How Life Changes After 22, Aside From Being Happy, Free, Confused And Lonely (At The Same Time)
Twenty-two is the age when we officially begin orbiting the adult-o-sphere but are not so far in that we don't still feel like kids. We have credit cards and loan payments and grocery bills and wedding showers and jobs, but even just five years ago, we were teenagers with reckless minds and tongues and bodies. We have college degrees but somehow still feel like freshmen in life. It wasn't supposed to be this way, we think. We were suppose to wake up and just know what to do.
The biggest way your life changes after 22 is that you have to reconcile who you were with who you are. You have to accept that some of your life-long dreams will dissolve, and if you think that's scary, there's a scarier alternative, and that's the one where you realize living out those dreams are completely feasible and it's up to you to do it.
Twenty-two is the year that you shift from having to think to having to do, and because we're so used to just planning and mapping and assuming, we trip when we find ourselves becoming and choosing and creating.
After 22, you start to realize that you're more like your parents than you ever hoped or dreamed you'd be. You drift to new towns and cities and slowly start revolving in new social circles and all of a sudden the friends you swore you'd be close to forever are revolving around their own galaxies and up until now it was easy to find something else to attribute the lack of upkeep to. Now, it's all on you.
Busy isn't an excuse anymore, but your age can be. You can fall so far into the trappings of what's excusable because you're [only an early-20-something!] that you completely lose sight of what you feel you have to excuse yourself from in the first place: which is what you really want in your life.
The thing about life after 22 is that people pretend they don't know what they want, or convince themselves they don't know — but most of the time they do, and are so terrified of being responsible for it and so far away from being able to realize it that they paralyze themselves, and the question marks become smoke and the excuses become mirrors and the next thing you know, you're 35 and never did anything at all.
People start getting married and having kids after 22 and it's not an accident anymore. People's parents die and it's not a tragedy anymore. They're just things that happens.
At 22, you're officially in-between two behavioral brackets. You're so rapidly breaking through to your newfound adulthood and it's an arena in which nobody really taught you the rules, so you rely on the ones you learned before. There is one thing that nobody tells you about leaving your late teens, and it's that once you're past the age of 22, you completely leave structure. You don't have your parents to report to, you don't have a school to grade you, you don't have peers to compare yourself to.
So you begin to build your own structure of validation. You turn to money to grade your performance, ideas you have of what peers think of you to gauge how acceptable you are. Because there was no reason to function completely as your own person, you never had to, and so you don't know how. You start building your life around what other people expect.
This is what people do, after 22. They hold steady to the lives that they found comfort in before. They can't let go of the things — the work, the love, the relationships — they never got to live out. They come to the cusp of this new horizon, only to find that they never got to do what they really wanted. So they spend the rest of their lives creating solutions to past problems. Living out their childhood dreams rather than their adult ones. Worse: they hold to their childhood beliefs and ideas, almost as though if they don't give up on them, the little kid that's still inside them doesn't have to be wrong.
After 22, things start to count, and life starts to matter, and a little switch flips in your head that makes you realize that it mattered all along. Everything else is a reaction to that: whether you start navigating the new life you have, or you keep tracing your lines across the one you had.
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