What It Means to be a 23 Year Old in a New (or old) City

I was just sitting around a table with 20-somethings from all over the country, somehow finding themselves in the same place – in a bar, with a table full of strangers. It was then that I realized that my situation is not special. I’m not the only 20 something who had to move for some reason; a job, more school, or just for a change. I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about being 23 in a new place.

I thought that 23 was just like any other birthday. I woke up feeling the same as I did the day before. I had no idea what 23 really meant right then. I woke up at got ready for work, just like any other day. I drank my coffee and went to the gym after work was over, and went to sleep. That was it. 23 was just as normal as 22.

23 means we’re a little more settled. We’re in a job, at school, or somewhere in between, but we’re settled. We’ve been out of college a few years now, and we’re used to it. We still wear our old sweatshirts from college and sweatpants on the weekends, because it reminds us of what life used to be.

23 means we’re lonely, even if we won’t admit it. Everyone else is settling, finding themselves, figuring it out. People are moving away, we’re moving to new places, and we have to settle ourselves all over again. We don’t know how to make friends, really. In kindergarten we were friends with the ones we shared the crayons with, or who our parents wanted us to be friends with. In college, we were friends with the people in our major, our roommates, and our sorority sisters. We didn’t have to try. People were everywhere, and so were friends. Now, we make online dating profiles, swipe left and right, and hope for the best.

23 means we’re not friends with our co-workers, because we’re just a little too young. We worked so hard in college to get a job right away, but sometimes, it feels like we’re the only ones. We sit at work seeing opportunity but we’re afraid to speak up because we’re the new kids. We’re afraid that the way we sometimes feel about work – that it was the wrong choice, or that we need to leave – are bad feelings to have, and then we’re relieved to find that many feel the same way.  We eat lunch with the 30-somethings in the office, listening to them talk about wedding plans, their homes, or their children. We nod our head, trying to compare our pets to their children, or find common ground in TV shows or books.

23 means our lives have shifted. We’re out of college, and too old to go back and visit without feeling like it’s too early, but to young to consider ourselves a true “alumni,” attending events on campus our in our new cities. We’ve entered the “real world,” the thing we feared a few years ago.

23 means we’re not alone, even though it feels like it. We’re making decisions for ourselves, paying rent, traveling the world. We’re giving ourselves “adult points” for learning how to pay our taxes or killing a spider without flinching. 23 means we look to each other for comparison, but really, we’re all doing the same thing – figuring it out.

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