Are Your Twenties the Best Years of Your Life?

Sophia Parvizi-Wayne on feeling twenty-two… or not.

When I was sixteen, I loved Lily Allen. The catchy pop songs, the sarcastic lyrics; she embodied the rebellion all British teenagers one day envisioned to be a part of. I was particularly won over by her song “22,” a song that crushed the hopes and dreams of a thirty-year-old has-been by reminding her of her glory days when she was twenty-two.

When she was twenty two her future looked bright.
But she’s nearly thirty now and she’s out every night.

The song continued in this manner for an entire three-and-a-half minutes, and for six months, I took the time to learn every word, singing along to the clever rhymes whilst ignoring every line Allen made about growing older. My teenage ignorance and love of Britpop overcame any sense of awareness.

I am now twenty-one, one month short of twenty-two. I now loathe this song.

I am currently the age at which I am supposedly my most beautiful; the most wanted I will ever be. The raging hormones of my teenage days have weathered the storm, and passed, and I am at least a decade away from having to buy overpriced anti-aging creams. My skin, I am told, is glowing. I’ve heard my metabolism is close to its fastest.

I know the hottest restaurants and bars downtown. I would clearly never use the word “hot,” though. At twenty-two, there is always a birthday brunch, birthday drinks, birthday pre-games. I also cook, of course; the Ottolenghi Simple cookbook is just so reminiscent of my heritage.

Our bodies are strong, not skinny. You know, like the Instagram hashtag. We run to our coffee dates and use our monthly allowance on our own yoga mats. Sustainable, non-violent. Our SoulCycle instructors come around every Thursday evening for wine because they see us at our realest. Hashtag vulnerability!

We don’t need no man at twenty-two! Settling is for after twenty-eight. Career ladder, freezing eggs, polyamory – the world isn’t the same place anymore, Grandma. Plus, the happiness journal our therapist bought us for Christmas reminds us weekly that happiness is determined not by others, but by us. We are worthy.

We are in a world filled with opportunities that our parents never had. Innovators, startups, generators, entrepreneurs. We are the generation that will change the world. If we aren’t with our JPMorgan group from last summer’s internship at Burning Man, you will catch us in Bali; catching waves or catching someone else catch them on Snapchat.

However, there’s this thing that happens when you turn twenty-two. It happens when you’re scrolling through LinkedIn; when you hear someone else’s party on your walk home from the library. It’s the thing that starts as a little hum in your head but feeds downwards until it reaches your stomach. Yes, I am almost twenty-two and my future probably does look very bright. But Lily Allen forgot the indefinite whilst songwriting. It may not.

There is a fundamental issue with being told what you should be and how you should feel. Maybe I am the most beautiful I ever will be. But waking up with my eyes caked in day-old mascara, I do not want to be reminded that this is it. Lying in my bed, unable to move after a final, I do not want to be reminded that this is it. I am simply not carefree, eating cupcakes and sprinkles, like my mum told me I should be.

I am fortunate enough that I am turning twenty-two and I am incredibly happy most of the time. I love finding new restaurants with those iPad menus that keep popping up everywhere. I love my yoga instructor, Rachel, and her passion for Beyoncé remixes. But unlike Lily Allen, I refuse to put a bracket on the lifespan of my happiness, my experiences and my self-worth. Being a certain age should not and does not confine one to any expectations and standards. I am twenty-one – turning twenty-two – and I am as human and as complete as I was when I was eighteen, and will be when I am eighty.

We often fear the future because we struggle to wrap our heads around the fact that something may not fulfill our expectations; that we ourselves cannot fulfill them. However, when I think about the priceless things the future holds – the new friendships and the new experiences – rather than my hair losing its gloss and my skin losing its glow, I can’t say I’m too worried about being twenty-two anymore.

Sophia Parvizi-Wayne is an international athlete and mental health campaigner that is breaking down stigmas one word at a time. Currently a junior at Duke University, you can probably find her on a yoga mat or on her laptop, writing her next piece for you.

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