You hear it all the time. People celebrating the last night/week/month/year of their twenties. Urgently and feverishly trying to cram the last few prescribed activities of a twenty-something into their lifeline. The big three-oh looming, bringing with it a whole new decade of unpredictability, challenges and experiences. The possibility that within the next five to eight years they will most likely be married or/and parents to one to two small humans. The hope that they will finally be content with their situation; their weight/finances/career. That they’ll finally have a grip on life, which would seemingly make up for the loss of their perceived “youth”.
One night last week, while cooking my pot of basmati rice and bottled pasta sauce for one, I had the sudden and overwhelming urge to get in the car and go find a Road House- one of those old dodgy ones with florescent lighting and a small family of stray cats and those trays you hook onto your open window. I wanted a disgusting burger with extra heart disease on the side and a milkshake so thick is should be legally classified as ice cream. I wanted to drive around with no destination and the windows open and get home at 2am.
It’s not that I wanted to go partying. I didn’t want to drink and dance and lose my house keys. I just wanted a little adventure. I wanted romantic spontaneity. The reckless abandon that is characteristic of the young – even if it was just for the night. I wanted the feeling of being young again. Which frustrated me, because I am young.
So instead, I sat down to my rice and pasta sauce and silently watched my cat groom herself. And I found it endearing. And entertaining. And strangely comforting. And then, while sitting in silence, watching my cat methodically licking her outstretched little legs, I realized I am having a mid-20’s crisis. Which obviously got me thinking “What’s so great about your 20’s anyway?“
I will be 24 next month. I have been working since I was 14 years old. I have been living in and out of my parents home since I was 18. Effectively I am in my 40’s. Currently I have an awesome job with great prospects of actually becoming a career and not just being “a thing until I decide on a real job”. I live in a really cool little fourth floor apartment in the city overlooking the harbour, with my cat and my shoes. I am in an incredibly happy relationship that is headed toward a future. In fact next weekend we move into a three-bedroom duplexwith a garden and a garage and space for a puppy.
I don’t want to escape this life. But sometimes I wish I could take a holiday from it. Just a couple of hours drive from this grownup life of lease applications and medical aid applications and credit card applications. To a place where people make stupid decisions and there are no consequences. Where money means nothing. Where responsibility is a foreign word.
I just feel like your mid-twenties is such a weird age. You’re mid-everything really. Half way between being a grownup and a teenager. Half way between being a child and a parent. You are grown up enough to look after yourself, but not too grown up to be looked after. You are financially stable, but not yet financially free.
I no longer hate my body and I no longer care if people think I’m cool. I don’t have to report to anyone and I don’t have to look after anyone. I have all the freedom and none of the responsibilities that adulthood has to offer. My boobs are still where they should be and no crows feet are anywhere in sight. I have some money and no one to spend it on but myself. No children or pension funds.
On the other hand, I do have car insurance, household cleaning products, cellphone, internet, petrol, electricity, laundry, housekeeper, household and fire insurance, cellphone insurance and various other expenses that I sometimes wish I was still blissfully unaware of. Teenage-like in my naivety. All these worries folded up and tucked neatly into my Dad’s back pocket.
But I chose this life. This was my decision. I chose to live in Cape Town and to start building my career. And I suppose that’s what makes your 20’s so great. You pretty much have 10 ten years to make the transition from child to adult. Dependent to independent. High-schooler to professional. Your body is in better shape than it will ever be. You have money to play with and time to play. You’re no ones responsibility and no one is yours.
So that’s it then. That’s what’s so great about being in your 20’s. The freedom to make decisions. You literally have 10 years to play with. You have the freedom to choose to pack your bags, leave the little life you’ve built so far and start up somewhere new. Jump from career to career. Lover to lover. City to city. You can decide the future you want, and this is your time to start building it.
Do you want children someday? Or have you decided not to think about that just yet. Are you using these years to start building the potential future you imagine for yourself, or are you using them to experience every single excitement and letdown the world has to offer? Or are you maybe trying to find a comfortable medium? Which is essentially what I am trying, I suppose. If I didn’t plan on having kids and the financial freedom to work from home someday, I would probably be travelling. Or maybe I’d just still be hacking it out as a freelance makeup artist slash presenter.
But these are the decisions I’ve made. And sometimes they freak me out. And sometimes they make me feel proud. And sometimes they liberate me. But at least I’m making them. And that’s what’s so great about your 20’s.