Being 26 on 26th

By Laili Muttamimah - October 28, 2022

I was supposed to write this on August 26th, my birthday. However, many things were going on, so I can finally write this now while sitting on the train on the way home. A lot of "strange" feelings have been bubbling up inside of me lately. A friend said I feel this because I have passed the quarter phase of life, which, according to a book she read, means our brains are more "formed" in terms of maturity in thinking and decision-making.

After turning 26, I find myself different from who I used to be. People around me complained about how strict and uneasy I was once, and criticized how idealistic and tough I was when it comes to achieving something. However, that side of me began to fade slowly after going through a lot in the past years. I prefer to go easy on everything rather than overthink about it. I often laugh at situations instead of criticizing them. I’m also better able to hold my emotions, as I realized getting angry and crying require a lot of energy. I'd rather save myself now.

I was quite worried beforehand about the future. Will I live the relationship I expected with my partner? Are we going to live in our own house? Will my career rise to the highest level? Will I become a great person? But in the end, I grew tired of my own thoughts and speculation about things that haven't happened. I can't control something that's not meant for me; I can only live it to the best of my ability. In the past years, I have faced the fact that I have failed many times, my safety point has become unstable, and I have had to struggle outside my comfort zone. Strangely, when I accepted those situations, I was actually fine. Maybe one day I won't be a great novelist, won't be in a C-Level career, won't be able to build a successful business—I'll just be the way I am. Now I repeatedly think about it and found out there's nothing bad actually, as long as I enjoy my life.

My boyfriend and I often joke that maybe we won't live beyond 60—then why should I fill it with worry? I think that has a point. So, I stopped controlling things against my will, even stopped being hard on myself. I actually think more about the little things I can be grateful for: watching those funny videos, sitting comfortably on the train, playing with my cats. I no longer expect to be on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, or pursue a PhD at a top overseas university, or get the prestigious award I once dreamed of.

In short, I simplify life by not seeing the future from the perfectionist Virgo's point of view (haha), but rather preparing to accept all possibilities and adapt to them.

Even in this transitional period, I sometimes feel that something is not right. Like how I was frustrated by my unfinished thesis draft, my research that had not been accepted for any publications, and the fact I couldn't digest the lessons as deeply as I used to. I even feel bad when someone invites me into a discussion about why I decided to go to graduate school. Then feel left out when I don't follow the latest trends and tend to stay at home more. I even told my mother that I needed my ambitious self for this academic thingy.

But I realized that I can't have it all at once. I have to select what is important and what should be my priority. So, it affects how replying to those chats from friends on WhatsApp is very tiring lately. Surfing on Instagram is no longer as exciting as it used to be. Coming to social events is also very energy-draining. For now, I guess I want to be selfish with these things and prioritize myself first.

Let's see what kind of life will take me in the next step, what opportunities will come, and what good things will I receive. At least, today, it's enough for me to know my parents are healthy, I can eat my favorite fruits, and my colleagues keep me company until my overtime is over. As I wrote in my novel, "Fresh Grad," that small opportunities are as valuable as big ones.

Being enough is what is most needed, for now. :)

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