I turned 25 last year. That age feels like such a hard dividing line – adult in a way that I haven’t felt the pressure of before. I’m no longer in my early 20s. When I was a teenager, imagining my life, I had so many ideas of who I’d be by the time I turned 20, by the time I graduated college, by the time I turned 25. To turn 30 felt unimaginable, so far off, so distant. I couldn’t even speculate on what it would be like. But I’d be something. I’d have achieved something. 30 feels a lot closer now.
Being 25, I don’t feel like the magic and carefree and accomplished person I dreamed of being at age 15. I suppose it’s because I’ve always been imagining “adulthood” as a sort of reality that I’m not so sure exists anymore, one where I’m confident all the time, and always dress well instead of wearing sweatpants all the time. One where I feel present and engaged and not trapped, and I love my work and have everything figured out. There’s a sort of transition that you have to make, a certain coming of age, in your early twenties (at least that’s when it happened for me) where you begin to realize how very much we are defined by our output and our productivity and our money-making potential. Somehow, as a 15-year-old, it didn’t fully occur to me that “artist” wasn’t a career you could have right away. I never thought about the struggle. Or rather, I thought about struggling with creating, but never about struggling to make it through another day at the office so I could make my student loan payment. Sometimes these days, I look at the careers of artists, artists who I admired as a teen, and I just think: well how wonderful that you experimented with the color blue for seven years, but how were you eating? How were you paying rent? Did you not feel the constant weight of your financial obligations and the expectations of those around you and the need to be financially stable and independent and never ask anyone for favors?
At 25, life has started to feel like a ticking clock. How much longer can I spend chasing artistic dreams, and can I handle working in an office my whole life if they don’t work out? And how is everyone else doing so goddamn well? How are they publishing so much and paying rent and paying for their health insurance and doing it all so easily? I’m sure offline things aren’t as rosy as they appear, but it’s difficult to keep perspective. I just feel so overwhelmed lately with obligations. Like if I make a choice that’s not responsible, some unimaginable horror might occur. If I leave this job too quickly, then will I look flaky? Will I ever be able to get another one? If I pick this career path, will I always live on an unstable income? If I fail, will I live in my father’s house forever, and will other people look down on me for it? But also, that simultaneous and opposite terror that my time for making bold and irresponsible moves is running out and if I keep making responsible boring choices, I will wall myself in with them. I will spend the rest of my life occupied with making quota and coming home exhausted and putting off writing because it was just such a long day at the office.
So much of what I want feels so at odds. I’ve come to a point in my life where decisions need to be made, decisions that might lead me down wildly different paths, to places I can’t imagine yet. I guess that means I’m still growing up.