A few weeks ago, I turned 24. Anyone who knows me, knows how much, in the last few years, I’ve dreaded my birthday and dreaded turning a year older. It’s definitely become a joke; me lying about my age, pretending my birthday isn’t happening, having a so-called “quarter-life crisis.” And while that’s all fun and games, I think it is rooted in something deeper.
The more I think about it, the more the word FAILURE comes to mind; more specifically my fear of it. Growing up, I was very uptight (in some ways I still am) and very set in my perfectionist ways. If things didn’t go as I envisioned them or expected them to, I would go into crisis mode. Over the years I’ve evolved, learned to let things go, loosened up a bit. What hasn’t changed much, however, are the sometimes unrealistic expectations I have for myself and the disappointment that comes when those expectations aren’t met.
Throughout my life, and to this day, when things get hard or uncertain I create images or scenarios in my head of myself in the future, near or far. In those scenarios I’m happy, worry-free and satisfied, whether that means having a fulfilling job, sharing my life with a significant other, having a puppy, hanging out with friends I haven’t met yet, etc… And while this tactic settles me in anxious times, it also discourages me when I reach that future time in my fantasies, and they haven’t come true.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m my age. I don’t know what I thought 24 would look like, or what it’s “supposed” to feel like, but sometimes I feel like I’m still a teen. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I’ve been living home for the past eight months due to the pandemic, or it's due to something I haven’t unpacked yet, but there are times that I feel weak, insecure, lost, unaccomplished and inexperienced. That’s where I feel like I’ve failed; because I’m not where I had naively expected I’d be. On top of that, there’s this weight and pressure from my surroundings. On one hand there’s the idea that is force fed to me (and everyone) that I should be going out, making memories, enjoying my early 20s, making mistakes, trying new things (pre-pandemic) and on the other, there’s the notion that I should begin settling down, buying a car, starting to establish a career, make a plan for my future and whatnot. But what if I don’t fit in either of those boxes? What if I’m just floating in between? Or even better, what if I’m floating somewhere completely different? And what if I’m chasing after something I don’t want to begin with?
I’m also trying to establish myself as a professional dancer and artist, in a field that favors young talent and flaunts it. Social media has created a saturation of videos, photos and stories of people that have accomplished so much and that, while being very inspiring, can also create a lot of self doubt. With that doubt comes the crushing feeling that I'm running out of time; or that I'm chasing something that I cannot catch up to. Nevermind the constant what ifs that flood my mind. What if I never find a job that satisfies me, what if I never get to travel, what if I never have a family of my own, what if I’m chasing after something I don’t want to begin with, what if, what if what if....
I think I just need to remind myself, that everyone’s journey is their own and no one else’s. Despite what I might imply about other people or their lives, doesn’t mean my assumptions are correct. My life doesn’t need to look like anything but what it is, and I’m discovering my journey as I live it. I recently watched Pixar’s Soul and apart from being an undeniable masterpiece, it also helped me reflect on my own expectations and fears. It was a stark reminder about life, the beauty of it and finding joy in the everyday simple things. We are obviously living in uncertain and unprecedented times, and nothing looks or feels like it used to, but as I take this time to process my thoughts and feelings, I realize that I have to practice more gratitude. I have to recognize my fears but also learn to not be fixated on them, or on a number that does not define me or anyone for that matter. So I will probably continue to joke in the years to come that I’m getting old, that the best years are behind me, while learning to recognize that in reality it does not matter. I will accomplish what I want to, and I will get that job and I’ll find my way whether that is tomorrow, or in ten years, and it is no one’s place (including mine) to judge at what point in time that happens. Though it's way easier said than done, I need to learn to trust myself, my process and my journey because perhaps I'm right where I need to be in this point in time.