Turning 25 is scary.
It’s a milestone age we look to and set deadlines for: “by the time I’m 25 I’ll have a house/career/long term partner/my life together” and so on. So when you get there and haven’t quite got everything figured out it can feel like a failure, or like time is running out.
Here, Diosa Taylor discusses reaching that landmark age and how it means a lot less than she built it up to.
Flicking through my Facebook news-feed the other day, I noticed something: everyone is doing something totally different these days.
I’m 25 and so are most of my friends. And this is an odd age. It’s one of those landmark ages where you pause and look around only to realise there’s this disparity that wasn’t there so much before.
Some of my friends are still students and some have more children than I have things in my fridge. A few have job titles that completely elude me; I couldn’t hazard a guess as to what they do for a living. If I look at their LinkedIn profiles it’s usually with the same bewilderment-come-curiosity of a kid eavesdropping on their parents’ dinner party: silently sitting on the second-to-last stair, just out of sight, soaking up the sounds of adulthood an hour past bedtime.
I get annoyed when someone asks for my ID and bitter when they don’t. And this is the crux of the problem; we don’t know whether we’re the kid on the stairs or the parents having dinner and we don’t actually know which we want to be.
"I remember thinking of my graduation date as an imaginary number, a day that would forever be in the future and would never really arrive"
But when did this happen? Only a few short years ago, I was sat in lectures full of people in exactly the same little student bubble boat as me. There’s this round-your-age-up-to-30 kind of pressure about being 25 that makes you romanticise your time at university and yearn for the structure and life-scaffolding you insist you took for granted there.
I remember thinking of my graduation date as an imaginary number, a day that would forever be in the future and would never really arrive. And final year is a bitch. You think of nothing but your impending exams and the bearing they will have on the rest of your life, without actually giving much thought to the rest of your life.
"We are the chameleon age where just about everything is OK"
Graduation sneaks up on us and so then does the diverging of paths that starts the minute your mortarboard falls to the ground. Me? I wanted a change of scene. So I took a few years, I lived abroad, travelled, dabbled in autodidactism and am honestly a much better, well-rounded person for it. But no matter how prepared you are, how grounded you feel, 25 is still a confusing age to be.
Some of my friends are starting over, starting Master’s degrees or starting to look old. Our aspirations lie somewhere between pull a guy with a top knot and bag that middle-management promotion. We still don’t look out of place in a club queue, but we’ve got supermarket loyalty cards wedged into our wallets next to expired student cards we still try and get away with. You can play football with a team of 18-year-olds and rub shoulders with colleagues literally double their age. We are the chameleon age where just about everything is OK.
If you had one too many and rode a shopping trolley into a wall at the weekend, that’s still OK. If you spent Saturday morning talking to a financial adviser about a mortgage, that’s OK. People are putting down 4-digit deposits on white dresses and agreeing to spend the rest of their days with the same person and I can remember them dressed as a juice carton for Halloween in sixth form like it was last Thursday.
But don’t feel down because your best mate has committed to a lifetime with their SO and you can’t even commit to a brand of shampoo.
You might be between jobs, waiting tables, or the CEO of your own thriving start-up. You might have the word “doctor” attached to your name. I have a friend who is a fully certified accountant and also thinks you cook broccoli whole like a goddamn lobster – like just chuck the entire thing into boiling water. Whatever you think a grown-up is supposed to be, I think we can all agree it’s not a bloody number. Whatever age you think that is supposed to suddenly happen, quash it. That age is a myth. It doesn’t exist.
"Whatever you think a grown-up is supposed to be, I think we can all agree it’s not a bloody number"
I don’t have it all figured out. Neither does Carol or Steve or anyone else really. If you’ve racked up a few years of experience at something, you probably don’t need to be babysat by your line manager but you still don’t know enough to be dangerous. Yet. 25 is the age of “yet”. You can still do anything. Nothing’s quite on the decline yet: your fitness, your boundless youthful optimism. Short shorts and skinny jeans still have a deserved place in your wardrobe. You’re not “too old” for anything. Yet.
Don’t become a victim of social media and worrying about what other people are doing. What do you want to do?
Who cares if Carol is on an amazing post-uni gap year? The world is your oyster. At 25, you start to wonder how long it will stay open. It can feel like all the doors are quietly closing, as we run around trying to jam our feet in the gaps. But really, 25 means something different for everyone and you’re not supposed to be anywhere in particular in life. It is literally just a number.
So, listen to that weird niggling inner voice. You know the one. The one that says, “I’m not sorry,” when you eat tomorrow’s lunch. The one that knows your phone number. The one that goes, “Fuck it, text back,” even though you know it’s too soon. Listen to the funny little voice that seems to know what you want before you do and whatever you want, realise you’ve got bags of time.
Sure, we’re not 20 anymore. But we’re still young, hot and relatively free of responsibility. So take too many selfies, have another drink, relax. 25 is not last-chance lane, it’s the age of yet.