When you were still a child sleeping with your favourite stuffed animal, the words that often terrified you most were probably “bedtime” or “bogeyman.” Of course, now that you are a twentysomething, lots have changed since then, and you acquired an entirely different set of words that haunts you. Also, by now, you have probably learned that bogeyman is just a mythical creature used by your parents to frighten you into good behaviour.
Anyways, here are the four words that I believe scare twentysomethings:
It is wrong to assume that we are deflecting our duties to someone else because we are lazy and like to work short hours. Also, the responsibility itself is not what frightens us. The truth is, it is the idea of responsibility that scares our socks off. These thoughts, which does not possess a physical or concrete existence, tinkers with our emotions and tap into one of humanity’s greatest fear: uncertainty. For instance, we twentysomethings are always concerned about what will happen next after graduating from college, on top of other big questions in our heads.
This uneasiness will stay with you. Whether that is good or bad news, I will leave it for you to answer. Yes, it will probably numb your capacity to think eventually, but if it is of any consolation to you, you are not feeling this way because you have screwed up. On the contrary, you are acquiring valuable experiences that will make you grow up and be more mature.
In this time and age, we seem to have developed the skills to implement the perfect disguise. But, what do I mean by that? Social media platforms have granted us an opportunity not only to control who can views what but also to display photos that accurately describe our lifestyles. Let’s face it: image is everything, and everything is all about image. There is no way for one to understand who you truly are just by reading your bio page.
You have spent so much time developing a perfect virtual life that when real life ultimately says hello to you, you find the latter too unbearable to live with. “Awkward” is a word that is all too familiar for our generation. We have become so obsessed about life not following the laws of social media that we avoid it altogether. We do not give ourselves a chance to open up. We do not interact with others around us. Spot your friend in the hospital? If he kicks off the conversation, you are rendered speechless because you may not know what words to spew out of your mouth, which makes things awkward for you (and perhaps him). Hurry, bring out your smartphone and pretend that you are answering a call.
This madness must end. Read the quote above by C.S. Lewis and ask yourself, “what is the next step for a generation that does not seem to embrace vulnerability?” The answer should prompt you to take the right course of action and eventually convince you that being vulnerable is a show of strength instead of failure, which leads us to the next point.
My parents always convinced me that I am special, and my generation is ten times better than theirs because we seem to have everything we need to build a wonderful life quickly. Is it not surprising, then, that we see ourselves as worthless beings when our ten-year goal is no longer attainable? Am I putting you in an uneasy state simply by pointing that out? Fret not, here comes the relief.
It is entirely normal; we were hardwired to perceive in such a manner. Therefore, you are not wrong for not satisfying the expectations your parents had on you. Although it was their way of looking out for you, it is not your fault if you do not live up to your parents’ idea of a perfect child.
Also, failure is a matter of perspective. Failure carries different meanings for everyone. So, a failure may not be a failure at all. For instance, when you return home after spending years studying abroad because you are unable to make enough money to cope with the cost of living overseas, failure that is not. That is called growing up. That is called being a financially conscious person who is smart enough to recognise that he does not want to deal with the miseries of significant financial debt. Do not let anyone criticise your decision to stay with your parents until you are in a financial position to live comfortably on your own once again.
You are single. You have wrinkles around your eyes, mouth and neck. You take a moment to self-reflect and soon realise that you have an identity crisis on your hands – you still do not know your purpose in life. Then, you begin to doubt yourself, your worth and your future. Over time, it poisons your confidence and takes away the courage you once had when chasing your dreams while you were in your twenties. Fear is coming home.
Hold up – remember when you were seven, and you dreamed about becoming a pilot at some point in your twenties? What happened that eventually led to the contrast between expectation and reality? The endless barrage of remarks from your parents about jobs that are supposedly better than being a pilot slowly erases any dream jobs you once had when you were still toying around with Lego bricks. Images of what your life “should” look like were presented to you through the clever and deceptive mechanisms of social media.
Final 2¢: You are the master of your own life and dreams.
Just because you have a massive gap between what your heart truly desires and what you were told to possess does not mean that you have utterly screwed up your life. Yes, as we age, the fear of becoming something other than what we envisioned for ourselves becomes more apparent due to us thinking that we will never earn the right to label ourselves as worthy human beings.
My advice? Never fall into that mental trap. Who said that you must live up to your parents’ expectations? You are given a blank book, and it is your responsibility to write your own story as you please. Write your life out at your own pace. Always remember that age is no more than a figure we give ourselves.