When I turned 23, I was sure that this year would be my year. I was preparing to return to the U.S. after thriving through Spain for a few months. I was inspired, motivated, refreshed, and I felt as if I had been transformed upon my return. Never in my life had I felt so light.
My sights were then set on graduating college and beginning my career at 23. So, I buckled down and put in the work. I did everything I said I would. I did everything I thought I wanted. I did everything people expected me to do. But, I did close to none of what I truly needed: continuing my healing and journey to self-discovery.
I discovered that at 23, my achievements were not enough to sustain me because it lacked soul and passion. All of that ambition, all of my accomplishments, and all of the hard work was not for me to feel good but for me to look good. In a way, it really didn’t feel like me at all. At least not the parts that mattered.
I really began to question who I was at 23. I built a façade of success to cover up how much I was struggling to cope with a muddled sense of identity, a disingenuous lifestyle, and the depression, anxiety, and eating disorders that has followed me for over half of my life. I struggled to hold onto the person I was while overseas without considering the fact that my circumstances had changed. Struggling to maintain an outward appearance of success had began to eat away at me, and I felt every ounce of my being begin to twist and fester. As a result, the darkest parts of me grew through the cracks and surfaced in the ugliest of ways.
I lost myself at 23. I made some wrong decisions, lied to people I love, pushed aside the people who cared, made mistakes that continue to haunt me, and cringed disdainfully at reflections of myself. I couldn’t trust that time would ease my suffering because I couldn’t trust myself to know what was right from wrong. The insurmountable confusion, pain, and loss of my humanity made me my worst enemy and my greatest danger.
But, as I enter 24, I’m beginning to cultivate a new vision for myself with plans that only result in feeding my soul with the things that matter. I will try not to dwell on my mistakes, I will try to tread softly, I will try to find authenticity in my identity, but I will not expect myself to know it all or to be it all.
I know that at 24, I need to start thinking about who I’m not rather than who I am to eliminate my expectations of who I should be. I need to understand where my morals lie and what I’m willing to accept. I need to be gentle with myself when I fumble and trip over my own feet. I need to be in spaces where my passion is given a chance to breathe and to breathe when my passion burns as bright as it did at 23.
In my final days at 23, I have picked up where I left off in my healing and journey to self-discovery. Although I have faltered, everything I have gone through at this age has set in motion changes that I feel in the depths of my soul and within the atoms of my bones.
So, at 23, all I have to say is… thank u, next.