Nobody Likes You When You’re 23

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday.

All I can think about is that one Britney song “Not a girl, not yet a woman.” In my mind, hitting 24 and 25 is when I’ll truly need to start having my shit together. Whatever that means. My dad likes to joke that I change the year as I approach it. Before soon I’ll be saying, “79 is when I’ll really need to start getting my shit together.”

Little more than a week ago, my sister turned 27 and I asked her how she felt. She told me about how she was excited to get older, how aging doesn’t freak her out the way it does some folks (myself included.)

I envy my sister that, her excitement for her 30s and for the decades after that. I have, completely unsurprisingly, a lot of anxiety about getting older, but it’s not necessarily about aging. It’s about wondering when I’ll finally land a big girl job, if I’ll ever achieve all the goals I’ve laid out for myself, if I’ll ever get a dog. Responsibility is a weight I doubt we ever fully become accustomed to. If I’ve learned anything from my parents, it’s that even grown ups have their days where they’re not entirely sure what they’re doing.

So I’ve got worries. But I also had a nice train ride to Kingston to think about the other side of aging — to look at how much I’ve grown in the last few years.

When I think about how I was in high school, even at the start of university, it seems like the Natasha of then is a completely different person. If you can believe it, she was even more insecure and prone to pigheaded-ness.

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I’m half-kidding, but there are a lot of changes I’ve noticed in me. I mean, yeah, I know how to dress now, or at least, I know how to dress in a way I feel good in and think works for me. I’m way better at makeup than I was. Those are only the superficial things, but since my journey in how to dress myself led to a love affair with fashion, it’s important to note.

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I’m more self-aware. I’m better at considering the consequences of my words before I speak. Better, but not perfect. I value my friendships so much more now that I’ve moved. I’m a little more open towards others and a little more forgiving towards myself. I care less and less what people think of me every day. Maybe I’m happier, I don’t know.

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In short, every year that passes brings more changes, physical and otherwise. Looking back at myself, even when I was eighteen, nineteen, I see how everything I’ve experienced has shaped me a little differently, how every person has left an impression. I have anxiety about getting older, but I also have some excitement on how I’ll look back when I’m 27 or 28 and see how much more I’ve changed. It’s cliche, but it’s a bit comforting to know that there are so many more people to meet and things to experience.

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For now, I’m 23. I’m 23 and I went to Ottawa for a weekend to celebrate with some pals. We took poorly-lit basement photos and get uproariously drunk. As my esteemed colleagues Blink-182 say, nobody likes you when you’re 23. You’re still so young, but you have a lot of the responsibility of a full adult. All we can do at this weird crossroads, when we’re not kids but not quite grown-ups, is do our best to be kind to ourselves and the people around us. And, if we can, try not to fuck up too much. At least not more than is necessary.

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