In less than a month, I will turn 23.
That unfortunate age that has been subject of many an article citing all of the reasons why being 23 is the worst. The age about which Blink-182 sang the immortal words, “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.” A 23-year-old Facebook friend recently posted this Huffington Post article, “The Brain on 23,” with the caption “This year has been hard.” In it, the author articulates what it feels like to be 23: “We have few obligations, yet we are always stressed, wondering if life will ever be more certain.”
I don’t doubt any of it.
It’s a weird time, life is confusing, and anxiety is high. Going into my first full year of post-grad life, everything is changing, everything feels uncertain. It’s the year I’m going to start my first full-time job, move out of my parents’ house, and take some major steps in my personal life. It’s so easy to agonize over career decisions, relationship decisions, lifestyle decisions. The agonizing seems to extend out to even infinitesimal decisions like what we should make for dinner. With so much of our lives in flux, can we blame ourselves?
In the workforce, we’re the youngest demographic. Everyone assumes we know nothing and oftentimes, it feels like we don’t. Hiring Managers ask, “What are your long-term career goals?” and we almost laugh out loud at the absurdity of the question. (No hyperbole here—that happened to me last week.) Everyone assures us that we’re smart and talented and hard-working and that things will fall into place, jobs will come, we’ll create a career you love. We nod, halfass a “thanks,” and think “Great things don’t just happen. How am I supposed to get anywhere if I don’t know where I’m aiming??”
All that said, I refuse to dread this birthday, this year, these changes.
Yes, I’m as nervous as anyone. But why should I be dreading what could potentially be the most exciting year of my life so far? I’m lucky to have a family and friends that have always supported me, I’m lucky to have gotten the education I did, I’m lucky to be starting a new job, I’m lucky to have the ability to move out on my own, I’m lucky to have the opportunities that I do. As always, the antidote to “woe is me” is focusing on those things and being grateful.
But the best part about being 23? I don’t need to have everything figured it. I don’t expect my friends to have it all together, so why should I expect that of myself? No matter how many fabulous Instagram photos or LinkedIn updates I see from fellow 23-year-olds, I know that we’re all in this state of confusion together. I just have to remember to be supportive of my own efforts like I am of my friends’. I have to give myself props when I reach a goal or milestone, or achieve something at work. I recognize that being 23 can be tough, but I refuse to wallow in it.
So instead of adding anxiety about my coming birthday and the coming year, I’m making a commitment to be grateful, stop being so hard on myself, and most of all, to embrace change. I’m determined to make 23 even better than 22, Taylor Swift songs be damned.
Photo: Chelsea Kedron / Getty Images