They say your twenties are precious: prime time to make mistakes and not care when they’ll catch up to you. From movie tropes to social media posts, we’ve established an understanding that in our twenties we must have fun. The general idea is that you’ll go out to parties, dance, and meet hot strangers. You’ll spend no time sleeping and will be constantly surrounded by people, giddy with the constant stimulation of sex, drugs, and EDM. Seeing all of this go down on Snapchat when I started college made me wonder what was wrong with me, since none of it ever piqued my interest. Of course, having fun is important, but I’m just now realizing that maybe there’s more than one way to do so.
Pre-pandemic life had a way of making me feel like I wasn’t doing enough in my youth. I never had any interest, after all, in casually dating or moving to a foreign country to “find myself.” For most of my life, it’s been obvious to me that I feel different from the pleasure-seeking youth of my generation; I don’t mean this is an “I’m not like other girls” kind of way, just that I feel disconnected from that lifestyle. Because of this sense of ostracization, I often feel lonely. I’m 22 and only scratching the surface of who I am. Still, for some deranged reason, I feel like I’m behind.
I’m sure you’ve seen the tweets from younger twenty-somethings talking about losing their “hot years” to quarantine. Meanwhile, I’m cherishing the fact that going out in public has been somewhat on hold for the past year and probably won’t go completely back to normal for a bit longer. The three people I’ve kept in consistent contact with during this time have said the same thing. Being inside for the past year has left me with a feeling of freedom that I hadn’t known before—freedom that stemmed from coming to terms with being an introvert.
I spent a long time telling myself I was an extrovert because the thought of labeling myself as introverted would mark me as shy and alienated. I wanted to be perceived as an extrovert so I would be included. This was distinct from perpetual FOMO, though, because I didn’t really suffer from a fear of missing out, despite growing up in the social media generation. If I ever cared about my friends hanging out without me, it wasn’t because I wanted to share that specific experience with them. It was because I wanted to feel like I was important to them in some way. Feeling accepted was what actually mattered. While I know that this is a relatively universal experience, I often wonder if there are others out there who were faking extroversion just like me. We would be known as people who have the Fear of Not Having Friends Who Care About Us (or FONHFWCAU). Definitely not as catchy or easy to say as “FOMO,” but damn, it’s still real.
Through spending a lot of time alone over the past year, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my own personhood and start to become exactly who I’m meant to be. I’ve eliminated the noise of hanging out with my friends every day and started digging up my true desires. These things I’ve come to want seem antithetical to the hedonism we typically associate with one’s twenties, like being stable in my career and having a solid place to call home where I give and receive love consistently. Wanting that kind of consistency made me feel like I was boring, but accepting these desires allowed me to decide that my twenties are just what I make of them. As it turns out, I’m allowed to do whatever I want. And on the flip side, I can change my mind if I want to. Living wild and free was never my philosophy, but it took a pandemic for me to admit it.
It’s incredibly liberating to realize that “living it up in my twenties” looks a lot like what I imagine my thirties and beyond to look like: unbothered, self-assured, and free from the grips of societal standards. There’s also freedom in knowing that just because I see myself as an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t go out and have fun and make new connections. Looking forward to post-pandemic life is daunting with all this new information I have about myself, but I have every intention of living it up, however the hell I choose.