The common thread running amongst the lives of my friends (specifically those in their early twenties) right now is an undercurrent of anxiety. It is vague and occasionally all pervasive; can often feel paralyzing, even as we struggle to pinpoint where exactly it’s coming from. It seems like I’ve been attempting to unpack this anxiety (or these various anxieties that have united to make our lives hellish) with a different companion at least once per week for the past year. Everyone appears to be ricocheting between extremes, such as immense passion or depression, and rarely seems settled on that obscure plane known as contentedness.
Misery might love company, but schadenfreude doesn’t hold much weight here, where I think most of us would prefer to just calm the fuck down, together.
Being the overly analytical human that I am, with a penchant for theorizing by stringing some nice words together and hoping they stick, I’ve been dwelling on where this anxiety stems from. It’s apparently nothing new, as many of my adult friends refer to this period as “extraordinarily difficult” and one they “wouldn’t pay a dime to return to.” My conclusion lies within all of us, in that frustrating space between who we are and who we want to be.
We are all slowly jogging through that space, trying to navigate a life that is much less simplistic than those four familiar letters. It reminds me of learning to swim in the ocean without being sucked under by a massive wave: “you must dive into the body of the wave if you want to come up unharmed.” You have to submit to your fears, to what’s coming your way, before you can make it to the other side. And who’s to say what’s on the other side, anyways—surely none of us are certain. Instead, we’re running around with gossamer notions of the life we hope to live, compared to the one we’re currently living.
Choked by the big questions of career, romance, and family, it can be too overwhelming to speak. Indecision prevails amongst the terrors of saying yes or no, of settling for one thing over another.
We wonder: What do I truly want to do with my life? Does my childhood dream, birthed at age five, still hold any weight ? Or is relying on past goals nonsensical now? How do I feel about monogamy? Is love real? Will I ever find it–and do I want to? How do I resolve my own ambitions with the plans my family has for me? How can I comfortably let them down, if need be? What are my true values and my beliefs? What if some of them conflict? Where am I going and where will I be? What will they see when they look at me?
There is no cozy conclusion to be made here, but instead the acknowledgment of not going through it alone. All of us are tirelessly trying to fashion ourselves into a measurable picture, one whose influences run the gamut and can be hard to pair together. Wading through this present, with its coupling of nostalgia and rampant aspiration, is no easy feat. It is unclear and can feel corrosive, but inevitable, too. While trying to make numerous other decisions, the best choice in this arena is not to ram up against it and try to push it away; to, instead, surrender a bit, know that you can’t always have it all together, all mapped out. Perhaps we can give ourselves a little comfort this way, accepting the unknown rather than ferociously rearranging the furniture of our futures in our heads, trying to saddle the current moment with a sense of what’s to come.