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Backwards looking forwards

May 21, 2010

Hunting through my wardrobe for a jacket the other night I came across an old high school shirt, adorned with farewells and best wishes from my last day of high school. It was only while reading through statements like “Say no to metro” (eerily accurate)  and “Tim needs space to get rogered” (still confusing to this day) that I realised that this year marks my fifth year out of high school. I also wondered if anyone would bother to organise a five year reunion, and sincerely hoped not (in this age of Facebook and social networking, the reunion is essentially obsolete anyway).

It’s only natural that with any passage of time one reflects on accomplishments and regrets; the question of “what have I achieved?” is a constant refrain in our lives. For fear of having wasted our one shot, we seek constant validation that what we do is somehow “worthy”. However, right now the greatest achievements I have are largely to do with how much of the world I’ve seen, though this I’m rather proud of. But aside from the rare few who somehow become millionaires by the time they hit 21, there’s not much outside academic achievements one can really tout at this stage. Right now, it’s more of a self-doubting, insecure reflection usually ending with “Oh god, where am I going with this?” Give it a couple of years and I’ll no doubt have some sort of quarter-life crisis about my housing situation, relationship status, job and so on.

But the trouble is, there is no “ideal type” with which to measure yourself against. Most want the family, the house, the dream job and so on. But is there a time frame that this has to be done by? Entering into my 23rd year, I have no illusions that any of that is applicable to me right now. In fact, having any of it right now is sheer lunacy in my book. But when should you have kids? By the time you’re 30? 35? 60? When do you start working towards a career, rather than having a job you’ll do for a while before trying something else? And how do you know if she is the one? There are no real answers to any of these appallingly token questions, and the latter is likely to haunt forever.

Nevertheless, the earth-shattering anxiety that many seem to have from now until 30 (and possibly beyond) is based on some sort of belief that there is in fact a point where you should have all of these things. But with the rise of “career women” and plans for families put on the backburner, the “ideal” time for such things will equally be pushed back. So before long, will the life reassessment in the lead up to the 3oth shift to just before you turn 35? Though if you’re still asking the same questions at 40, you might be in a trouble.

In our endless quest for meaning, the simplest way to prescribe a sense of anything is to reassure ourselves that we’re doing the right thing, that we’ve achieved something. And hopefully we have.

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