Am I missing out on my 20s?
Another year, another Brighton & Hove Pride cancelled. I brought tickets for this year (mainly in the hope that Ms Carey would be headlining), so I think some part of me was convinced that 2021 would see everything go back to some version of pre-Covid normality. And after all, the summers of your youth are supposed to be filled with festivals, all-nighters and overpriced fruit-infused ciders, right? So, I figured I should definitely buy a ticket on the off-chance that the event goes ahead.
I turned 22 this year, so finally I can sing Taylor Swift’s 22 and have it actually make sense. However, unlike Taylor in the song’s energetic and fun-filled music video, I haven’t been spending my 20s partying, clubbing and having “breakfast at midnight”. Due to lockdown restrictions, I haven’t been to a club since 2019, and have spent most evenings in bed by 9pm with Netflix and a peppermint tea.
As I’ve found myself another year into my 20s, the pressure to live in accordance with how young people are supposed to has been increasing. Sometimes I wonder how I would have spent the past two years if the pandemic hadn’t happened – would I have travelled the globe instead of hardly leaving the house for months on end? Would I have been going to music festivals instead of working at my laptop with a Carly Rae Jepsen playlist on repeat in the background?
Although the ‘correct’ answer is yes, I’m not sure if I would be spending my weekends clubbing and going on spontaneous adventures. While many young people have been struggling with the loss of these freedoms, I can’t say that I’ve missed the nights out where I just wanted to get home into my bed and not wake up feeling exhausted, deflated, and wondering how much I actually enjoyed the partying lifestyle that university students are supposed to relish.
Now that even more of us are feeling the pressure to ‘live our best lives’, I’ve been left wondering if I’m missing the portion of me which is meant to enjoy the things that I’m supposed to. Not only can I not live my 20s in the way that I’m expected to – I don’t actually want to. Is there something wrong with me?
I’ve been pondering this for much of the pandemic and fretting that I was losing what is supposed to be a key part of everybody’s life. However, as many LGBTQ+ people find, there have been several aspects of my life that didn’t quite adhere to the normative timeline of ‘growing up’. Unlike most of my friends, my first partner was of the same gender as me, the first night out that I actually enjoyed was at a gay bar, and I reconsidered my LGBTQ+ several times, thus coming out and re-establishing myself multiple times.
When I was at university, I did a module centred on queer literature. Through the masses of theory I read for that section of my course, one particular point stood out to me, and has remained with me one year after graduating: queer people often don’t live linear timelines, which are in fact a myth perpetuated by heteronormative society.
LGBTQ+ people in particular don’t always adhere to the idea that one should be married and should have ‘settled down’ by a certain age, with many queer people coming out later in life as their identity finally emerges despite years of suppression at the hands of the forces which encourage us to live in the way which we are taught is ‘correct’.
And this got me thinking – the notion that a particular point in your life should be characterised by certain behaviours and activities is completely illogical, and the Covid pandemic has proved this further.
Everybody’s plans have been disrupted and put on hold due to circumstances which no one expected, which seems to have sent a lot of people into a panic as they fear they’re missing out on whatever stage of their life they are at because they can’t conform to societal dictations of how they’re supposed to be living at that age.
I can’t be missing out on my 20s, because any time is an opportunity for growth, development or just living on my terms – even if that means staying in some nights and watching Friends for the one-hundredth time.
In that sense, the challenges the pandemic has brought have been valuable to me. This time has allowed me to get to a stage where I no longer feel that I should be spending my 20s in a certain way. And I for one am glad to have that pressure alleviated, and to not be enduring hangovers in 9am lectures anymore.