Perhaps at this stage I should add the disclaimer that it is not my intention to generalise – I’m sure there are many twenty-something year olds out there who have everything figured out. Based on my experience, I have yet to meet one of them.
Frequently, the ladies (the friends in my life without whom I would not be able to survive) and I have had lengthy conversations about this feeling of insecurity that permeates our twenties. My friends and I have sighed with heaviness that feels beyond our years at our sense of being lost. The world we inhabit feels so different to that of our parents, who at our age were already on their second child at least (in most cases). The media is no help either, bombarding us with images of super self-confident and cocky artists and actors, all loving their twenties because they finally have ‘real’ money and can start living a quality life.
The thing is, those examples don’t reflect – at least not in my experience and that of the people around me – the reality of the gut-wrenching fear-of-the-future that can sit like rock in your belly. It’s pretty scary being a twenty-something year old; you still feel so much like a teenager wrought with the same childish tendencies (procrastination, binge spending, instant gratification) but find yourself suddenly yoked with grown up responsibilities. It kind of knocks you off your feet.
I went for my first ever surgery this week and as I was being awoken after the surgery, I began to cry (not a very uncommon occurrence I’m told). I couldn’t speak because my mouth was stuffed with gauze like a roast chicken.
However, I distinctly remember my first feeling – a childlike need for reassurance.
I reached my hand out from underneath the blankets towards the nurse who had woken me and in my mind all I could think was: “please hold my hand”. It was a plea from someone who felt vulnerable, frightened, and alone.
Being in our twenties is oftentimes a scary experience that can leave us feeling exposed and isolated; the need for reassurance is overwhelming. Sometimes, this reassurance is given freely and happily such as when I was wheeled, tears and all, out of the operating theatre and saw the Bear waiting for me (you’ll come to know the Bear as my person). Sometimes when we seek this reassurance (as with the nurse who woke me) there is rejection. Although this makes the moment insufferable, it inevitably helps us look elsewhere for this reassurance – hopefully within ourselves, to those who care for us, or to a higher power.
I think the important thing to remember is to have the courage to ask for that reassurance from the people we trust to love us. If reassurance is to restore confidence then as twenty-something year olds, we need to be seeking this comfort from the people in our lives who believe in us.
Reassurance comes from someone who, in your darkest moments of insecurity and doubt, reminds you that you are strong enough to handle any future the thirties-and-beyond may bring. Reassurance comes from the people who want to help you fulfill the potential they are already see in you. Reassurance comes from those who even when you are at your darkest, remind you that the sun will rise again tomorrow. As a fellow twenty-something year old, my ‘oh-so-wise’ advice is to fill your life with these kinds of people.
P.S. On a side note, I bought a dictionary! But more about that next time.
*Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus fourth edition (2011)