Your 20s is a time to grow, to learn, to laugh, to love — to freak the eff out over your existence and the world you live in. It's your time to try on identities and see what fits. It's your time for trial and error. It's your time to ask yourself more questions than there are answers.
I used to think I was was the only one out of my friends struggling with heady questions late into the night. I'd stay awake tossing and turning until 3 a.m. thinking about technology and wondering if it's real or if I've created it with my mind. I think about The Matrix and whether or not I actually have a body. I think about death and when it's coming and what it looks like. I think about the fact that we're just organisms and then I feel so small and insignificant and yet so scared. I think about space and the vastness of it. I think about Carl Sagan and I lose a lot of sleep.
But as it turns out, I'm not the only one being kept awake by life's most existential questions. Most of my friends struggle under the weight of these mostly answerless ideas. The key is to understanding that we all think about it, but to not dwell on it. Obsessing over your existence is the fastest way to limit having one. If you toss and turn into the night in your 20s, these are probably some of the things you're thinking about:
Who Am I?
Do we ever really know who we are? We're constantly changing and constantly tellings ourselves that we're finally ourselves. But who is "ourself"? In your 20s it's easy to feel like you're not being you, because you still don't know who that person is.
Are My Friends Really My Friends?
Have you found your people yet? When you get into a fundamental disagreement with your friends or observe a behavior in them that you don't see in yourself, it's easy to fall into a rabbit hole of doubt about your friendships.
Does Everyone Hate Me?
It's a little bit paranoia, it's a little bit insecurity. That nervous feeling of "is everyone hanging out without me" and "are they talking about me behind my back" is all too real in your 20s.
What's My Purpose?
There's the small scale: what type of work is right for me? And then there's the larger scale: what was I put on Earth to do? The weight of these questions can be dizzying.
Am I Happy?
What is happiness? What does it feel like? Am I lying to myself? Is happiness attainable for the long-term? Is it a chemical reaction? Is it subjective?
Is Anyone Happy?
At some point you'll look at the people in your life who you think are happy and give them a double-take. You'll start to wonder if their feelings align with their projections. You'll worry everyone is unhappy.
Is Love Real?
After you fall in love a few times, you start to notice patterns. It's bright and bold, it's shimmering, it's fading, it's someone snoring unapologetically in your bed when you can't sleep. You'll start to question if true love like the movies exists, the evidence leads toward no.
How Will I Die?
Religion dabbles with the idea of fate. Your 20s will make you question your fate. You'll lose relatives and friends and wonder about your time and be crippled with fear. Death will both scare you and fascinate you.
What Is Electricity?
You can't see electricity, therefore it's as good as magic. In your 20s you'll have a moment where you wonder if your phone is actually connecting you with another human being who you're actually talking to, or if you're insane and imagining it all from a cell in an institution.
Are We Real?
Are we an alien ant farm? Are we brains in vats? Are our minds controlled by robots in another galaxy? These types of thought worm holes are dangerous and deep.
Am I On The Truman Show?
Once I saw that movie I was positive it was my reality. Turns out, Truman Show Disorder is a real thing, there are people who believe that their lives are so synchronized and serendipitous that they must be under the control and choreography of a production company and the whole world is watching. If you've never touched the sky, how do you know it's actually there and not a cloud painted ceiling?
Did I Already Die?
After I saw the Sixth Sense, I was positive I was already dead. On days when the people seem to walk right through you on the street and dogs don't even look at you, it's easy to let your twentysomething brain trick you into thinking you're just a ghost of yourself and Haley Joel Osment is lurking behind you, waiting for you to figure it out.
Am I Intelligent?
We all worry we're not smart from time to time. It only takes one comment that goes over your head to make you question your brain function. But when you stop and think about it intensely, it's easy to trick yourself into thinking you understand nothing — even though you clearly do, or likely you wouldn't be having this rainbow of existential crises in the first place.