Lifestyle

Column

Carlyn Lynch

Early-Mid

By the time you read this, it will have happened…I'll have turned 24. I'll be one of the first of my friends to come to balance on this precipice of the early - mid twenties…and they're not eager to join me. Growing up with a July birthday, I was always old for my grade and it was always a cool thing. I got my driver's license first, was able to buy tickets to Rated R movies first, (didn't get boobs first, but that's beside the point)…It was some time after the birthday that made it legal for me to indulge in grandpa's cough medicine that an imperceptible shift occurred. My cohorts and I stopped cheering Time as it raced toward the finish line and started wishing we had sticks to throw in its path and trip it up. Cue Alphaville's "Forever Young"…because we want to be.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my mom when I was about ten years old. I was mooning to her about how I couldn't wait to get a pretty dress, go to prom and kiss my date (who would inevitably resemble Jonathon Taylor Thomas). She said to me, "Carlyn, be ten when you're ten. Don't wish to be older because you'll never be ten again. When you're 16, be 16. When you're 30, be 30." This conversation stuck with me. Ever since, I have been one of those people that is perfectly content living in the moment I'm in and it's been wonderful…until I realized I was going to get old.

I never thought much about aging until I was about to graduate college last summer. I'd always had a very romantic idea of the life I'd be poised to lead when I was officially "grown up" and, just like my actual prom date didn't turn out to resemble Jonathon Taylor Thomas, my real life wasn't living up to the fantasy life I'd planned. I didn't know how to go about discovering my potential, I had no job lined up and I was in the emotional throws of a break-up. It was the first time in my life that I doubted myself and my abilities, the first time I wasn't where I thought I should be and I had no idea what to do about it. It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't guaranteed to accomplish the long list of things I wanted to accomplish, that my time was limited. Ahh…those were happy times.

The post-college phase is a very unique time in life. Everything is uncertain and ever-changing. Everyone is pursuing different goals and is in totally different places. Some people pursue careers, some get married, some go to grad school, some move to new places, some have kids and some escape. My friends and I did all of the above. When I realized that most of the people around me were feeling a lot of the same frustration, fear and uncertainty that I was; I decided to interview them. I wanted to discover some of the universal concerns and truths of my generation at this particular point in our lives.

A young mother felt like an outsider among the young singles her age, a virgin was convinced she would never have a boyfriend, a marketing major wished she had gone to veterinary school, an adventurer was stuck at home with her mother…and cat. Here's what we were all scared of: that we had already made the wrong decisions in our life, that we might make the wrong decisions in the future and that everyone around us would figure their lives out before we did and we'd be left behind.

As we each started going different directions, it was like we were hesitantly shuffling down separate dark trails while constantly looking over our shoulders wondering if we should turn around and go the other way.

It's astonishing how much each of our lives has changed in ONE year. Personally, I moved to Chicago, accepted a non-profit job, went to California, made friends but quit the job. Came back to Chicago, interned at a magazine, joined a comedic improv team, babysat, dated, sent out an infinite number of resumes and drank an obscene amount of coffee until I eventually scored a great job in Columbus. Moved to Ohio, got my own apartment, traveled a lot, played some volleyball and started writing this column. The young mom went back to school and is making huge strides for herself and her baby. The virgin came out of her shell, went on some dates, gained some confidence and is no longer intimidated by men. The marketing major got a job and a new dog that she cares for with the passion of a seasoned veterinarian. The adventurer is now exploring the wild, wild West far, far away from her mother.

It's safe to say we're all happier and our lives more accurately reflect who we are, but we're still moving and changing and figuring out what to do next. In your early-mid twenties when a lot of things are unstable and have yet to fall into place, it can be difficult to feel totally at peace as Time marches forward whether you're ready or not. You have to accept where you're at and embrace the good in each phase of life to avoid driving yourself crazy. I have no idea what this year will bring. My only plan from now until July 13, 2011…is to be 24.