Last week I turned 25. I tried to forget about it, tried to push it to the back of my mind, tried to pretend it was a normal day. But, no. Noooo! Over 30 people (most of whom, let’s be honest, I barely talk to) were there on Facebook, “politely” reminding me that it was my birthday with a constant barrage of jovial messages.
It’s not that I dislike birthdays. I like presents. I like cake. I like attention. But what I hate is that moment. The moment when the party is over, the house is empty, cardboard hats cover the floor, the food on the table lies half eaten, and you sit alone on your sofa and you think, ‘so, I’m 25 now, what have I done with my life?’ The silence is the answer.
I am 25 and I have done nothing with my life. I don’t say this with pride, but I also don’t say this with self-pity. I just say it. How many 25 year olds have done anything with their life? Not many I wager. So why do I feel bad that I’ve done nothing with mine?
I don’t know what to do with my life. At all. But I feel I should be doing something. So my mind is caught in a constant cycle. First I must feel bad because I’ve not yet done anything. Then I must feel bad because I don’t know what to do. Then I must feel bad because I haven’t done what I don’t know what to do. I feel constantly confused. Like I have no place. I feel lost. I’m unsure about everything.
There’s a term for this. A “quarter life crisis”. A time in a young person’s life where they becoming introspective and start to question their existence. We go back to that question again of ‘who am I?‘
I’m sick of asking it. Really sick. The question is even starting to bore me. I’m starting to not care about who I am. Who gives a shit! Who says I should give a damn anyway?
The world. That’s who. My generation has been brought up with an unhealthy dose of optimism. As children we are told we can be anybody we want to be. That we can do anything we want to do. If we dream big, those dreams can one day be turned into reality. We can all be a great person. A memorable person. We can change the world if we want.
Then you grow up and you realise that unhealthy dose of optimism has turned you into a pessimist. You come to the realisation that you can’t be anybody you want to be. You can’t do anything. If you dream big, you eventually realise your dreams will never happen. You can’t change the world. You can barely build up the courage to change your hairstyle.
We’re raising our children to have a false grip on their existence. If we raise every child to believe their life is special, then eventually there’ll be a fallout when all of these children grow up and realise they’re just the same as everybody else. We aren’t all great people.
If everybody is a great person then what’s the point of being great? If everybody is great, then that just means being great is average. So really, what we’re saying is, everybody is average. It comes as quite a blow when you realise you’re just the same as everybody else. You will live, you will do nothing with your life, then you will die, and 100 years afterwards you’ll be lucky if your name turns up on a family tree. That is all.
We can’t all change the world. We all read the same books. We all think the same thoughts (even these thoughts, right now, that I’m typing.) We all buy our clothes from the same stores. We all feel. We all speak. We all see. We aren’t unique. We aren’t special. We are average. That hurts.
But I wonder, did it hurt my grandfather? Did he ever sit alone after the party. Sad about being the same as everybody else. Sad about his life having no meaning.
I doubt it. My grandfather’s generation fought in two World Wars. They went off to a foreign country, barely adults, and they shot other humans, who were also barely adults. But they never thought about it. Never wondered “what does this all mean?” They just thought about their family. Their love back home. Their luck to be alive. Nowadays it’s almost as if we’re unlucky to be alive.
However my grand parents were sold a different dream. They weren’t special. They weren’t unique. They were simply told that if they worked hard, they could have a family, they could have their own home, they could have a dog. They could be happily the same as everybody else, and if they were lucky they’d have enough money at the end of the year to buy a full turkey for Christmas. And they were happy enough. Not truly happy. But happy enough. With their existence, with their lives, with what they had. They knew that true, complete happiness was an impossible dream, that happy enough was the best they could hope for. They were happy with happy enough.
So where did it all go wrong? Well, personally, I blame The Beatles. I love The Beatles. They’re one of my favourite bands. But we really should have smelt trouble when they stopped singing about holding hands, and started singing about LSD.
The 60s were amazing, right? The world started to become more liberal (and never stopped!). Everybody started to become open minded. We suddenly decided that people should have equal rights. That everybody should have a chance. We decided that everybody, everywhere, could be a great person. Even you. Yes, you! Right there, you! Sure you’ve been born into poverty. Sure you’ve got no education. Sure you’ve only got the skills to dig ditches for a living. But even you could change the world! You could be great!
Once people believe they’re unique, they start to believe their life has meaning. Which leads to a horrible, horrible discovery when they realise it’s meaningless. Religion used to solve the problem. Sure, we have no meaning now, but we’ll have meaning later! But even those damn liberals have stolen religion from us and replaced it with the worst thing possible. Choice.
You can choose. You can do anything you like with your life. You have a choice. So much choice. So so soooo much choice. Choice is great. Choice means we’re free. But. (Oh, shit, there’s a but!?) You must choose wisely, you must make the right choice. God no longer exists, heaven doesn’t await us. This is it. This is your life. You have only got one shot. One choice. So make it the right choice. But make it now dammit! Time is running out!
That’s a lot of pressure. Your whole life is brought down to a choice. Which you must make. Around about now. Around about 25.
I don’t know what choice to make though. There are so many choices, and so much pressure to choose, that I can’t choose. I’m like a deer standing in the road, paralysed by the light of a car coming towards me. Behind the wheel is life. Grinning madly. Happy to run me over.
What if I make the wrong choice? What if I screw up? What if I fail to be that great person the world has told me I will be? What if? What if? What if?
There are so many what ifs that in the end, I make no choice. I don’t become a great person. I don’t change the world. I realise I’m not unique. I realise my life has no meaning. I realise I am average.
I sit alone. After the party. Thinking these things. Realising I was sold a lie in childhood, that I’m now paying for in adulthood. Searching for a solution. Searching for a choice.
But as I sit there, I start get bored. Bored of thinking. About everything.
So I turn the TV on. I open a bag of tortillas. I eat.
I start to go on with life. Forgetting all about that choice
Forgetting, that no choice is the worst choice of all.
Photo is Progressione II by Iguanajo