Sunday, 12 July 2015

Growing Out: Thoughts On Turning 25

I turned 25 last month; as a June baby one of the last to do so amongst my friends. Across my 24th year I'd started hearing a new phrase: I'm getting too old for this. Chums began to disappear abruptly from nights of drinking early, and conversations always seemed to move towards some kind of mutual paranoia that their lives were being wasted. Bummer. Along with that cheery thought, Buzzfeed links were flying everywhere called things like 25 Signs You're About To Turn 25, 25 Things That Get Harder After Age 25 & 25 Signs That You're Having A Quarter Life Crisis. I feared the worst. 25 had started to look boring as f*ck, and I began to wonder if I would just wake up to find all the youthful energy sucked from my soul by 25 fun vampires with party straws.

Something I've realised in the weeks since is that growth and change don't have anything to do with age, it's about how you let yourself feel in respect of it. I firmly believe we choose what we carry around with us; what labels we adopt when forming our self identity and how we regard them. If we let a society that prizes unaged faces make us feel old, even at the midpoint of our twenties, we will live up to associations we have attached to that. Equally if we reject the idea of growing older altogether we may hold on to an 'escape route' of traits linked to younger selves - such as the more carefree days when we were a student - rather than moving upwards and outwards in order to find new elements to add to and enrich our sense of self.

With that in mind, here are my personal reflections on what standing inside 25 means to me.

Freedom And Where To Find It. One thing I realised that I'm very concerned about holding onto is the feeling of freedom. Growing responsibilities and shifting priorities are at risk of pushing out whatever makes us feel free, by reminding us that other people and things are relying on us, or simply that we have to get shit done in order to flourish and, well, survive. Sure, I find freedom at the bottom of cocktail pitchers, at the end of cigarettes and at gigs and festivals; perhaps definable by the fact that in the moment I don't care about the consequences, but I also come across freedom when working on my own projects, travelling to new places, meeting friends for coffee or just spending a luxurious morning in bed. There are lots of these different freedoms, and I think it's worth keeping an eye on when we allow ourselves to access them, as they play a huge part in maintaining our wellbeing.

Learning To Love Yourself. One of the best things I have felt shift in the last few years is that I can feel myself learning to love the parts of me that I could never previously accept. This applies to physical attributes, modes of thinking and behaviours and, whilst I always seek to improve, it is now coming from a position of at least partial peace with myself rather than a place of conflict. Of course, it's not gravy all the time, but I think acknowledging all the good things you do rather than just pushing yourself to do more and better is key to self love.

Interrogate Information. As I become more aware of how I consume media, I increasingly scrutinise the information I am presented with and investigate unfounded or skewed points of view; from little things to big issues. From watching TV to a one-on-one discussion, I feel confident to challenge assumptions and sweeping generalisations, unraveling presented absolutes with the aim of seeking a deeper truth and finding my own opinions. This can, of course, be problematic in that it has made me less agreeable. I like to present provocations and debate issues with those around me, making casual trips to the pub feel increasingly like Question Time.

Caring More. Something else I have noticed that sets me apart from my teenage self is that I care so much more now. I have always cared about my friends and generally trying to do my best at things, but now I feel a lot more compassion and respect towards my parents, and am able to love more openly in my relationships. Also, because I have found what I really love to do, I care a lot more about how I use my time, considering working on my creative craft to be an investment into something meaningful, rather than just being something to do for fun.

Growing Out. Emerging from 14+ years of straight-forward academic progression unsurprisingly creates a lot of uncertainty in twenty-somethings, with new hurdles between us and our various life goals arriving all the time once we exit the education ecosystem. There's definitely a feeling that we're kind of on our own now; stabilisers off, and panic sets in because the ball is in our proverbial court. Something that has helped me overcome this feeling is to stop focusing on growing up and concentrate on growing out, i.e. exploring the different strands of myself and considering a number of different futures, all of which are possible. I think if we opt for one track that leads to a certain type of job or relationship status we are at risk of curbing our dreams and losing the life that we want for ourselves before we even find out what it might look like. Try broadening outwards into new territory and see where you end up, and remember your life path won't necessarily look like anyone else's, and that's okay.

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