Young people tend to be underestimated. Even those of us who are in our early 20s. We’re often considered “too young” to get married, have children, make spontaneous trips to other countries, define our sexualities and genders, or step away from the norm in any way.
At the same time, so much pressure is put on us. We are expected to know which career we want to do for the rest of our lives, finish college, have a ten year plan, pay bills, have a steady source of income, have a healthy (and yet pregnancy-free/marriage-free relationship.)
To be honest, we’re expected to do a hell of a lot of planning, but we’re not actually expected to DO much. We are expected, at all costs, to stay within the lines and have a totally predictable future (as if such a thing exists).
In a culture that puts youth on a pedistal, people in their early 20s seem to be seen as these shiny new beings who have not yet been “tied down.” People look at us and seem to project onto us “what could have been” for their own lives.
Like a broken record, we are asked, “so what do you plan to do with your degree?” I think in most cases, people are just trying to make conversation. But it’s a harmful question that is entirely self-indulgent. People want to put us in boxes and they want our futures to be predictable. And I wonder, why? My Career path does not affect your life in any way.
For those of us who dare to pursue less conventional paths in the arts, or if we work toward being self-starters in any way, a common response to this is, “That’s great! You’ve got to do it while you’re young.” People say this with good intentions, but again, it’s harmful.
We celebrate the achievements of young people in the media and on TV shows (which is totally rad, because you’re never too young to pursue a dream.) But people seem to forget that, in most cases, you are also never too old.
When people say I need to pursue my dreams “while I’m young,” I find it rediculous. But perhaps it makes people feel better about themselves for not writing that book or for not making that album or not learning that new skill. They can tell themselves it’s ok if they don’t do it because they are no longer young.
I’m glad that I’m no longer a recent college grad. I’m glad people ask me less and less, “what are you going to do?” Because we all know how life works. We grow, we change our fucking minds. We reinvent ourselves and live our truths.
Our 20s is not always an easy time. There’s pressure and uncertainty, but there’s also new beginnings and so much room to love yourself and others. We don’t have to conform and we don’t need a ten year plan.
I personally achieve more when I let go and trust. A stranger might not like it if I don’t tell them my “ten year plan.” Well, they don’t have to like it. It’s not their life. It’s mine.