On Feeling Left Behind at 25 Years Old

Okay, real talk.

Being 25, feeling left behind is just so easy. It’s like a cliff we stand upon the moment we turn into a teen, and the higher the number our age gets, the closer we get to the edge of it.

At least, that’s what it feels like for me. God forbid, I turn 50. I’ll probably be one teeny tiny step away from feeling left behind every waking moment by then. I’ll probably roll over my bed in the morning to get a cup of coffee and feel left behind instantly.

Okay, technically, I’m not even 25 yet. I still have a few months, but I feel older than 24, and the looming quarter decade is what’s causing me a bit of dread.

I’m the master of comforting myself, so I tell myself there is no deadline to figuring out who you are, what you want, how you should or if you would succeed. I tell myself “you feel this way because you know you could do better, and that’s a good thing to know” and a lot of other motivational BS that perfectly suits a cross-stitched pillow cover or a door entrance mat.

But then, I spend a day on Netflix and my mind asks me sternly “shouldn’t you be doing better, productive things?”

I dissolve into a good book but then, I think “if you just spend time writing more than reading, you would’ve penned a novel by now”.

I do my tasks at work but “is this really what you want to do?”

I travel and marvel at sights, or experience something new and invigorating but “now what? What’s next?”

Even when I feel like I’m doing something productive, the nagging worry is always just within arm’s reach. I’ll write something, finally having mustered enough inspiration, but self doubt says hi and whispers “someone’s already done that. It’s not even as good as theirs.”

They comfort us with ‘Don’t compare yourself. Just be you. Be different.’, but my problem is that even when I’m being myself, I still feel extremely like I resemble someone else.

It’s not the ‘being different’ that does not sit well with me, it’s that it seems like no one ever really is. Or maybe that’s just me. Different like everybody else.

I wonder if there’s a person who does not feel like this. I wonder if someone, somewhere (preferrably my age) is without a doubt contented. I think this is why I’ve always been fascinated with Buddhism. To remove all desires is to eliminate suffering. It’s fascinating because I have many of both.

Why does being in our twenties feel like we have to be constantly working towards something? Into being someone? Like you have to have your sh*t together by 32 or something, and if you don’t, you’ll be shunned by society as a total failure.

Why is there that constant, unspoken pressure to… be? To be more, to live more, to live for something or to change something, to YOLO, to be a force to be reckoned with, to find your passion, to have your dream job, to find the love of your life, to stay in touch with all your friends (sigh), etc.

I don’t know.

I may not ever know.

But lately, I’ve started to notice that it is also during these moments of darkest discontent that I am reminded of what I have. It is when I place all that I am under scrutiny that I realize how extremely lucky I am.

I have a job I didn’t think was even possible when I dropped out of uni.

I have the money to travel and buy more than the basic necessities which I did not have ten years ago, for quite a long time, and which a lot of people still do not get to have.

I have found the love of my life and am living a laughter-and-warmth-filled life with him, even though I never really believed I was ever fit for romance.

I have genuine friends I could depend on, and my siblings too – though I probably should spend more time with them.

And my parents are still alive, and that they are great at parenthood, and that I have the means to take care of and get to know them more.

When I ask myself for more – for what I don’t have, what I get is a list of what I do have… plus my self asking “what more would you want? Isn’t this all that you have previously wished for?”

I am reminded of my privilege – of my luck. Of how the universe has taken care of me all this time. I am reminded of all the things I prayed for, and now have. And I feel silly for asking for more.

There is this quote from the book The Maps That Contain Us which I absolutely love. It goes like this:

“It is important, once in a while, to take stock of what you have so that you can acquire an understanding of what you need – in the very best cases, they turn out to be the same.”

I have the very best of cases.

Maybe that’s what these bouts of darkest discontent are for – why we experience the feeling of being left behind or not being good enough.

So that we could realize that what we do have isn’t so bad. Like that lyric on a Fall Out Boy song convincing us “2 out of 3 ain’t bad.”

Or I don’t know.

For now though, at this very minute, I’m completely fine with the uncertainty – which in itself is a small yet significant miracle.

Hope you are trying your best today,

N

🌻🌻🌻

Photos by Mckie Bareje

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