Picking my life apart brought me to these realizations
Weeks leading up to my college graduation, I was determined to make my early twenties the best years of my life. Explore my limits and make mistakes before taking the rest of my years seriously. It was all planned out: take a short break, get a job that pays nicely and experience all sorts of things (traveling, partying and all that). Finally, I had time to seize the chances I gave up for a shiny track record at school. But then the inevitable happened: the world closed down, and headlines became more devastating as the days passed. Life in the pandemic meant spending two years indoors and celebrating milestones through choppy video calls.
Everyone feels like they’ve lost a lot of time to the crisis. My relatives weren’t in the hospital to see my cousin and his wife give birth. Some people say that they lost the chance to establish and build better connections. And if it’s not time, it’s the lack of opportunities, diverted dreams or robbed futures. Young adults spend their era of firsts—the first major purchase, the first career and other such achievements—socially distant, a setup less desirable than the ideal.
Life in the pandemic redefined growing up, specifically for young adults turning into adults.
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Life In a Pandemic: What’s Changed
The priorities. All of our self-indulgent, experiential luxuries had to take the backseat as we put our mental, physical and emotional health front and center. So, we focused on keeping ourselves healthy or making money to stay prepared. Instead of investing in experiences, we set our sights on tangible things, on items that make us happy. We’d rather be stable for the next few years than be reckless. After all, we can’t afford to be anyway during times like these.
The opportunities. One of the striking things of life in the pandemic is that rites of passage lose their magic when they happen virtually. May it be a job interview, a graduation ceremony or a birthday party; sometimes these events feel a bit lackluster. The pandemic had us thinking realistically, being a bit more careful and eager with the opportunities we seize.
The expectations. When we were all grappling with the fact that the health crisis was bigger than we expected, everyone tried to keep the world spinning. Returning to business-as-usual was the priority, so technically, our biological and metaphorical clocks continued ticking. Physically, we matured, but mentally, we still feel stuck on who we were two years ago. But the responsibilities didn’t stop—bills, payables, duties to our families, ourselves and the world. Then, the burdens we thought we could push back for a while came knocking at our door. We had to face them either way.
The drive. Our generation has always been thirsty for success. We recognize that we have to work hard for what we want, continuously improve and explore new ground. The lack of experiences just amplifies this admirable thirst for our own versions of triumph. So when the pandemic reared its head, we realized that there’s more to us than the accolades we collect. There’s more to our lives than our bubbles. There’s a world out there, beyond us, that requires our help and participation. A whole world that we shouldn’t give up on, which keeps us pushing forward.
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Sometimes, I still feel like I’m 21 years old and naïve, and on other days, I’m 23 and wiser. It’s an odd limbo of growing into my age and feeling stuck in the past. But if there’s one thing I learned from picking apart what’s stayed the same and what hasn’t, it’s that the best years of your life aren’t defined by the amount of time spent on one thing or another. Instead, they’re defined by how you choose to use them. Life in the pandemic made us feel lost—it still does, tbh—but that doesn’t mean we’ll never find our way back. We still have a lot of chances to mess up and make amends.
The way we went through our early twenties might be unconventional, but what matters most is that we make do with what we have.
Art Alexandra Lara