According to Instagram, at 26 years old I should be drinking at least a boujee $20+ bottle of wine on a perfectly white linen couch in front of a 72″ TV catching up on episodes of the latest show on Netflix with my boyfriend. I should be out eating oysters at Soul Bar with a big group of my girlfriends I’ve known since high school while I watch my latest inflated pay check roll in, just in time for the next round. Or maybe even, planning this weekend’s next road trip out of the city to surf and climb the next most famous Instagram hike while convincing myself I did it purely for the sake of my health. All of these seem perfectly normal and healthy for a 26-year-old Auckland city girl in my position, right?
Don’t worry, I’m just here sipping on some leftover bender vodka, trying to write this post while eating my Night & Day Ubereats (yum), staring at a mountain of clean washing that I can’t fit into the only set of drawers I’ve bothered to assemble since moving back to Auckland. Flatpack furniture, you are no friend of mine. Add in a 3 hr debrief to my friend in LA debating whether her recent “thing” is going anywhere and a failed attempt at going to retrieve aforementioned boujee wine and that’s my ‘big Wednesday night’. I’m happy, but it’s a far cry from where, according to Instagram, I am “meant” to be.
NA-KD Pants (Similar Here & Here)
I’ve officially hit the great divide of my mid-twenties. There’s never been a time when a proposal, a pregnancy announcement and a politically misinformed opinion has hit my feed in quicker succession. When both drinking to celebrate success and drinking to excess is welcomed with opened arms and slurring appraisal. You can be both winning, losing and cruising through life with any end goal in mind and still be sectioned off into all three categories depending on who you’re asking. And just like that, I jumped from the dreaded quarter-life crisis into the grey area of my twenties.
There’s always a sense of comfort from knowing you’re following the rest of the pack – but what if there’s no more ‘road most travelled? Besides from the trail of Instagram stories that would most likely lead you astray (you know they’re eating Maccas right after that hike, Honey), it’s hard to gauge whether you’re making the best, or a serial killer is right around the corner, kind of move. Life used to carry on so thoughtlessly – from school to university to the first job and so forth. Now I’m in free fall, hoping that I’ve built a life that supports a parachute.
It’s not a new or profound idea when I share with you that no one knows what they’re doing. I’ve talked to friends, family, co-workers and basically, anyone that will humour me at 3 am with this chat and the answer is still the same. But we’re all here, stuck in this mess of a mid-twenties period trying to navigate what we want to get out of it. While at the same time, being bombarded with images of what we don’t have – the ring, the house, the baby or the car. Add Covid-19, cancel culture and any other world crisis and hello, we’re all so lost that I’m not sure we could ever be found. So what the fuck are we meant to do? The answer is probably not “download Hinge” for the thirteenth time.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret – the real reason no one knows what they’re doing is because we’re in ominous, uncharted territories. There’s never been a time in history that people have been freer than what we are blessed (ugh, I said it) to be right now – Covid-19 aside. We’ve fought so hard to undo the generational trauma of giving women no purpose beyond living and breeding, that we now have too much choice. We have the cake and are, by societal standards, free to eat it too. So the next question is – which flavour do you want?
I feel that in your mid-twenties there is no right way to be an adult. You’re probably always going to feel like a fraud. Especially when you’re comparing yourself to people that don’t want the same things from life that you do. I give you permission to take your mind off the damn treadmill because you already know what you want. The sum of all your experiences is the key to moving forward; the travel, the “whatever you want to call it” relationships, the drama, the love, the countless nights spent wondering if I’m doing this right and the days that just feel more “meh” than “okay”. The mid-twenties is a time when we’ve done (some) hard yards, we know what has kept us up crying at night and we know what excites us enough to push forward through a world that seems to be falling apart.
So to that, I say, find the milestones that will propel you – as big or as little as you want. Do you desperately want the house, the car and the hubby by 30? Make moves to get there. Does the idea of a mortgage make your skin crawl? Put it on the back-burner. There are so many possibilities in the game of life it makes no sense to try to follow what everyone else is doing. You’re allowed to take your time. Spending your whole pay check on a weekend out doesn’t mean you can’t catch up the following. So long as you’re moving forward ,towards your version of “end game”, and enjoying the ride, you’re heading in the right direction.