No Blueprint for The Young

Author: Yugal SehgalOriginally published on May 28, 2021

Good lord this aging thing never stops! I just turned 23 and I already feel old. As a child, I would’ve looked at a 23 year old and assumed that that’s what a fully functional adult looks like. Now when I look at myself at that age, I see a child, trying — and struggling — to figure out what even is a fully functional adult. Call it an early existential crisis, or if you’re from my generation, call it “normal” life; it is what it is.

To be fair, nothing has really changed about my life since turning 23, just a lot of life’s fears and uncertainties have magnified and become more tangible thanks to this bump in the number. Things that were less urgent at 22 are a tad bit more so now. The notion of financial stability is more substantial and the idea of finding a romantic partner is ever more (de)pressing. The sandgrains of life seem to be running out of my hand too quickly.

The trajectory differences in the lives of people my age are so wide, I don’t know what’s the “right” thing to do. Somebody’s chasing their dreams while somebody is killing theirs. Somebody wants money while somebody wants meaning. Somebody has moved on to a second job while somebody still hasn’t left the academic bubble. Somebody’s stuck in a workplace they despise while somebody is riding high on entrepreneurship. Somebody’s about to marry while somebody has never tasted romance. And somebody is falling for pyramid schemes while somebody is falling for people. There’s no blueprint for this age really.

Artwork by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

And many of us don’t have the most ideal relationships with our own selves either. Someone thinks the world revolves around them while someone wants nothing more than to withdraw from it. Someone is too self-assured while someone is too self-critical. Someone has self-serving tendencies while someone has self-destructive ones. The self-aware know they aren’t fully self-aware, the rest are convinced they know themselves too well. Who’s got it really figured out?

For a generation as educated, skilled and aware as ours, we seem to be a little too overwhelmed by life, a little too early. As tech corporations continue to exploit us with their “extraction by distraction” schemes – i.e., extracting our data by keeping us distracted with their dangerously addictive platforms – we continue to lose more and more of our selves, senses, privacy, and importantly, time. The device in our hand seems to have become our new vice. Similarly, for a generation as connected as ours, we feel evermore disconnected with our world. Our world with its ever changing realities.

And as this COVID thing keeps spinning out of control, we’re increasingly losing faith in institutions which are supposed to protect us by responsibly controlling/curbing it — which are supposed to govern and lead us to “good days”. We're losing faith in “the system” and the economy too seems to be a thorn in our side.

With those and countless other conflicts in mind; the uncertainties, the disconnectedness, the loneliness; the societal, parental, and self-induced pressures; the general lack of meaning in life, and now our stolen youth thanks to the pandemic, it’s easy to age early. When the mind is crumbling under the weight of THAT much, it’s natural to want a break from it all, to want it to stop.

But considering this aging thing never does stop, perhaps our only real choice is to keep moving with it. To soldier on and live to fight another day. Maybe that ... is just what a fully functional adult does.

Yugal Sehgal writes about life, mindfulness, and people. He lives in India. Follow him and @drawcuments on Instagram.