Another whiny 'I'm getting older' column from the 20-something crowd? Not exactly ...

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMarch 13, 2013 

Everything I was feeling and thinking, I was assured by the adults in my life, was normal.

So why the heck didn't anyone say anything before? Why didn't anyone warn me this might happen?

It was my junior year of college and I was embroiled in a full-on crisis of faith, a time in which I spent sleepless hours wondering whether I had made the right decision by deciding to pursue journalism when my true passion might lie elsewhere.

That semester my true passion was filmmaking. Maybe.

One semester on academic probation, a few short films and an angry screenplay written about (and later foolishly sent to) an ex-girlfriend later and I was back on track and ready for life as a working journalist and excited by the prospect.

Now a senior, I spent the weeks before graduation carpet-bombing every newspaper this side of Missoula with a cover letter, my resume and some work samples, all the while knowing that, with each passing day, the "school" part of my life was nearing an end and the "work" part of it was on deck.

I was terrified.

The self-doubt and fear I felt, and still occasionally feel now, is proof of what I believe as a universal truth -- being in your 20s is really, really difficult.

Go on, roll your eyes. I'll wait.

As I was saying, we're talking about a time in one's life consisting of near constant change and tumult, both professional and personal, and sometimes debilitating insecurity, both financial and emotional.

It's also heartbreaking. I find it difficult to watch my parents age, knowing things will never be as they once were; that I am, as we all are, powerless against time.

I won't wake up one day and be 16 again and surrounded by my family and friends and relive an age in which anything felt possible. And accepting that truth is a cruel and inevitable part of growing up.

And all of this, as I mentioned before, came without so much as a warning or a heads-up that these 10 years might feel slightly unsettling.

The guidance we get instead?

High school: "Enjoy it. It'll be over before you know it."

College: "Best years of your life. Met some of my best friends."

Then, radio silence. Nothing.

On one hand, this makes sense because our personal growth is reliant on our ability to make sense of this crazy world and find our place in it.

On the other, such guidance can help qualm fears that you're the only one with direction-less ambition and enough self-doubt and worry to fill the Grand Canyon.

After all, we're talking about a period in one's life, as New York Times columnist Frank Bruni astutely pointed out in a recent column, during which "Your desire to project confidence is inversely proportional to your store of it, and you have some really, really bad furniture."

The central point of Bruni's column is that every age has its own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, which is inarguable, but it seems that the plight of the 20-something is overlooked or smirked at simply because we're young.

We have plenty of time to figure out ourselves and our stuff, the conventional wisdom holds, but in the meantime, we must continue wondering if we're doing with our lives what we're meant to be (if such a vocational calling actually exists) and wondering if the 16-year-old version of ourselves would think that the 26-year-old version of ourselves was cool and living a life to be envied?

The answer is probably not. But you occasionally do shop at Whole Foods, so that's something.

This week, in honor of 20-somethings everywhere, songs about the inevitable scourge that is getting older.

I apologize if this column seems self-indulgent. I'm 29. I have less than a year left to write it.

* Jay-Z, "30 Something" -- Jay-Z makes everything, including getting older, seem pretty glamorous and awesome.

  • Metric, "Grow Up and Blow Away" -- An indie song that seems to capture what it feels like to grow up and leave home better than most.

  • * They Might Be Giants, "Older" -- The lyrics. That's all.

  • Arcade Fire, "Wake Up" -- There is something so poignant in the lyrics, "If the children don't grow up/Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up/We're just a million little gods causin' rainstorms turnin' every good thing to rust."

  • Ben Folds, "Still Fightin' It" -- Probably the song that reminds me most about the unexpected struggles of early adulthood.

  • John Mayer, "Stop This Train" -- A song that perfectly captures how heartbreaking it is to watch your parents age.

  • Band of Horses, "Older" -- A beautiful song about aging. And there aren't that many.

  • Hayes Carll, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" -- A soulful, gritty, heartfelt song that bears little resemblance to the Toys R' Us theme song of the same name.

  • Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at


    The New York Times Column, "For Each Age, Its Agonies"


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