I knew I was young in my early 20s. I was the youngest person in the office when I started my first job. Even at my second and third jobs, I was one of the youngest people there. I didn’t understand the wedding conversations happening around me, and I certainly couldn’t relate to anyone having babies.
It wasn’t until I turned 24 and people started going out less and moving in with significant others that I started to feel that sense of panic to get my shit together. But whenever I made this panic known, people would laugh me. “You’re a baby,” they would say. And to many adults, I was. Only three years out of college, I was still working a relatively entry-level job and was still partying with close to zero responsibilities over the weekend. I was a reckless 20-something living paycheck to paycheck in a tiny apartment struggling to afford coffee from Starbucks. But this was okay. I was supposed to be struggling at this age. I was supposed to be going after my dreams. It was fine.
After I crossed over to what I thought was the “dark side” of my 20s (post-25), I didn’t feel like an adult baby anymore. The urge to figure out my life and settle down quick was real. After all, I was now closer to 30 than I was to 20. But when I would tell others that I thought now was my last chance to move somewhere new and that I figured I should be with the person I was going to be with forever by now, they would laugh and tell me I was still so young and to stop worrying. “You have so much time to figure everything out,” they would say.
When I turned 27, everything started to really change. It seemed like everyone around me was either engaged or married, and my friends stopped going out on a regular basis. Why is this happening, I wondered. It was only one year ago that I was being told just how young I was and how much time I had ahead of me to enjoy life, take risks, and start new. If this was true, then why was everyone around me settling down? I didn’t understand.
I tried to continue telling myself just how young I was, even after turning 28. I became obsessed with reading about other people’s life stories who didn’t find success or settle down until after 30. I figured there was still time to pursue my dreams.
However, unlike they did until I was 26, no one argued with me about the fact I wasn’t young anymore. With less than two years until 30, no one felt sorry for me and my subpar savings account. No one was encouraging me to take risks in my career. No one had sympathy for any unhappiness I had with my current situation. But how dare they! For years, these people told me to stop worrying so much and to stop panicking about getting my shit together. Instead, they told me I had all the time in the world to figure things out. So I took that time and I lived. I focused on the now and kept pushing forward. After all, I was still “so young.” Why rush when I could slowly figure shit out?
But time moved very quickly. Suddenly, eight years flew by and I went from being a wide-eyed, optimistic 21-year-old college graduate with big dreams to a boring 29-year-old adult who home decor shops for fun over the weekend still with big dreams.
My big dreams were cute when I was in my early 20s. Being “so young” meant it was okay to suffer via horrible pay to work a “dream entry-level job.” In fact, it was admired. So I ambitiously went after my dreams and figured by the time I was 30, I would be settling down somewhere to start a family after years of achieving success and getting the youth out of my system.
But as I near 30, my dreams still haven’t come true yet. Sure, I’ve climbed the career ladder. I’ve tripled my starting salary. I live in a bigger apartment in a better area. I eat at trendier restaurants. I can afford boutique fitness classes and coffee from Starbucks every day. My wardrobe is on point. But I still enjoy getting drunk and making the occasional bad decision. I still have so much left to accomplish in my career. I still have debt. I still have dreams of moving somewhere new. And this makes sense because, well, only eight years have gone by. That’s not a long time in the grand scheme of life. But because no one is telling me how young I am anymore, is it still okay to have these dreams or should I “grow up already?”
When people tell you you’re “still young,” it implies that you have a small window of time left to be young. It implies that you should be doing certain things at certain ages before your youth expires and you have to grow up. When people said this to me to help me stop panicking about getting older, it only made me panic even more. “Still young” meant I wouldn’t be young forever. It meant they believed I could only live the way I was living for a short period of time. If NOW was the time to move somewhere new and take a crazy job and date random people, would I not be able to do this stuff in the future? Would it be immature to still have big dreams?
The answer is no. Your age shouldn’t affect what you do with your life. Me being “young” or “old” does not have any impact on what I do with my career, relationships, or social life. Society shouldn’t expect anything from me because of my age. After all, age is just a number. What I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that you are as old as you feel. Ironically, I named this website in honor of that saying, not knowing that someday it would be the words I will forever live by.
So, please, my friends—let’s stop telling people how young they are. No one should delay, rush, or stop pursuing things in life based on their age. If you want to live, live. If you want to settle, settle. If you want to take a risk, take a risk. Do you and let life happen, no matter if you’re young, old, or stuck somewhere in the middle.