I used to think that being a teenager was the hardest time of my life. It’s that first firing of the gun, that first sprint, that first prying for position at the front of the race. The joy of discovering relationships for the first time, and the pain of that first fraying away. Everything is so new, and so raw, and so real - because it’s all happening for the first time.
But if your youth is the initial frantic dash, your 20s are that long, lonely slog. The finish line is nowhere in sight. There’s no one around you. All you have is the sound of your ragged breath and your echoing thoughts, pounding at your head like your feet on the dirt.
No one prepares you for this leg in the race.
School teaches you how to think inside the box, how to answer questions in the exact way that gets you a passing grade, how to develop a healthy disdain for authority. But no one prepares you for the empty home at the end of the day, the bills that never seem to be paid, the constant cocktail of Netflix and Instagram that shows you how shitty your life is compared to everyone else. No one told you about the weight of knowing every decision you make could fuck up your life - and now, there’s no safety net to fall back on.
I’ve made some terrible decisions in my 20s. Fueled by the slow swing of equal parts depression and mania, I’ve wasted money, lost jobs, betrayed those closest to me and let friendships fade away. I’ve lost sight of where the track is and ended up running aimlessly, stumbling and falling and giving up entirely to sink in to the dirt. I’ve fed the hole inside me with addictions and follows and likes and naps until it became so big I fell inside it, too.
The truth is, I’m a mess a lot of the time. I don’t look after myself. I don’t get nearly enough sleep. I eat absolute garbage. I overcommit and underdeliver. I run out of money the day after payday. I constantly worry about what others think of me, and always let my shitty moods affect the people around me. I am wildly underqualified for the job I’m in, and I have no idea what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
The worst part about it is that everyone else is going through the same shit that I am - and everyone else thinks they’re alone in it, too. We’re so focussed on our own shit and the path directly in front of us that we don’t notice the people around us, stumbling and falling as we do. We tell ourselves these stories in our head about imagined opinions of others, but we never stop to think that maybe other people aren’t constantly thinking about us. Maybe we’re not the centre of the universe. Maybe all the other people in the world are just trying to get by, too.
We aren’t meant to go through life alone. It doesn’t matter how fast you get to the finish line in this race, the end is the same for everyone. Look around you - we’re all covered in dirt and mud and bruises and blood, too.
There’s no point in hiding our shit and pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. You may be envious of jealous of the lives that you think that others have, but if you talk to anyone for long enough, they’ll show you their scars. We’re all struggling just as much as you are.
Maybe if we were all open and honest about how much our lives suck, we wouldn’t all have to pretend that everything’s good all the time. And all it takes is to just look around.