Words by: Alice Wright Art by: Brooke Stevens
Recently, I decided to make the poor decision to declutter my room, which is something I rarely commit to. Why? It almost always ends in me crying from exhaustion as Marie Kondo’s techniques slowly eat away at my poor capacity to let go of things I haven’t used in more than 10 years.
This time, I incidentally came across some of my favourite childhood treasures. My long-lost Tamagotchi, a few stray Bratz dolls and many old, dried up bottles of glittery nail polish. But there is something better than all of this. I struck gold. I found my old diaries.
They made me laugh, smile, cry a little more than I already had and reminisce about the good old days. Funnily enough, as I got to reading I discovered that I had quite big plans for the future too. As an optimistic 10-year-old, I had decided that in my twenties I would be a big-name actress, a wife to Ryan Gosling (specifically from The Notebook) and an owner of six dogs.
But, here I am 12 years later, a little lost, definitely not succeeding in a career, nowhere near marriage, let alone a boyfriend, and I don’t think it’s even legal to have six dogs.
Not long ago, I turned 22. A leap that seems to me to be far greater than the jump from 20 to 21. When you turn 21, it’s a time of celebration as you enter what is seen socially as true adulthood. But once you hit 22, the celebration is over, it’s a bit boring and there’s not much of a party.
Although I like to subscribe to the concept that age is just a number and there is no real meaning behind it, the world is most definitely treating me no longer like the teenager or child I once was. I have debt from studying that I don’t understand how I’ll ever pay off, I get emails from the government without even knowing how they got my details, I am paying to use a car that breaks down annually and I’m constantly wondering if I can claim my Converse on tax, as working two waitressing jobs through uni tore them to shreds.
But out of all these signifiers of age, the largest of all is the most feared question that comes creeping up on every young adult…
What are your plans for the future?
Here is my answer: I have absolutely no clue.
And you know what? Neither do most adults. On the off chance you are an adult that knows what you want to do with your life, leave me alone because your security and confidence with your future scares me and I want no part of it.
This is a realisation I have been coming to terms with for a few years now. As you grow up, society creates a narrative that positions you to see adults as humans who have their shit together. They are all career-driven, falling in love, having babies, travelling and living their best life with no restraints. Yet, this is far from the truth.
I graduated university just last year with a bachelor degree, I am yet to get a full-time job and I don’t see myself getting one any time soon either. I can honestly say I’m doing great. But that doesn’t go without saying that I have felt the pressure to immediately use my degree and be actively progressing within a career.
Once you begin to unlearn the formula of going to school, getting a degree, falling in love, having kids and living happily ever after, you’ll instead find yourself looking for what you can do with your life in the present time that allows you to be your happiest self.
With all this in mind, we need to be realistic.
I’ve gone through periods of time — while working multiple jobs, as well as experiencing mental health struggles — where it is a battle to get to my next chapter in life and it doesn’t seem to be achievable. But I can promise you that I end up getting to that next chapter every time, and once I do, it makes everything worth it.
So, this is your sign to go on that holiday you’ve always wanted to go on, do that course you’ve always dreamed about studying, move away to that country town you’ve always loved visiting, or completely change your occupation if that’s what is calling out to you. The present moment will give you more fulfilment than the past or the future ever will, so don’t take it for granted.