I recently read this line in WILD by Cheryl Strayed, and it strikes me that this is exactly why our 20s matter, why they are not “wasted” years as some skeptics have argued:
“I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life,” she’d wept to me once, in the days after she learned she was going to die. “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”
I never could have articulated it quite like that until now, but yes, that’s it. That’s what our 20s are. A chance to just be us. A moment of suspension, of midair flight/freefall, after we’ve let go of one vine (our parents) and before we’ve grabbed hold of the next (becoming husbands/wives/parents).
(And yes, I know not everyone will get married or have kids. I’m speaking broadly here.)
Previous generations didn’t necessarily get that chance. I think we’re lucky that we do. Maybe it seems like we’re not making the best use of it, sometimes… But maybe that’s the whole point.