1. When people hear I’m turning 25, they like to joke about how a quarter of my life is already over. I’m not sure why it’s supposed to be funny—you’re literally joking about my death, people—but worse than that, it’s not even accurate.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to pretend she’s going to live to be 100. I don’t even like to pretend I know what’s coming for me in the next decade. Life has always been sort of an in-the-moment thing for me—I take it as it comes and try not to get too ahead of myself. I think that’s partially because there’s no real use to worrying about hypotheticals, but also because, at the end of the day, the big picture scares me.
If I could step out of my life and see it for everything that it has been and will be, would I like it? If I examined this sliver that’s already happened and compared it to everything I’ve always wanted it to be, would I still be happy? How many more 25-year increments will I have to live before it finally feels like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be?
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2. At 25, Lawrence Bragg won the Nobel Prize. Orson Welles created Citizen Kane. Janis Joplin made over a million dollars on her first recording. Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic alone. I guess I always thought that by 25, I would have done something big, too.
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3. There are hundreds of lists online about what you should have accomplished by 25, or what you should have stopped doing by 25, or what your life needs to look like by 25. I call bullshit on most of it. I think we have an annoying habit of setting subjective timelines and trying to force them on people, then looking down on anyone who can’t make them fit. At the end of the day, why do we care so much if someone has traveled internationally or if they know how to properly roast a chicken or if they save a certain percentage of their paycheck per year? Why are we so sure that our way is the right way?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I used to care a lot about hitting all those check marks on all those other people’s lists, but at a certain point I realized none of it actually mattered. I’ve got my own lists now.
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4. I once had a 40-something professor who said he’d never date a woman over 25. Maybe that’s why this year feels like such an expiration date.
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5. Most experts believe the brain is fully developed by the age of 25. Which means that for most 25-year-olds, the personality is pretty much set. Which means that who I am now is be who I am going to be for the rest of my life, at least to an extent. I can’t decide if that realization is comforting or terrifying. Sure, change is exhausting, but something about stability scares me.
On the bright side, I can’t imagine another version of myself I’d rather be. Of the thousands of people I’ve been, I’ve only been proud of a few. For the first time in a long time, I think I like who I am.
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6. If I’m being totally honest, 25 is the first year of my life that feels like real adulthood. I now find myself in a strange conundrum where I’m too old to get away with the same stupid shit I used to but still somehow too young to really be taken seriously. I no longer get tattoos on a whim or move across the world at a moment’s notice or follow strangers into the seedy basements of secret clubs, but it’s still so easy for people to laugh off my ideas, my ambitions, my opinions. Someone will tell me I’m an old soul, then say I’m not old enough to understand what that means in the same breath. “You’ll get it someday,” they’ll say.
I’m not going to pretend like I know everything. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have a lot left to learn. I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that I’m still growing. But I also think it’s just easy for people to use my age to dismiss me when they don’t like what I have to say. How old do I have to be before people recognize that this is just who I am?
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7. I can rent a car now. That’s cool, I guess?
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8. I never actually thought I’d turn 25. And it’s not because I expected something horrible to happen to me or anything, but I think sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I have a hard time grasping the idea of time. When I was kindergarten, I couldn’t imagine first grade. And when I entered high school at 14, I couldn’t imagine graduating at 18. Twenty-five always felt like this hypothetical future, a goal, the answer to, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It was never something I truly believed I could be.
But 25 is here, and I sort of feel blindsided, even though I could always see it creeping up in my peripherals. It makes me think about all those other hypotheticals, how far away they seem now, and how, in the grand scheme of things, they really aren’t far away at all.
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9. By 25, I was supposed to be married. I was supposed to have two kids. I was supposed to own a house. I was supposed to have published a book. I was supposed to have gotten a master’s degree, too, was supposed to become a lawyer or a therapist or maybe an anthropologist. Then again, I decided all of that when I was 10. Things have changed a lot since then.
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10. Sometimes I wonder if, after a certain point, age means anything at all. I have a 26-year-old friend who seems decades wiser and an 86-year-old grandmother who still swears she’s 18. And then there’s me. I don’t really feel young or old. Maybe I just fall somewhere in between.
But I guess that’s the beauty of getting older—no one gets to tell you who you have to be. At the end of the day, I am what I am, and no number gets to define what that means.