These days I am fascinated by the writings of twenty-two year olds. Or more specifically, the thoughts that must have gone through my siblings’ minds when they were at the age I am now. Granted, I realize I’m just a little under 90 days away from turning twenty-three, but no matter.
Not too long ago I came across Third Sis’ old write-ups, those written when she was twenty-two. She used to run a blog, or more specifically a few, but she’s fickle – I can’t remember if there’s one which lasted for more than two years – and I don’t even know if her last one is still active. There’s also the fact that both of us write deeply personal thoughts, so it gets strangely uncomfortable to read; I often opt out of reading her spaces even though I actually find her writing and reflections superior to mine.
Among the few pieces I’d stumbled across, which I’d saved ages ago, was this one:
is there really love for us out there? will there really be a time when it happens and you will know it; when the stars will curiously align for you and make things easy? that one fine day when you wake up no more committed to being uncommitted, but on the contrary, glad that alas, you are committed to being responsible for two? will that day really come when a man will find his head messed up because of you, when all the colours in the world seem to wash out, when his routine interrupted and everything usual becomes unusual just because you weren’t there?
will there really be a man who will find himself so unflinchingly and exasperatedly in love with me as i once felt for jack?
what a strange concept.
Funnily, this one struck me more closely than the rest did. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’ve been in love, or have someone. The thing is, the two of us have always been so different; yin and yang maybe, but amazingly polar opposites. It’s weird to realize that this was her voice at twenty-two; it couldn’t have been mine. It’s funny, as it has always been between us about everything – same set of challenges and at the same transitional phase, yet unsurprisingly we react so differently.
Then my mind wandered to the rest of my siblings – what were they like at twenty-two? What kind of thoughts went through Eldest Bro’s mind when he was twenty-two, still a medical student at New Zealand? What kind of reflections, did he even write any, of the years he spent there in his then incredibly modest shared two-bedroom apartment in a sleepy town so different than the town we grew up in? Did he muse as I do, because he too, left home at nineteen in pursuit of dreams?
I thought of Eldest Sis, who went to medical school at home. She moved to different states based on the curriculum, but she stayed in home-soil. She who taught me many things, the window to my soul – what ran through her mind when she was twenty-two, so near and yet so far from the family home? Did she loathe it then? Did she struggle with the same kinds of inner conflicts that I do now?
Then there is Third Sis, who spent a year and a half in Tasmania, Australia to get her degree. City girl born-and-bred suddenly displaced in the middle of nowhere, she muddled through small-town point-of-views and learned to be one with nature. She who’d always wanted to leave the family home finally got her wish granted, but of course with a price to pay. Found love, lost love. Lost self, found self.
I thought of the rest of my siblings and it hit me how differently each of our lives played out at twenty-two. Plenty things have been said about twenty-one, but hardly anyone seems to want to talk about twenty-two. I’ve long realized that there are lots of emphasis on twenty-four ergo the age where one is looked at and embraced as a fully grown adult, but no one seems interested to ponder upon the year they were twenty-two. This in-between is inexplicably hazy; murky waters. The transitional phase is painful, confusing and meandering.
These days I try to look back at the past three months in a more positive light, but I’ll be honest – it takes so much effort. I’m nervous at the thought of next week, i.e. when school reopens. This is a phase, I keep reminding myself; surely I can’t expect to immediately fall in love with the newness and the unfamiliar in just three months. Give it time, I silently repeat as I attempt to soothe my shaky nerves. Here’s my sentence opener to almost anyone who’s asked me what life’s been like lately, “It’s not that I regret choosing to do this, to being here.”
Do I really? Am I sure? I feel like I’ve said it so many times not because it’s true, rather that I’m trying to convince myself that it is.
Admitting that means admitting… how unhappy I am, being here. How I went from wanting this like nothing else, to realizing that it was nothing else like I’d imagined it. How fucking lost I feel most of the time, despite having everything and more here. Opportunities that others would die for or could simply long for, it’s within my palms; how could I possibly think differently, what more waste it away? It means having to deal with my first, real experience with regret – a turn-of-event that affects what feels like an entire life’s direction. It means admitting how lonely I actually am, even when surrounded by new friends who are such an eclectic, diverse and wonderful mix. It means owning up to what’s been floating on my mind – that so much money has been spent on me, so much hope and trust placed upon the supposedly ever-dependent person I’m thought of to be, so much of everything that there’s no turning back – all given to me, so sincerely, because they believed in my dream.
A dream… I no longer know if I truly, sincerely, unwaveringly still believe in.
No one seems to want to talk about twenty-two; the wandering souls. No one seems to want to recall what twenty-two felt like – loss and confusion mixed with the first bittersweet tastes of separations, lovelorn, brokenness and regret. No one seems to want to remember the heady air that vibrated at twenty-two; in-and-out of asphyxia. No one wants to look back at twenty-two, the year that trembled and shook the soul.
“What a strange concept.”