When you’re 21 you can feel lost. You can feel like you don’t really know who you are or what you want to do. You can feel like you’ve come so far but are nowhere near where you want to be. You can feel so small. You can feel intimidated just by walking down the street. You can feel like you still have to prove your worth to the world. You can feel completely alone.
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent contemplating these thoughts. And I always conclude with confusion. I never really come up with any answers. This is just a phase of my life, I guess. There will be a point in my life when I don’t feel these things. When I don’t get nervous sick going into a job interview. When I don’t live in an old, un-air conditioned house with four roommates and no front door. When I don’t get scared by adults. When I don’t feel like I have to justify all of my personal decisions. When I don’t have to mentally debate every purchase I ever make. At least I think that time will come. But even if it does, I’m sure every age has its difficulties and I’m doing my best to enjoy the positives that 21 brings.
And as overwhelming as these thoughts can be, I think I have more answers than I originally thought. Yes, defining myself is hard. It’s also unnecessary. But even if I don’t know exactly who I am, I know what I’m not. Have you ever noticed that that there are some, many even, types of people that we know we could never be? I’m not that confused. I know I am not going to a lawyer, law school would chew me up and spit me out. I know I would never survive in the corporate business world. I know I would never tolerate half of the relationships my friends are in, in which they claim to be ‘in love’. I know I could never reside in a place where there aren’t lots of people and lots of things happening all of the time. I know I don’t want to have the same job or live in the same place for my whole life. I know that I will never be able to perfectly parallel park. I know that I will never stop loving ice cream or cereal, even though I know they have lots of carbs. I know that I will never stop wanting to see as much of the world as I possibly can. I know that I don’t ever want to stop writing, even if I never publish the book I dream of writing. I know that I will never stop relating to my dog more than I relate to most people. I know that I will never stop requiring adequate amounts of alone time. I know that I’ll never have myself completely figured out.
I do think I’ve gotten better though. I remember when I was a freshman in college and the pressure to define yourself in a way that other people liked and understood was at an all-time high. I was in a new place. People didn’t know my high school reputation or really anything about me. It was a clean slate. How did I want to be perceived? I remember struggling a lot with this. I pretended to be having fun when I really wasn’t. I had a lot of surface-level friends that didn’t stay in my life for long. I started imitating what I was surrounded by instead of figuring out myself. I had a turn-around the summer after I completed one year at Ohio State. After many conversations with my parents in which I explained that I was simply unhappy, I decided to change my major after contemplating options as drastic as taking a year off from college. My sophomore year, things changed. And sometimes it wasn’t easy, because when college is so expensive there is a lot of pressure to know exactly what you want to do. But for one semester, I had no fucking idea. And it was so great. I enjoyed learning again. I eventually figured it out and I am so thankful for this transitional period.
And maybe 21 is just a transitional period. And I know that one day I will look back and, even if things are completely different, I will be thankful for this time.
“Do your thing. Do it unapologetically. Don’t be discouraged by criticism. You probably already know what they are going to say. Pay no mind to the fear of failure. It’s far more valuable than success. Take ownership, take chances, and have fun. And no matter what, don’t ever stop doing your thing.” – Asher Roth