Last year, I celebrated my 26th birthday and as someone who has always liked birthdays it was very surprising to me when I felt nervousness alongside my usual excitement.
I have never been one of those people who obsess about their age or so I thought, but apparently 26 was the number where my brain chose to succumb to the pressure of getting older.
As the day got closer and closer, the more unease I felt. After a career workshop where a 15-year old, very innocently asked me what life was like at my age, I realised he considered me ‘old’ and I felt the weight of wanting to give him a wise answer of how together my life was.
The irony of life is when you’re younger you can’t wait to be older and when you’re older you spend your time wishing you could be young again, to feel carefree and have a break from the responsibility of being an adult.
I recognised it wasn’t the fear of getting physically older that bothered me, but my anxiety came from my expectations. I had certain ideas in my head of what life should look like at 26 and as it always does, reality fell short of expectations.
As you grow up, you have a fictitious impression of adulthood that you get from your parents, siblings, what society expects from you or even movies. Wherever your imagination comes from, you can never know until you experience that milestone age in your head.
I was naïve and had some unattainable goals set for myself. I expected that by 26, I would feel more sure of myself and life would be more sorted than what it is. The reality is that yes, I definitely know more than I did before; I am more mature, resourceful and confident than my younger self ever was however, I have more to learn.
I forgot that with each day, there are new challenges I face and learning and growing never stops. So even if one day you feel settled and content the next day a new obstacle comes along and you are back to square one trying to come up with a new plan.
What I’ve learned as I’ve grown older is, it’s good to have ambitions and targets in your life as they keep you focused and disciplined. However, the problem occurs when you start to compare yourself.
It might be to other people, but no-one else will ever be in your shoes and knows what it’s like to be you. Or you might compare yourself to your own aims and although it is reasonable to have expectations on how things will turn out, you can’t cling to the result.
Your journey is your own and if you keep obsessing over whatever you think you should have achieved, it’ll only stop you from celebrating the things you already have achieved.
The only constant is change and as life goes on and I hit the milestones that will be my 30s, 40s and 50s, the only thing I can embrace is its impermanence.
The truth is if you accomplished everything you ever wanted, there would be no growth.
Contentment is overrated and as cliché as it sounds, there is always room for improvement.
Photo by Jon Tyson