I’m nearly 6 months into what has been one of the most confusing/exciting/lonely/fun rotations around the sun. I turned 22 this year, and I’m still struggling to grasp what this means.
Everyone prepares you for 21. Your friends will buy you too many rounds of shots on your birthday and spend the rest of the year re-learning how to handle your alcohol. If you’re in college, you’re probably in your last year. They’ll tell you this is a very sad thing, and you have to treat every weekend like it’s your last one alive or you’re doing things incredibly wrong. If you went to college you’re probably looking for your first apartment during which you must prepare yourself to re-enter society as an upstanding citizen even though you spent the past four years acting like an animal with no morals or regard for rules. Oh, and you’ll also have to find a job. Maybe it’ll be one that you hate. You won’t want to spend much time looking, and you’ll constantly be stressed about it. 21 is a year of celebrations, changes, excitement, an entrance into adulthood in many ways.
But what is 22!? I know nobody likes you at 23 and 21 is a year for drinking but what the hell are you supposed to do between everyone hating you and too much alcohol?
There’s a lot that no one tells you about post-grad, because I think it’s difficult to articulate. And a lot of the emotions I felt immediately following graduation were ones I felt like I owned because no one talked about them. I once assumed moving from high school to college was the biggest transition I’d face as a young adult. Post-college you’re established, I felt. Four years of college had molded you into someone half decent with more of a clue of what’s going on in the world. As a college freshman, I ignorantly saw the second semester seniors as adults. They’d mastered the delicate art of which lipstick matches which occasion, they’d lost the bloated and blemished appearance of an underclassmen who drinks more than they eat. They had jobs lined up, internships in their back pocket, a stable future. Basically, they had their sh*t together, it seemed. They were confident, prepared, happy.
I’ve long since lost the freshman fifteen I gained from too much jungle juice and eating bagels for every meal because everything else was inedible, but I far from have my sh*t together. I have no idea how to match lipstick to the occasion (seriously someone please help me with this). I don’t know what’s going on in the world. In a lot of ways I feel like the 18 year old stepping into my tiny freshman dorm I would share with another person for the next year, taking my first college courses and realizing I actually had to study to do well at my school, waiting in a line in a sweaty suite to get into an even more sweaty frat party. I am in an equally new position now, blindly navigating through a world without an instruction manual, trying out new things to see what works and what doesn’t. Except this time my world isn’t confined to a square mile of campus grounds and there’s no orientation. It’s just me by myself.
Don’t get me wrong – independence is a great thing. I love being able to go to the grocery store and swipe my credit card and not worry about what I sacrificed by adding Kombucha to my cart last second. I like being able to claim nights as my own. There aren’t any papers due or tests to study for. I could go to yoga or order takeout or lay on my bed and do absolutely nothing for hours. I’m in a stage where I don’t answer to anyone but myself. It’s liberating, but it’s lonesome. That’s something no one tells you. Sometimes independence equates to loneliness, or perhaps they’re two ends of a spectrum, equal but opposite energy that balance one another out – I haven’t figured that out either. Everyone’s able to lament the freedom of college, constantly being surrounded by people your age, going through the exact same things you are. It’s comfortable to be in a place like that, and being comfortable is easy.
Being on your own is not easy. I’m forced to make decisions that are my own every day. Whether that means waiting until my gas light comes on to fill up my gas or filling up my tank when I pass a station or signing up for a yoga workshop. I have the power to make big and small decisions every day. Maybe 22 is about learning which decisions are the right ones.
I’m getting better at this whole “adult thrust into the real word thing” but there is no guide, the advice for surviving your 20’s is inconsistent but often comes out something along the lines of “no one knows what they’re doing.” So I’m just going to take it day by day and worry about the future when I get there. What else is a 22 year old supposed to do?