Honestly, is that a question we should bother asking? Isn’t the answer only ever up to the one who asks it?
Being alive as a very unique and exclusive experience; out of the 7 billion people, you are the only person exactly like you. Apparently, there are on average 7 other people that look just like you. But how similar are they to you on the inside? Looks can be deceiving. So what does this have to do with the perplexity of being (any age, really) 20?
Adults are more often than not the teachers and source of guidance for those younger than them, especially children. In general, someone older has more experience (simply from a time standpoint) and therefore is more qualified or credible to help and advise those younger, right? In most cases, the answer would be yes. From an overall perspective of the entire human species since the beginning of time, the phrase “respect your elders” can be easily understood as “those who are older know what they are talking about.” But when it comes down to each individual scenario (and there an infinite amount of these!), the older person may very well be taught by the adolescent.
Whether the older and younger be 76 and 11, or 35 and 34, the higher the number means the more experience. This does not always mean that they have experience in the particular topic of discussion, but merely have more experience. If I am asking my grandmother for advice on old furniture (she collects antiques), she would be very knowledgeable, and it would do me well to listen to what she has to say. Yet when it comes to computers, she asks for my assistance. Old age does not always mean that your years of experience is useful for every young person.
So why the 20 year old dilemma specifically?
Well, I am 20. I have realized over the past 7 months that this is an age of the unknown, the middle ground, no mans land. We have just left the age of security, the times of safety, where adults are guiding us at almost every corner. We go from grade school and high school, where we have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom, wait in line to eat, and basically have our days decided for us.
Once those 15 or so years are over, college or work comes, where there is still structure, but in a much different sense. Talk when you please (albeit respectfully), have your lunch and day scheduled pretty much how you like, and go to the bathroom whenever (with decency, please). Aside from running off into the mountains free from all society (but not responsibility), life changes drastically after the age of 18. But leaving the nest and creating your own rules is not all sunshine and rainbows; taking full responsibility of yourself comes with its own set of headaches you may not realize until after the ‘rents no longer provide for you.
With this being said, it is crucial that each and every one of us (aside from those handicapped or disabled), leave the nest and assume accountability for all of our actions. So when is the right time to do this? That is purely up to you, if you listen to yourself and wait patiently, the time will come.
At the same time, we are expected to have a plan, know what we want to do with the rest of our lives (this is expected from about the age of 14 on), and be executing it perfectly by the age of 20. Of course our elders know that mistakes are a given; they were this age once too. But a lot of times, they seem to forget what the stress and emotional roller coaster of being a young adult is like. Add to that the differences in society, technology, and the world views in general, and it becomes a whole other game. And yet, over 107 billion people have or will go through this stage.
When we spend our whole lives focused on our worries and problems, we let the beauty of life pass us by.
As we walk to our cars, jobs, school, etc, how many different objects and organisms do we pass by? Do you take notice of the clouds, the cracks in the sidewalk, the chirping of the birds and the feeling of the breeze? Or are you worried about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow? As children, we are present in almost every moment. As we age, our mind develops and memories begin to form. As the stresses of life pile on, we focus more on what has happened and what may happen, instead of paying attention to what is happening.
I have been just as guilty of this as most everyone else, and for most of my life, the stress that comes with not being present has been almost unbearable. Yet here I am. It may come as a shocker, and you by no means have to agree with this, but all of our actions, being present or not, at any age, is a choice. I firmly believe that while pain is physical, suffering is a choice.
As former Olympic gymnast and the person who inadvertently jump started my spiritual journey, Dan Millman once wrote this: “Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is… The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds. ”
After reading these words, I have realized that we cannot avoid change, only flow with it or against it, just like the currents of flowing water. Life is much easier and enjoyable (also a choice) when we let what is happening, happen.
Being 20 has its ups and downs, just as any age does. At the end of the day, it is only a number.
Who you are, who I am, who we all are has nothing to do with names, numbers, others peoples opinions and perspectives. Your life is inherently yours, and no one can ever take that away from you. Your experiences, your direct experiences are the center of your universe. Whatever your age may be, whatever your dreams, goals, ambitions, or ideas are, pursue them. I saw a post on Instagram yesterday that said this: “if you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
While I believe we should listen to everyone, regardless of what they are saying or who is saying it, we should decide for ourselves what is best for us. Everyone deserves the chance to speak and be heard, but ultimately only I know what is best for me. The same goes for all of you. Trust yourself. Smell the flowers, breathe in the air, love yourself. Everything you need to be happy is already within you. Life is about the journey, discovering the beauties of existence along the way.
We often forget to realize that none of us know what we are doing, what life is about. And that is okay. There is no one-size-fits-all philosophy or outlook; we each must find our own way. Regardless of when others expect you to know what you want or what your plan is, be patient and enjoy yourself. Life is whatever you make it, so why not make it good?
If you made it this far and like what you read, feel free to leave a comment, question, perspective or idea. Related or otherwise. I love hearing what others have to say, every one of us has a story to share! I hope you have a wonderful day!