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It's supposed to be fun, turning... 23

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MAY 21, 2023

I’m 23 tomorrow… feels weird putting it into the universe after trying not to think about it all year. I am definitely not where I thought I’d be as I turn another year older. I know it’s so annoying hearing about a young person complain about still being young, but this year feels different. 

I’ve always caught myself between wanting to be older and holding onto my fleeting youth. Especially with this specific year, I feel as though I don’t have anything to gain or look forward to, forced into the maturity of the real world. I was eager about turning 18, entering adulthood and moving out, and then at 21 to go out to drink. I turned 22 when I finally felt like I had my life together, surrounded by good people and newly accepted into the school of my dreams. Now I’m turning 23 feeling like the only thing I have been able to grasp on to this year is loneliness and worry. I moved to Berkeley and realized I was not only a little older than everyone else, but much further behind. Everyone was in clubs with tangible plans for their careers when I was still trying to find the bathrooms in Dwinelle Hall. It’s difficult to feel excited about the future when yours is dimmer and smaller compared to the brighter and more exciting lives of the people around you. I tried to make friends with little success, although the ones that stuck around are really great. The workload here makes it difficult to see them though, and it’s just not the same compared to other people who’ve known you longer. I couldn’t help but think of the life I left, the regret and pain of seeing my friends’ lives moving on without me there to be a part of it. I selfishly and foolishly find myself yearning for what I no longer have instead of looking forward.

Every year I feel a sense of loss, that as I grow older and the responsibilities and expectations pile on, I lose a part of my freedom and what makes being young so exciting. Before, managing to stay in school and maintain a part-time job was enough. Now I feel like I should have made something of myself by now. It seems like there’s some years of leniency that are quickly running out. I trap myself in this intensely suffocating sense of nostalgia. I want to regress into the feeling of being invincible and weightless — that not only could I do anything I wanted but also nothing at all, just existing was enough. I could do nothing because I had enough time to do something later. 

Not being happy with where your life stands is frustrating because it can completely consume your perspective of not only the past, but the possibility of what’s to come. It’s strange because I think of this past year and can only think of everything bad that has happened, but yearn for the years before and think it was all sunshine and rainbows when it wasn’t. Why do I hold on so tightly to unhappiness in recent months when it’s just something natural that happens every year, to everyone? I think I dwell on it because it’s easier than accepting that I’m having a hard time, and I need to actively try to be better. I’d rather complain and cry to my friends than be vulnerable with new people. 

So, I’m turning 23 and I want to be better. I want to be present and thankful for what I have, rather than mourning the possibility of a life that has passed. Time is so obsolete when in comparison with the external world that I have to remind myself that it all really doesn’t matter. I feel behind and caught up with adulthood when the mere existence is still enough, the bare minimum still applies as it did in my youth where there was still a sense of hope that there was still time. I only feel behind and inept because I obsess over the lives of others. I feel intense jealousy and alarm when people are so ahead in their prospective careers. I succumb to the embarrassment that my social life isn’t thriving because I envy the social media presence of others. I worry so much about who I want to be instead of allowing myself to just be. 

I don’t think the pursuit of happiness is the sole meaning of life. I think it is experiencing the many things the world has to offer, whether it be uncomfortable or disjointing or strange, it is worth having nevertheless. I remember knowing it was my time to leave Santa Barbara because I was ready for a new chapter, that I was stuck in this comfort zone where I was far too familiar with the sameness and mundanity of it all. I think when we value the experience and journey that occurs within a simple lifetime, happiness is something that naturally occurs when you appreciate the growth and turbulence of it all, peace and joy comes from the way things make you feel, not the physical and material things we can account for. 

Contact Mary Huynh at 


MAY 21, 2023