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Being 21 in the 21st Century

Thursday Feb 07 2008

  By Lauren Selman | Bio

I was walking through beautiful San Francisco yesterday, humming to myself and thinking, "Wow, I'm 21 in the 21st century." And then I thought:

  • What does it mean to be aging with time?
  • What does it mean to be getting older with each century that passes?
  • How am I part of the "next generation" as well as being a witness to the upcoming generation?
  • What is it like to be a teacher and a student?

As I pondered on where to start, I, like Alice in her mysterious Wonderland, began at the beginning.

What does it mean to be 21?

I am no longer a teenager and people are beginning to look at me more as an 'adult'. At this point in life, I can legally go to the bar and drink myself silly, I can buy even more porn, I can smoke more cigarettes, and like many of my peers, I am bombarded with the question, "What are you doing?" It is silly to assume that I have reached a point where I have now legitimately entered womanhood or that childhood has officially ended. Some would consider that I am in a very self-centered time in my life, while others would call this period a time of hopeful naivete.

Many of my peers are going through similar series of questions and there is a commonality in our conversations. The majority of us do not want to work behind a computer and go down the paved path. We are committed to a new future. However, the difficulty is that we are programmed to go down the path laid before us: the paradigm of 9-5. Why are we afraid to create the professional paradigm that we want to live in? Why must we conform ourselves to working in an office, while the sun shines brightly outside? If we are truly the 'make it or break it' generation, who is going to help us make a new paradigm if not us? I know that I am not the only 21-year-old who thinks these thoughts of optimism and change. And if I'm not the only one, then I think our world is exactly 21.

I, like the world, am in a transition. We can sit around, daydream and feel hopeful about the future before the dampening of 'real life' settles in. We can confess to being guilty of our mistakes. We can realize we are dramatically facing the burdens of financial obligations (and for the U.S., recession).

Change and transition are neither bad nor good, but they are necessary. Although, at times, they are uncomfortable, painful and make us ache with longing for 'what was', as Robin Sharma said, "The place where your greatest fears live is also the place where your greatest growth lies." We may be truly frightened about what's to come, but inevitably none of us know...and that's okay. Remember one of the best things about being 21 is one's keen curiosity for adventure and living. I pray that you, the reader, are enjoying the art of living and no matter what your age, you are living life to its fullest, realizing that we all we have is 'now' and that can never come back this way again.

My kindergarten teacher, who remains a dear friend of mine, told me yesterday:

"The art of living is to take small but consistent steps toward a meaningful goal in life. This way you'll experience the joy of living, but also the excitment of exploring different alternative routes to get to a place that feels right for you. All these small steps will help you become more powerful and more inspiring, and will lead you to eventually reach a very high place in your life. In Iran, we always say to live as if you have only one day to live and also to live as if you have a hundred years to live. It's also important to know that nobody will judge you for the choices you make...after all, you're young and mistakes are very  much a part of your learning and mastering life."

This is your life, to use or to throw away. May you use it to find your highest place.

Written by eldering at Fearless Aging

Tagged with: aging fear generation growth transition


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