This week I turn 26 which basically means I’m veering into my “late twenties” which is, quite frankly, completely fine and absolutely not worth panicking about. Especially seeing as being 26-year-old intern is no longer a thing to be ashamed of.
Gone are the days of panicking about hitting 30 and not having your life completely together. Back in Ireland, I spent the majority of my 25th year in a state of pure anxiety about impending adulthood coupled with my lack of pension, mortgage, and general focal direction in my life. I had no savings, no master’s, and no clue.
In New York, everything is much looser, freer, and subject to change. The pressure is off.
There is so much more to do here, so much more variety and opportunity, that the thought of subscribing to one particular career or lifestyle and maintaining that for the next five or six decades just seems insane.
More and more people I talk to over here are willing to take risks, to try turning hobbies into careers, to sacrifice sense in the name of passion and to pursue what others would only describe as dreams.
I am currently working two unpaid internships from Monday-Friday while writing a few thousand words a week on the side, and now need to squeeze in a couple more hours that pay so that
I won’t starve to death and/or die. Is that completely outrageous for a 26-year-old woman? No. Absolutely not.
When I describe my situation to friends at home they are agog, they are aghast! How could you be willing to work for free? How could you consider working more than 40 hours a week?
In my experience, brief as it may be, there are two sorts of people. There are those who thrive in a state of security, of the future being a solid, comforting friend who is guaranteed to provide money, shelter and an upward slope of success. For them, the thought of taking career risks or attempting to turn their penchant for ukulele music into an entrepreneurial endeavour is a total nightmare.
Then there are people like me, for whom the thought of a job that I would work until I retire is hell on earth. I was always told that my “problem” is having too many interests.
Being enthused by literature, theater and events while being intrigued by the worlds of PR, journalism and media results in chaos, right? How can you settle on one, choose one, and decide on one for the rest of your life?
I have since decided that I choose them all. As I turn 26 I will be interning in publishing and in PR, working as a journalist and freelancing as some money-making guru (field yet to be unveiled) because I don’t have to choose – at least not yet. What’s the rush?
As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t spend 18 years in education to only spend five minutes deciding what to do with it and then embark on a 40 year hike of doing the same thing until I die. I’m going to take AT LEAST a decade to figure this out, and that’s what my twenties are going to be dedicated to.
Seeing as my early twenties were inadvertently dedicated to this newly appreciated cause, my late twenties will commence as a celebration of this fact! As a gift to myself, I will spend the next four years enjoying all of the industries that I love, exploring all interests and intrigues and relax into the swing of life. And I get the feeling that I am not alone in this frame of mind.
My mom had me on her 27th birthday. If I was to match her life, I would have married to the guy I was going out with when I was 17 by the time I was 22. I would then have to conceive a child in three months’ time.
I would have a mortgage by the time I’m 29 and would also know how to drive – let it be noted that I have never, and probably will never, learn how to drive.
The times have changed. Everything has been pushed back a decade.
I see the occasional Facebook friend from school – more of an old acquaintance from times gone by – who has kids, or has recently gotten married, but these guys are now the exception to the rule. They’re more likely to be considered to be too young to be settling down, as opposed to back in my parents’ day when marring at 22 was considered normal.
Nowadays turning 26 with no prospects of marriage, birthing children or having a meeting at the bank about a mortgage is extremely okay. Similarly, turning 26 and not knowing what you want to do with your life is absolutely fine, and anyone who thinks otherwise and finds it necessary to preach to us – please reconsider and kindly back off.
Now is the time to take risks, before we do have spouses and children and property; before the fear of losing those things that are most important to you becomes even more important than losing out on opportunities that you never had the chance to take.
Whenever I have complained about my life lacking focus or direction, my parents have encouraged my whimsical adventurous side to no end. They’re my biggest fans.
They grew up in a world where going to university was not an option, where getting a job, getting a house, settling down and moving on with life was what everyone else was doing, so they did it too.
Now they see the world that I have grown up in and push me to look at the million doors that could possibly be opened for me before any form of settling down need come my way.
So instead of beating myself up for being a 26-year-old intern, I’m going to celebrate the fact that I have the opportunity to do this. That we all have the freedom to take our time and enjoy our twenties, and that we don’t need to rush into anything at all. We are young, and it is more than okay to act that way.