who honestly say they don’t want a career, they just want to live their life right now without thinking of tomorrow. One of them is yoga teacher. Sometimes I also dream of opening my own massage and spa treatment center, but then I realise even this is just another goal.
(27-year-old German with professional and academic experience in the field of media and communications and passion for exploring foreign cultures.)
I believe that a key issue in our twenties is that of relationships, specifically romantic relationships. Whether it be that we are in a romantic relationship, about to be in one, or are contemplating about being in one, I think it’s something that we do think about/encounter. So what is it about this topic that makes it so popular? Why do people want to be in a relationship? Why is it that in our twenties it becomes something that people talk about and think about?
Let’s face it, whether we are wanting to be pursued, which has been attributed to the female gender, or wanting to conquer, which has been linked to the male gender–we all want to feel loved, valued, and appreciated. But not just in a family or friend-like sense, rather in a deeper, romantic sense that stirs up our emotions, and even our body’s physiology. The fact that someone would choose to voluntarily want to spend time with us, get to know us, and be associated with us, to the extent of possibly even marrying us, is something that would naturally be desirable to us human beings.
I don’t think it is bad to desire to be loved in that way, not at all, but I think we need to be cautious of the fact that it can really become a selfish pursuit, and one that could hurt others, if we are not clear about our motivations. If we want to be in a relationship, is it because we are currently not feeling loved by those around us? Are we simply trying to avoid feeling lonely? I think we can get easily carried away by our emotions, and sometimes not see that if we were to be in a romantic relationship we would be doing so to almost place that person as our god, as our emotional provider, our sole cheerleader. I don’t think that any human can be that for someone–a forever strong and selfless soul that pours out love. I strongly believe that we must first rely on God–the source of love–and then seek out to love others. If we find someone who can help us love others along the way, and can also care for us, but not solely depend on us or have us depend on them, then that would be ideal.
(I am a 25-year-old female currently in Medical School in Virginia. I was born and raised in Lima, Peru and came to the U.S. for college. I’m also a follower of Christ and some of my favorite hobbies are: baking pies, cooking, swimming, exploring nature and salsa dancing!)
The series is neither random nor representative. Interviewees may or may not know each other. Interviewees have been asked to participate based on my knowledge of their honesty with themselves, their openness with others, and my prediction that they’ll produce a varied range of responses… and probably the fact that we’ve broached the topic together already. Thank you to these ladies and gentlemen, many of whom you’ll likely be hearing from again.