Turning 25

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little uneasy. I broke up with my girlfriend of over a year, the pain feels more dull, but at times still overcomes me like a wave. I’ve been contemplating a career change just shy of my quarter life crisis. I’ve been trying to change my own life.

I have been feeling the societal and internal pressure to be achievement-driven, not necessarily to be somebody or be someone, but to have ‘things’ to point to at a later point in life: titles, wealth, physical objects, that at least I ‘achieved’ something during my earlier years. I feel that pressure encroaching upon me as I inch towards 25, this milestone age when we are all supposed to figure it all out, or start panicking because we haven’t.
I have been listening to Atul Gwande’s audiobook ‘Being Moral’. It is a book about the failings of how the medical community approach aging and death, but in doing so, teaches you much more about our reaction to aging and death. One of the things that the author mentioned is that our desires are very acutely shaped by our estimation of our remaining time. And maybe 25 is special because it’s a half of the productive years we think we have left.

And to be honest, I have not been trying to fight it, the desire to be achievement-driven. I know I have more than many people dream for, but am greedy for more. It seems like that I will have to try until I have to accept what I have. Along with that, I also have been fighting the world less, somewhat deciding to be a participant in the status quo. This seems to be in response to having some ‘things’ and seeing a clear way to get more ‘things’ in the current state of society. One is the most afraid of change when one has the most to lose. In the current prevailing societal narrative of a free market though, it seems that money provides one with the most options. We have become blind to the origin and source of money.

I’ve learnt however that ‘achievements’ are not easy. In the ever fragmenting world of specialization, one needs to be an expert to be someone and get something. And mastery takes time, practice and relentless effort. As much as it is about deciding to do it, I seem to be still answering the same questions of ‘what is that I want to do’ question. Life is a never ending struggle of deciding what to pay attention to. Determining opportunity cost, saying no, I find, is one of the questions that I, as a person with no strong sense of mission or passion, have the most trouble with.

But another useful way to phrase this as my friend John puts it is, ‘What pain do you want?’. Everyone wants everything, but nothing worth doing is easy, so what pain do you want? Truth be told, I think I do care a lot about what other people think about me, at least that they will like me. A deeper discussion of that requires another dark night, but I think that is at the core of desiring these validations. I do think though that makes me more of a people pleaser than someone who coverts real validations. I know that it is an unhealthy way of living, but for now, seems to be sufficient.
Aside: At times, when the sun has set, I still find myself to be a person who wants to write, although not as much as I used to and want to. Writing, I find, unlike dialogue, is monologue. True good conversation is about building rapport and a human connection, and often that is at the expense of expressing deeper darker desires. For the sake of good conversation, you learn when to shut up and listen. But when I write, I don’t have to stop myself. I can just spit and breath it all out, until I am just a little lighter from the lifted emotions.

Post-edit: It sounds pessimistic to read after the fact. A little fatigue definitely accompanies this post, but this is not a constant state of being, just a lament. And I do want to encourage myself somewhat to be bold and to pursue something to believe in.


2 thoughts on “Turning 25

  1. Growing old seems to be realizing that no one has really got all their shit figured out, but some people just put on a better pretense than others.

    But that is really just to say that there’s nothing wrong with you being a little meta and a little down and a little pessimistic here. I like that you’re acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, because really, acknowledgment is the first step to any sort of reconciliation in the future (if you’d like to reconcile your goals and feelings and such).

    We’re always in process, always “being”. That means that we’re never perfect and will never get our shit sorted out completely, because there’s always more to do, more to learn, a better person to be, and a world to save. It might be obvious as fuck, but the parallel here can be drawn to achievements and validations. The bars are endlessly raised, and at one point, maybe ten fifteen years later, you might ask yourself what are you doing this all for?
    –As long as you know a part of it is for you, yourself. Make a part of it about you.
    I hope you’ll find joy in what you’re doing.

  2. A couple of observations:

    First, I can sympathize with caring way too much about whether people like me or not. I really really wish it didn’t matter so much to me. It’s only gotten slightly better over time.

    Second: Historically, I’ve felt most compelled to write when I felt like I had so many thoughts or feelings or experiences cutting through my consciousness that I simply couldn’t do anything else until I purged some of them. It’s been an almost physical reaction: My brain can’t handle what it’s trying to process, and so it tells me to start vomiting words up onto the page until the immediate danger is gone.

    Third: I’m feeling a quarter-life crisis. It alternates between being no big deal, and being utterly terrifying. I’m waiting to hear back from PhD programs right now, and I periodically think that I have absolutely no interest in doing a PhD program.

    Fourth: I’m sorry to hear about your girlfriend. That sounds really painful. I don’t have any soothing words or anything. I just wanted to say that it sucks. I don’t mean to suggest that this is an equivalent experience, but there was a woman I was dating for a couple of months, who broke up with me, and when she did, I was just sort of incapacitated for a week or so. I just couldn’t take my mind off of her, and I would start to work or cook or something and stop after five minutes because I would start grieving again. I felt so helpless. It was awful. And then I guess it sort of became less and less frequent over time, and then I eventually stopped thinking about her almost at all. Which is typical, I know. But before I experienced it myself, I simply didn’t believe it would be as bad I’d heard it would be. And it was every bit as bad, if not worse, only because it seemed so stupid to be so utterly unable to simply think about anything else. So I guess in conclusion: I’m sorry for your loss. I’m confident you’ll eventually be okay. It will still suck. If you ever want to talk, give me a call or something. It’s been too long.

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