Today at 1:26 p.m., I will turn twenty-six years old. I will be entering the very, very end of my mid-twenties, slowly entering my late-twenties. I don’t really have a fear of growing older. Most of the time, I already feel like I’m eighty-seven. But twenty-six has me a little hesitant. The past five years have all been defined by large moments or prominent phases and challenges in my life. I graduated from college at twenty-one. I got into graduate school at twenty-two. Twenty-three was arguably the worst year of my life, marked by depression, isolation, and a slew of suicidal thoughts that I feared would never leave me. They did, though not without a fight. At twenty-four I received my master’s degree after completing a thesis that I’d been trying to write in one form or another since I was a teenager. Finally, after months of struggling in one university department and moving over to another, I got my first full-time job at twenty-five years old.
But twenty-six is different. I can’t foresee what I might accomplish in the next year or what the year might have in store for me. All I can see is days of doing the same job five days a week every week. I see a stressful first week of performance reviews and meetings. I see all of the things I have to improve upon, none of what I did well in the past year save for a glimmer of accomplishment here and there. More than that though, I think it’s not knowing what I want to accomplish in the next year of my life. What do I want to look back at twenty-six and think about? Do I want to be sitting at the same desk, working with the same programs, walking down the same streets? Maybe. Maybe not.
Over the weekend, my family and a few friends came over to celebrate and put some furniture together. And I could see my apartment coming together into something habitable. It was like watching my actual life being built. And I wondered about the future, about whether I would be alone in this newly built up space or if there would be someone else there with me. The former seemed a lot more likely, but looking at my surroundings, it didn’t sound like a horrible prospect.
Now I’m at work right and I’m surrounded by people who are wishing me a happy birthday and giving me warm hugs that make me squirm with an odd mix of discomfort and appreciation. And I can hear my coworkers planning what they think is a surprise party for me. And it’s so sweet that I think I might burst with all kinds of feelings that I’m usually very good at keeping deep down inside. I know that I won’t be alone in that space very long because I am surrounded by friends every day.
I think for now I’m in the right place. I have a beautiful home, a wonderful family, great friends and coworkers. If twenty-six continues in the same trajectory as twenty-four and twenty-five, I think I’m going to be fine. Better than.