Updated: May 13
This is a slight book review about 100 Years by Joshua Prager but more so his book triggered this discussion I want to have.
And the whole world expects us to know what we want and exactly what we're going to do by the age of 21 or 22. Society is grabbing us from every corner screaming, "you're 23 and still live at your parents home? Grow up," or "you're 25 and don't have a college degree? What did you do with your life?" We spend our years using fake IDs to get into clubs and bars only to hit 21 and think, "now what do we look forward to?"
It's this constant pressure of bony hands weighing down on my shoulders, holding me in place and not letting me move. But the person behind the hands is talking in my ear;
"Why aren't you doing anything? What will you be remembered by if you die tomorrow? Would you be proud of everything you've done? Why haven't you done more?"
My head is an over-worked assembly line of "okay enroll in school, next graduate, next commit to a job right away, make a career out of that job, find a husband, have kids," but I'm here, a year away from graduating college debating if I even like my degree anymore?
The big golden question floats in the sky and wherever I look, I can't get away from it. It demands to be seen and demands to be asked by each person in your life, "what are your plans after college?" My biggest fear is I wake up one day at 25 and realize I HATE what I chose to study at the age of 18 when society, professors, parents, and employers wanted me to CHOOSE.
And it doesn't help that society consistently craves youth, idolizes being young and highlighting we are only at our primes at ages 16-21 and after that, it's all downhill. Businesses and organizations want us to be young, our minds fresh with university knowledge but sorry, we can't hire someone with no experience. We spend 4 years studying a degree, choosing a path, only to struggle in securing a job because no one wants to hire beginners, yet everyone wants "young and fresh minds."
Society needs us to be 16, young and pretty but at that age ready to take on the world, mature enough to act 30, but still naive, but not too smart for our age. At 16, society wants us to be able to rule the world, study for the ACTS and SATS, and figure out colleges and careers.
At 18, we need to get jobs, know what degree you want to pursue, get good grades, worry about college full time, but I'm sorry you can't drink or have a cigarette but if you want to enlist in the military or buy an AK-47, please do. You are old enough to buy a gun, take a life, but God forbid you try and have a margarita... that would be irresponsible. Oh and your parents can kick you out but you aren't old enough to rent a car or have a sufficient enough credit history to get an apartment.
All the greatest writers wrote about the ages 18-30 , story after story outlining how at those ages, we are still finding ourselves. We are exploring the world and new ideas. Society, jobs, and parents expect us to just know about all of that when we walk across the stage graduating high school. The same high school where students are treated as kids, but expected to act as adults. We get coddled, shielded from the outside world. Schools prohibit cell phones, ban books like The Bell Jar then rip off the bandages at 18 and push us off the edge into the big scary world of taxes, careers, and corporations.
In the book 100 Years, Joshua Prager compiles 100 different excerpts of different authors who wrote about age and what that number means. But essentially from ages 18-29, all the authors similarly think that people are just starting to chip away the surface of what their lives REALLY mean. None of them by any means have the knowledge or experience to plan their whole life from careers to marriage to kids.
Charlotte Bronte wrote in Shirley, "At eighteen, drawing near the confines of illusive, void dreams, Elf-Land lies behind us, the shores of Reality rise in front."
Charles Dickens wrote in David Cooperfield, "I have attained the dignity of twenty-one. But this is a sort of dignity that may be thrust upon one, Let me think what I have achieved."
Ted Hughes wrote in Fullbright Scholars, "At twenty-five, I was dumbfounded afresh By my ignorance of the simplest things."
Joyce Carol Oates wrote in Blonde, "Twenty-seven... It was a time of sudden revelations. "Heyyyy, know what? This thought came to me."
The quotes from ages 30 and up finally have cracked the surface and light shines through the broken glass of who people are. The sharp edges glint with people being able to define THIS is what I want.
I'm taking back the numbers and not letting it define where I should be in life. My age doesn't define my achievements, nor does it symbolize finish lines or starting points. We are all getting older, but it doesn't mean we should look at what our friends are doing or what our siblings did at that age and force ourselves to believe that's what is REQUIRED. All that is required, is you being happy with where you're at in the moment. I mean of course have goals, plan ahead, but release that hold of "I have to get married by 25 or have kids by 26 or become a millionaire by 27."
Thanks for reading everyone! I'll link my Insta page which has short reviews and cute quotes.