I’ll be turning 27 in May, and I think it’s already screwing with my head.
It doesn’t help that when I Google “27” or “27 Years Old”, the first several results are all about the death of 27 year olds (specifically musicians – thank god I’m not a pop musician – this must be a rough time).
There was one disturbing site that just listed a bunch of people who had died at the age of 27. Not celebrities. Just…a bunch of dead people.
I know. Anyone reading this who happens to be age 28 or above is rolling their eyes. But the fact is, 27 seems so much farther removed from 26 than 26 did from 25. I will soon officially be closer to my thirties than my college graduation.
It’s more the idea of the entire decade of my life, My Twenties, that concerns me more than the specific age. What am I really going to think when I look back on My Twenties once I reach that Thirty benchmark? Will My Twenties be that perfect balance between real life and fantasy, adventure and adult responsibilities, finding-oneself and making money…or will I discover that I went terribly terribly wrong somewhere?
What I’ve Done: I graduated college in four years. I found a job several months after graduation and have stayed at that same job (moving up the ranks) for over four years. I am in a strong relationship with the same wonderful man I started dating when I was 19. I have my own apartment with a separate room for my bed (imagine!) My car just reached 100,000 miles. I seem to have at least three – four separate careers going at once, though they all relate to each other.
What I Have Not Done: I have not back-packed across Europe. I have not slept around. The binge drinking every weekend thing got old my second year of college. I have not hopped from job to job (though I HAVE had a lot of small freelance jobs in addition to my one stable full time). I have only lived in two different cities since moving out on my own (both in Southern California, within driving distance from my parents). I have not survived solely on Top Romin for a month. I have not become the young prodigy entrepreneur/novelist/artist/whatever that every 20 year old thinks they are destined to become.
I only regret a couple of those things.
When I start to freak out about something, I do two things:
1. I find a song that I end up playing over and over and over again; the song doesn’t have to directly reflect the thing I’m freaking out about. But there is something about it that comforts me, and when it’s not playing, I start freaking out more. The current song is the cover of “King of Wishful Thinking” by Karmin.
2. I make lists. Lists make me feel better. This is not the list I’m referring to though.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a few things in my life I should work on in order to make the most out of the next three years, to start really becoming that adult I need to be. This list includes both the trivial things and the profound things – that is, the things I’ll be working on my whole life but I will nevertheless be disappointed about not having figured out by the age of 30.
The Actual 27 List:
1. Make my apartment into an adult apartment; stop living as if I’m in college. Okay, I will say that my apartment is halfway there, mostly due to the fact that most of my furniture was inherited from my parents (who are, in many ways, real adults). And there are several “design” decisions I specifically made when moving into my current apartment. However, on many levels, I still live as if I’m in college – when I moved every nine months and could fit all my belongings into the back of my hatchback. I didn’t buy frames or paint or put much time into thinking about the aesthetics of a place because I’d just have to be gone again soon, and why put in the effort? Now, even though I’ve been in my place for over two years, I still live as if I could move out tomorrow – and in theory, that could happen…the rent could go up to an amount I can’t afford…I could get some dream job somewhere far away…I could leave for a crazy trip for a long period of time…I could go to grad school…and…other stuff. I live with one foot out the door at all times – and while I will always be prepared for the kind of good or bad life shift that will send my life spinning in one direction or another, there is nothing wrong will putting a little more effort into making a home for myself.
2. Take my career seriously as a real job rather than a hobby. I’m in a place that many people (twenty-somethings and beyond) find themselves: my day job isn’t EXACTLY what I consider my main “career.” But because of this, sometimes the “real” career gets sidetracked by the day job, and suddenly what you really want to do is pushed onto this weird boundary between career and hobby. That is not a good place. I need to show up to my real “career” job just as often as my day job. I need to get to the point of OBSESSION.
3. Stop thinking so much about the image I project; spend more time cultivating the true foundation beneath that image. In an age of facebook and twitter and blogs (ha!) and a general career environment that is more individual-centralized than ever before, it is easy to get lost in creating the image of the person you want other people to see; and while you’re doing that, you forget to really nurture your true self. This speaks to self-editing and fearing what others will think of you; I have found that the moments when I let go and just tell the truth and don’t worry so much about people’s reactions or what the end result will be are not only the most educational moments, but the moments when I create the work I’m most proud of. It is far better to get that tinge of excitement and worry when you finally put something out into the world than having that same feeling early on and then playing it safe. Just let go and get it done for god’s sake.
4. Pay more attention to money management/future plans and health. Basically – I’m going to get old faster than I think, and I’ll need some money at some point. Also, I’m not 21 anymore and can’t just eat anything I want (honestly, I couldn’t really do that at 21 either ). Exercise.
5. Focus on something and commit to it. I’m interested in a lot of things. That’s great. That’s probably part of the reason I wanted to be a writer – so I could live multiple lives for the price of one. But I can’t actually do all the things I want to do. So I got to pick a few to concentrate on. Focus and get good at them…get GREAT at them. Now is the time to make that effort. I don’t want to be having the same conversations with myself about finishing my novel when I’m 37.
6. Make all those big travel plans a reality. Even if they don’t happen until I’m in my thirties. They will happen.
7. That list of writing projects I’ve written down to finish? Yeah. Finish those.
“The King of Wishful Thinking” has now played 27 times on my iTunes. And that’s the end of my list. Irony?