Twenty-five. The number hits you.
Subtly. You don’t realize it until you eventually look down and see the bruise on your body. A mark built from the last 25 years of living; an amalgamation of moments and memories, whether magical or miserable. But no matter how magical or miserable they were, the bruise is unique and belongs to you. Your past makes you.
Two simple digits – 2,5 – that when combined, amount to a quarter of a century. It makes one think, even momentarily. I have been here and there; alive for approximately 9,125 days. Some have seemed fast, some unbearably slow. And though there is no specific pattern or rhyme or reason to explain these varying perceptions of time, I can already understand what “they” say…It flies by…I can feel it.
What seems like ages ago was merely four, eight, ten, twelve years. Graduating, entering university, applying to university, not thinking about university. The numbers appear tiny on paper, some single digits, yet they feel large in the mind. So much has happened, how could it be four, eight, ten, twelve years? How…I can feel it already.
Fifteen years ago, I was learning to think, imagine, question. From a child rather unaware of myself and the vast world, to a young adult now all too aware of the world, more than I care to be most days. How things shift. I can recall sitting on the elementary floor in circles, classmates around me answering, what do you want to be when you grow up? What do you love to do? Who’s your hero? These questions were important then. Fifteen years ago.
Questions of this nature seemed to take priority in our youthful minds. They were pressed upon us on a daily basis, many a project and poster devoted to them. But the one that bore the most weight and follows me still is, what are you scared of? It is the question I feel around me most days. It is a question we tend to ignore with age, yet it persists, lurking. What are you scared of?
While I do not generally feel scared of a lot, as I find thrill in taking risks and feeling uncomfortable (often to my own detriment), the things that do scare me loom over like a storm. They drive my daily decisions, my actions. And perhaps, at 25, I wish to acknowledge them, understand them. Perhaps I believe most of us would do better to reflect on fears…What’s there to be scared of?
I am afraid of not knowing enough and knowing too much. I fear appearing ignorant and spend hours, days, nights reading, watching, learning, informing myself of anything and everything. Politics, history, art, science, pop culture, etc., just trying to stay ahead. I get frustrated knowing I’ll never know everything, as ludicrous as that seems. Yet I also fear being too aware. It’s true, ignorance is bliss. But despite my personal quests for knowledge and history, I often find myself staying silent in the moment, afraid of seeming condescending, better-than or obnoxious, though never the intention. I am scared that this balancing act I will be managing my entire life.
I am afraid of growing older, as much as I also cherish it. The fright does not come from a superficial standpoint, as I often see an immense beauty in things that are aged or looked over, but from worry of running out of time to do the things I desire. I aspire to achieve many things, travel many places, and reach many milestones, but I am afraid of losing the time to do, see, and accomplish them all. This specific fear expresses itself in hyper-organization and work ethic and perhaps obsessive attention to health. I set endless rules for myself and remain extremely structured because I need to be to have time for what I love. I have to stay strong and healthy to keep from cutting my finite time on earth even shorter. It is a fear that manifests itself on a daily basis.
I am afraid of seeing peers, family, and friends face problems of their own, problems beyond my understanding. Perhaps I am afraid of admitting they too have flaws. I know they are human and complex individuals, but in a way, I want them to be reduced to a title – friend, best friend, parent, coworker, etc. – so they may simply be happy and joyful. Nothing deeper. My happy friend, my happy relatives. That’s all I wish for them. But they are not always so and cannot be reduced to such, and I am afraid their own pain will hurt me to levels I can’t imagine. I am afraid to admit they cannot be perfect, no matter how much I always believed they were and still attempt to believe. Maybe I can occasionally be distant because of this.
I am afraid of regrets and I have been since I can remember. I recall telling myself in elementary school that I never wanted to have any, just a life full of adventure and excitement and feeling. Honestly, I can say that I have none that haunt me to date and for that I am extremely grateful. But it doesn’t stop the fear; doesn’t make it any less intense or give me peace of mind. I still strive never to have any regrets, though this may seem an impossibility. Or maybe just a mindset regardless of decisions made in the past. But, in a surprising way, the fear simultaneously encourages me to be naïve and take risks. Because the moment I don’t, I will feel them slipping in, the regrets.
Above all, I am terrified of losing my passion; of growing tired of the fight for the life I imagine for myself; of the fight to pursue my creative interests and an adventurous lifestyle; the core of my being. I am kept awake knowing with every passing second my energy, tolerance, physical abilities dwindle and fade as a reaction to time. I see the face of complacency sitting across from me on the metro, loudly complaining at a café, rushing through traffic. No matter the setting or the body it’s attached to, it always looks the same. At once hopeless, exhausted, and yet expressionless. Flat. Colorless. I have the urge to cry whenever I bear witness and I find myself uttering: don’t give up, you’re not tired, don’t give up, keep going. Then I feel scared. What if they fought once too? What if they uttered the same words? Then I rush home and do something I love to remind myself of the feeling, the absolute joy and wonder so I can hold onto it and remember to never let it go. It’s so easy to ignore it with age. But for doing so is my absolute greatest fear.
Many of my fears remain from childhood, though some certainly developed through life experience. At first, I was shocked how many I continue to share with my younger self. However, upon more reflection, the shock faded. I’ve come to believe we can look back on younger years and notice strong similarities in thought. Childhood was a time of nurturing raw emotions, beliefs, reactions, instead of criticizing them. (Children have no filter after all).
While it was challenging to reflect on 25 years of life and attempt to condense my thoughts and fears, I strangely feel more at peace with them in doing so. Perhaps in recognizing them I have somehow diminished their power and feel I can now properly embrace them. I will still live with these fears and some of them may never go away, but with the naïve part of my mind, I choose to believe that instead of them controlling me, I can better control or at least manage them. They say to face your fears. But I have come to see as we get older, we try to ignore them. I have. Many can’t identify their fears because of this act of avoidance. Then what is there to face? You can never conquer something if you don’t know what you’re fighting.
I do not know why I am sharing these thoughts; why I felt the urge to put this piece into the world. Perhaps for a moment of connection, honesty, art, responsibility? Maybe I hoped after a stressful year it could provide a bond with whomever happens to read these words. Maybe the purpose was purely selfish. But more likely, it connected to my fear of regret. Something in me said I would regret not divulging my thoughts, whether one or one hundred read them.
25. Young, but with the first hints of age. Naïve, but aware. 25 feels like a period of decisions. Where to live, what to do, who to be. 25 feels like the first time these decisions stand for something bigger. At least that is my reaction to it. And so, in the end, perhaps I’m writing this piece to start off the year by giving power to choices; to decide to be vulnerable and be okay with that. To say, as confident as I can be, I am also afraid. It’s okay to be. Maybe that’s what I’ve learned after 25 years of life.
Then again, these could just be the rambling words of another young adult.
I’m only 25. Still so young.
What do I know?