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Being 20 in the 21st Century

We live in a world full of expectations. And these expectations continue, regardless of your age or life’s experiences. I have been reflecting a lot over the last few weeks and wanted to share how I feel. As a twenty-year-old student, I am on the cusp of many great things. Indeed, I am inexperienced in the ‘real’ world, if you call it, but I feel a kind of ambivalence towards this age and what is expected of me, socially and personally.

I feel like a nomad in my life. I am neither here nor there. I feel as if I lead several lives which are entirely disconnected. On one hand, I am a student — soon to graduate, who’s mind is full of excitement, knowledge and pure passion. But on the other hand, I work (part-time admittedly), so I can save enough money to buy a house. And there’s this pressure on what hand I should be focussing on, should I study and not work? Or work and not study? Like most students, working around our studies is ‘normal’ and seemingly expected of us, but I have these entanglements over which one is deemed most ‘important’ or ‘fundamental’ — not to mention the career prospects after my degree. Again, there is a level of expectancy which states that graduates must find their ‘career’ soon after studying, or else the degree will be a ‘waste’. I have had conversations with numerous people who have asked about my course and academic interests, and have always come to the same conclusion ‘English! What are you going to do with that?’. Whilst I usually laugh the remark off, the reality is, what am I going to do with my degree? I decided long ago that promises of a job was not the thing that drew me to University, it was in fact my love for reading and writing. I didn’t care if I didn’t get my ‘dream job’ (an illusion anyway), all that mattered was the ability to focus on myself and my own interests. However, with approximately four months left of University, the question arises once again. I think now more than ever, what am I going to do?

I think that when you are younger you fabricate this idealized version of yourself, what you want to do and what you want to achieve. Looking back now, I realize how wrong I was. I had no idea who I was outside of my childhood, and I repressed a lot of desires that were deemed ‘far-fetched’ or ‘impossible’. I was always a dreamer from the get-go. To think that when I was ten or eleven years old I wanted to be a Radiographer and pursue a career of science, was laughable. I wanted to follow in my mum’s footsteps and have children young — before I was 25. I never wanted money or had any ambition to be rich. I wanted to be comfortable and remember where I came from. But the reality is, none of these ambitions mattered to me. I already knew where I was headed before I’d even make the conscious decision. Life was always going to take me in this direction, and frankly, I am a whole different person because of it.

Being twenty is kind of a weird age. My mum had me when she was 20 and already had a life set up with my dad. And from a young age that is what I wanted. As I imagine myself in my mum’s shoes, I realize how scary that prospect is. I have friends my age who have recently become mothers and it’s so lovely to see them happy and successful, but in the back of my mind I think am I supposed to have children? I always knew I wanted children. When I was growing up it was pretty much me and my mum and I loved being an only child — not for the reasons you may think. I could picture me doing the same. However, being twenty now I feel totally unprepared and nowhere near motherhood. I don’t own a house or have a cat or have a secure and exciting job, so why do I still feel this level of expectancy? It’s rather disconcerting. The thing is, I can’t wait to have children of my own in the future, but the clock is ticking and soon months will become years, and before I know it, it’ll be too late. Not only are your twenties about finding your feet, but they are also for reflecting on your past and the person you wish to become. We all have our own insecurities which stem from our childhood or social situations we encounter. But insecurities are difficult, and definitely live within you, jumping out when you least expect it. I am still very insecure about myself — an improvement from a few years ago, but nonetheless the insecurities are still there. I have a fine attention to detail. I am a massive perfectionist, or ‘down to a T’, as I say. I become very anxious and at times, incredibly introverted. As a result of these insecurities, I lack extreme amounts of confidence. To an outsider, I may look confident and comfortable, but internally I am screaming, praying this ordeal will be over soon. Confidence is always something I have struggled with, since school really. I had so many ideas and suggestions but would always be too afraid to raise my hand — perhaps this stems from having a Stutter as a child, still have it now, but that’s another story…

Although I like to argue that I talk about my problems and emotions, I really don’t. I bottle them up, letting them fester and hope they never surface — unwise, I know. Thankfully now I have the support system, but it wasn’t always this way. As individuals, we often feel unable to escape from these insecurities and our past-selves, but I think your twenties are the time where you really reflect on yourself and decide what kind of life you want to live. And so, this year I am working tirelessly to become a better version of myself. Yes, that sounds cliché and unrealistic, but I think it’s important to recognize where you were at your lowest moment and understand the journey you have taken to be where you are now. I think of all the things I have sacrificed to be where I am now, and that I should be truly grateful of who I have become today, even if this person has a minor book obsession, a cat obsession and gets attached to things way too easily…

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