A simple description of being 20-something could be divided into two categories.
There are those that are using their 20’s as a trial run, no pressure, no expectation, no commitment or responsibility. They are taking full advantage of the excuse that ‘they are only young’ still learning, still growing, making mistakes left right and centre with no guilt or a care in the world.
Then there are the success seekers. The podcast listeners, the self help readers, the time- line militants. They have a desire to have it ‘all figured out’ by the age of 30. They have deadlines on life events; a ‘proper’ job by 24, a house by 27, marriage, baby, golden carriage. These 20 somethings create their own pressure cooker and falling short of those deadlines only makes it hotter.
I’m sure that you can guess what category I fall in to.
Billy Joel wrote ‘Vienna’ about a moment he shared with his estranged father; they were walking along a cobbled street in the Austrian city when Joel noticed an elderly lady sweeping the street. He turned to his father and said: ‘That poor lady, working at her age’. To which his Dad replied: ‘Why? She has a purpose, a life. It probably makes her feel useful.’
‘Vienna’: a place where purpose still infiltrates your day and life is not lost just because youth is a fond memory. We have a tendancy, as the 20 somethings that are in a rush, to view life as short. A valid and favorable reminder to seize the day, to take risks and to live without regret. But, in the haste of ambition are we at a risk of kicking off before we even get half way through?
What if life is long? What if we zoom out rather than zoom in? Allow ourselves time to experiment, to fail, to not have all of the answers and to view our 20’s as a marathon, not a sprint. ‘Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about? You’d better cool it off before you burn it out!’ In the quest for money, security, success, love, happiness, fulfilment, knowledge we seem to be forgetting that Vienna waits for all of us.
‘You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need’: so busy focusing on what we want to achieve, that the present moment can get lost in an ‘end goal’. Where’s the self development in that? This constant bombardment of knowledge and advice through Instagram captions and wellness podcasts can be undoubtedly insightful but, there can be ramifications. It’s overwhelming to feel like we have to have it all figured out, to compare ourselves to the timeline crafted somewhere in the societal atmosphere and to those around us. ‘Slow down you crazy child, take your phone off the hook and disappear for a while.’
Ignorance is not always bliss, but perhaps there is joy to be found in the unknown. Answers discovered to questions not yet known. I for one, can get carried away with the idea of progression; be it personal or professional, unwilling to accept that my decsions have not been perfect or my actions desirable. I forget that I am 23, taking on the persona of an age old monk who should know better. But alas, I don no robes and I do not know better. I am a 23 year old, often self-centred, occasionally hungover and always confused young woman with a tendency to pretend that I have my shit together. I do not, of course I don’t!
‘Slow down you crazy child, you’re so ambitious for a juvenile. Well if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?’
If we had all of the answers then we wouldn’t be scared of failure or aware of our own disappointments. Of course ambition is a gorgeous trait, but immense pressure isn’t always a breathable state. In zooming out and perceiving a life span beyond the timeline you have assigned for yourself, suddenly there’s room to breathe. Room to fall and time to get back up. The pigeon hole is opening! Can you feel it? Loosen that collar, take your foot off the accelerator and look out the window; you’re missing the fucking view!
‘You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride but, don’t you know that only fools are satisfied. Dream on and don’t imagine it will all come true.’
Ain’t that the fucking truth! Just writing this down I feel like I can breathe again. Free of all of those ties to things that may or may not happen and do but also don’t matter! Never stop dreaming, setting affirmations and wistfully looking into the future but stop expecting it all to come true. Attaching yourself to those figures: that salary at this age, the wedding with this person, the house with this many bedrooms, these things don’t yet exist so perhaps fixating on them is foolish.
Allow yourself the time to reach Vienna. Know that life is delicate and precious but, also understand that life will not pass you by if you allow yourself to live it. Breathe it all in, every up and every down. It’s easier said than done of course and ‘though you can see when you’re wrong, you can’t always see when you’re right’. Celebrate the little things. Someday’ s that can be just getting up in the morning. Other days that might be achieving a lifelong goal. Both are valuable, both are living.
Feel secure in the image of an old lady sweeping the cobbled streets in Vienna, still with purpose, still full of hope and life. Whose timeline are you living to? Why not make it your own, one that is carved as you move through the twists and turns and the uncontrollable gusts of wind.
You can afford to lose a day or two because Vienna waits for you. x
“It was an observation that you have your whole life to live. A lot of people in their 20s think they have to get it all together by their 30s and they kill themselves trying to get the golden ring. You have an entire life to live. The lyrics, ‘slow down you crazy child’ – in other words, you have a whole life. We tend to put older people away, and it’s all about young people. Well, wait a minute, why do I have this whole lifespan? What’s the point of it? Some people will get there sooner, and some people will get there later. Slow down, you’re going to be fine. No matter what you do, be good at it, and whenever you get there, you get there.”‘ Billy Joel.