I turn 22 on Sunday and it feels very weird. Even writing “22” looks strange. Is this what 22 feels like? I only just got used to being 21! I think I’m an adult now. This means I’m definitely having ice cream for dinner.
Like I said, I turn 22 on Sunday and I am a mix of emotions. I love birthdays and all the joy that comes from being granted another year, another candle, another wish. Birthdays demand both a carefree celebration (whatever shape that takes for you – mine is setting up to be a champagne infused brunch and I am not exactly fighting it) and also a moment of introspection. Is this where I thought I’d be? Am I working towards the best, most authentic version of myself? Am I cultivating real joy?
Is this where I thought I’d be? In a word? No. In four words? No way in hell. I never imagined that at 22, I would get to live in a city I’ve been dreaming about for years. Yet here I am, sitting in my apartment with wall-to-wall windows that offer me a daily sneak peek into the comings and goings of my fellow city dwellers. The morning commute pulsing as one, all united in the battle of the transit. We share silent glances of mutual understanding every time we get accidentally shoved into one another on the metro. We chose this. We own this.
In addition to having the chance to live in my beautiful, iconic city, I also work for a big company, with name recognition and benefits and all the things I never imagined I would have right out of college. As an undergrad, I planned to pursue non-profit work, intoxicated with the idea of being the change I wanted to see in the world. My internal cover letter read like a vagabond manifesto. But I am not doing the world a disservice by working hard at a job that ultimately makes other peoples’ jobs and lives easier and their organizations more impactful. And bonus points that my company also places a genuine emphasis on generosity and service, with year-round volunteer projects and opportunities to improve our local community. It’s a win-win and I don’t even have to live in a yurt.
Am I working towards the best, most authentic version of myself? I think so. I’m trying. Everything right now is a discovery and through all the noise, I try to find that quiet space where I talk to myself (usually in the kitchen while I’m making breakfast or dinner, if we’re honest) and work through things out loud. Budgeting is teaching me about my real priorities. Reaching out to old friends is teaching me about the sanctity of real connection. Taking leaps of faith toward new friends is teaching me about being intentional. Working through a career program for my job is teaching me about long-term planning. I am learning, learning, learning and it feels amazing. And the only test comes in living out my best self in that moment. I won’t ever have all the answers and I hope I never do. How boring to go through life knowing everything about yourself. I hope that when I die, I’m a little old lady tucked into a warm bed, still a little bit of a mystery.
Am I cultivating real joy? I am. I am. I am. Joy down to my toes.
22, let’s do this.