At twenty-something, there is this existential crisis where you have no clue of where life is heading, what your purposes are or if there is any value to it at all. And there is this confidence crisis, where you – a confused and lonely big kid, who struggles to become an adult, feels like everyone is getting somewhere with their life, having something to be proud of, when you are nailed before the starting line.
As a measure of keeping my sanity in pact with my mind, I’ve been trying to tell myself “It’s okay. It’s okay to grow up to be less than someone else. You are unique and that’s okay”.
Of course that doesn’t always work so well. I’m blessed with a circle of friends and a family full of smart and talented people. I adore them and I look up to them. So much that it got me insecure. I doubted myself. I keep adverting my eyes upward in awe and envy and didn’t want to look the other way. I was afraid that I’m going to see myself if I look down.
Should I really be knowing what-to-do, where-to-go, who-to-be in my 20s?
The quarter-life crisis is all about these questions and the confusion it brings, right? Growing up with high expectations is hard, and family gatherings makes it even worse. 30 minutes after making an entrance and you would already be choked with “Where are you going to work at?” “What are you planning on doing?” “Why are you not settling down?”, on and on. You’d tell yourself that it’s just old people’s blabbings. Then one fine day, when you’re losing thoughts over a cup of coffee or drenched under the shower, it suddenly returns and fires a big hit at you. Then you‘d question everything – from your life to your choices to yourself.
My dear father is 77, so he has all the rights and reasons to be over-worried of his little girl. When I was running my own business which gained me fame and fortune, he thought it was unstable. When I moved onto my first office job because I knew I needed the experience, he thought my salary was too low. When I quit for the better paid option, he was worried that I will never settle down.
But does a person in their early twenties really need to have all these questions figured out? We had already spent 3 years in kinder-garden, 12 years in school, 4 years in university. After a total of 20 years having to follow a particular order, shouldn’t we be free to now experience different aspects of life on our own accord? What do we know if we don’t try, and how are we going to circle out the best option if we know nothing.
So I told him: “I absolutely can not settle down the way you want me to, at least not now, because I don’t want to live my life in lack of the experience and knowledge I could have conquered.”
Stay true to yourself, even when it’s not trendy
In the age of social media that bombards us with unrealistic ideals everyday, self-loathing is almost inevitable. Sometimes I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, wandering on the internet stalking random people. With every swipe, a further bit of self-esteem is flushed down the toilet. There are girls with the sun-kissed skin, eyebrows on-fleek, looking fierce in those little crop tops and denim shorts with a Tumblr kinda-vibe. There are girls who are skinny and delicate as a feather, whose eyes are the most tranquil of lakes you just can’t help but getting drowned in. There are the cute babydoll, the trendsetter, the successful entrepreneur, the heir/heiress…..
…and then there is me.
I used to have my skin so tanned and wore smokey eyes before-it-was-cool. I had a good amount of followers on Instagram. I took daring photoshoots with cigarettes in my mouth and biker boots on my feet. I was the black sheep in the crowd, but I was ‘special’ for not being the porcelain doll that everyone loves. Sometimes I get body-shamed for my dark skin, but overall I was well-liked at some points and I was happy, because people accepted me.
Now at 24, I just wanted to be Asian with the golden skin. I want to walk around the streets in flowy dresses that don’t quite compliment a hourglass body, and flats that absolutely won’t do good for my ‘limited’ height. I want to not do the things I don’t want to do, like drinking or smoking, or getting wasted on the weekends. I want to focus on things I’m truly passionate about, like drawing and writing, instead of committing to an image that I can’t keep. Although for that, I was told that I’ve became “boring”, “basic”, or “losing it” (mất chất).
But you can grow up to find something that was ‘you’, is not ‘you’ anymore.
It’s the whole idea of life – growing – isn’t it? As time goes, you will grow out of ‘you’ to be more ‘you’ than ever before. People may love you now, people may loved you then. Does not matter when, somebody is going to enjoy the different states of You. Because even when you think you are ‘less’ than someone else, you are still one unique bundle of your very own uniqueness. The people whom you are jealous of, or being compared to, do not have the same stars twinkle in their eyes like you do, their skin does not fold the same way as yours when they stretch a smile, and their little giggles do not lighten the day of those who love you dearly.
So I’ve been telling myself, that flats won’t leave me blisters, dresses will let me enjoy good food without keeping my tummy tucked, teas and juices will give me more time to live next to my loved ones…. and that I didn’t ‘lose it’ – I simply blossomed.