What is it about age 23 that makes everyone agree -- both young and old -- that it’s the worst year of your life?
It’s an age that is rough all around the edges. You're on the edge of your seat as everything, including yourself, rapidly changes. And sometimes it just feels like you're not a part of it all.
Twenty-three was by far the worst year of my life and the majority of my friends’ and family members' lives. There are too many transitions.
You’re caught in too many limbos between being an adult and still feeling like a college kid. It’s upsetting, brightening, hardening and hectic all at once.
I wasn't clinically diagnosed as depressed, but I was seeing a psychiatrist -- less because I needed help and more because I needed a reason to stay out of my parents’ house. (Have you ever seen a private psych in the city? That sh*t ended real fast.)
My friends were going through it too, and yet I still felt isolated in my experience. I thought I just needed to get away, but what I really needed was to face myself.
Without trying to sound dramatic (Who am I kidding? Yes I am.) your entire being feels compromised. Science shows that your brain is on the tail-end of its mental peak, taken differently, it’s at the beginning of mental decline.
Your prefrontal cortex, the part that controls emotional responses, is at its height of formation -- making us crazy with feelings. The rest of your brain, however, is retaining the information it thinks it’ll use in the future and clearing out the rest. No wonder 23 feels like one big mental mindf*ck.
I was delusional from the start. I thought that my fancy degree and feigned confidence would be enough. I thought I had everything going for me and my energy force was unstoppable.
This came to a spiraling halt.
Instead I learned that sometimes in life you have to take a step backward to move forward. That after moving five times in two years, no place feels like home. And that, when you finally make it out to the other side, you’ll be the real thing, which is really happy.
Here are 23 reasons why 23 is the worst year of your life.
1. You’re too old to be making the same mistakes you made your first year out of college, but not old enough yet to act like an adult.
Like throwing an illegal party on your roof when you know it’s against code and your neighbors will call the cops. Or sleeping over at that guy’s apartment when you’re not even sure you really want to.
When you’re older, you’re over those risky behaviors (or maybe you’ve just substituted them for new ones); when you’re younger, you don’t even realize you’re making them. At 23, you’re feeling caught in between.
2. Your best friends change
You’re gradually shedding extraneous people from your life and narrowing down who you will and will not make the effort for. You have less and less in common with outgrown acquaintances and more and more in common with your favorite coworker. Understanding that this is not necessarily a bad thing is key.
3. You’re at the bottom of the totem pole again
No one takes you seriously anymore. It’s like you had a ton of freedom in college and suddenly you feel like a freshman all over again. Fancy restaurants and nights out are just out of your reach, but you’ve outgrown your cramped apartment.
4. You think you’re in a serious relationship, but you still have Tinder downloaded
What’s the difference between hooking up, hanging out and having sex? Lines are blurred. No one’s ready for anything serious, but after getting your heart burned too many times, you seriously believe you are.
Marriage is a distant future; casual one-night stands are an immediate past. And on top of it all, the people you want are either too immature or too mature to want you back.
5. You’re young enough to miss home, but too old to admit it
You think you’re a big shot because you’ve left home before, yet somehow it feels different this time. You’re all too aware of the vast difference in ages and experiences of people you pass by every day.
And you feel the youngest of them all. Home is where you once thought you couldn’t wait to get away from and now that you’re so far away, you appreciate it more. Remind yourself, this is a good thing.
6. You falsely believe you’ve entered the real world, but it hasn’t fully hit you yet
You’re still passing out with the lights on to the sounds of “Glee” in the background. You’re still looking at old photos of your 21st birthday that are still fresh at the forefront of your phone’s camera roll.
You have one foot gingerly landing on the floor in your first "Big Girl" apartment, while the other is still struggling to get out of your mom’s packed car.
7. All you hear about are kids your age changing the world and you’re still interning
What homework was that kid in Anthro 101 working on that you weren’t? How the hell did that nerd from nowhere become more successful than you? Why aren’t you rich and famous and running your own company?
Because you’re still just 23.
8. Relationships are complicated
College kids are too young for you, but the older ones you just can’t relate to. You think you’re falling in love with someone but really you’re falling in love with not being alone during this rocky transition.
You’ve hardened yourself but you’re still soft inside. Your inner feelings are in too much conflict -- you couldn’t open them up to someone else even if you desired.
9. You know what your dream apartment looks like, but you’re way too young to afford it
Keep dreaming. That’s all we’ve got.
10. You’re transitioning between entry-level job and career
There’s a lot of transitions between field, salaries, office spaces. You’re still finding out what you want to do with yourself as everyone around you urges you to settle. It’s unsettling.
11. You’re smart enough to make good decisions, but dumb enough to keep making bad ones
Twenty-three in a nutshell. It sounds just lovely.
12. You’re sexually frustrated
Your early 20s are the experimentation years. You might know what you like and aren’t comfortable with it yet. Or you’re uncomfortable with what you’ve been doing and don’t know what you like yet.
13. You’re still unsure of who you are
It’s confusing because you’re not the person you thought you’d be, five years ago at age 18 when 23 seemed tremendously old. And when you think about the person you’ll be five years from now, you know based upon this experience, that it’s not going to match.
14. Nobody likes you when you’re 23
This moodiness is reminiscent of a teenager’s temperament. One day you feel on top of the world, like you’ve finally figured it out. The next day, you’re back down, scrambling, wondering how you fell so fast. Don’t worry. There’s an end in sight. It’s called 24.
15. Your brain is nearly done changing
The “use it or lose it” theory is at major play here. Your prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function, is fully maturing while other regions have reached their mental peak.
You may never, quite literally, ever feel or think this way again. Reminder again: After the year you’ve been having, this is probably a good thing.
16. You’re caught in limbo
The prime number spells disaster. You’re neither odd, nor even. You’re just coming into your own identity. And yet, you’ve never felt more alone.
17. You still don’t know what you’re doing
Though you’re expected to at least pretend like you do. Bosses forget that you’ve never done this before. Colleagues with shiny résumés don’t want to waste their time. You have to work extra hard to get noticed.
18. You’re in new territory
It’s the first time you don’t have school to fall back on. You’ve broken free of the school-bell routine and, yet, you’re still tied down to the office desk. It’s too many paradoxes when all you want are straight answers.
19. You can’t afford your lifestyle
You’re used to student tickets and college-town deals. In the real world, in your new city, new job, new cafeteria, everything has a price.
20. You’re still dressing like a confused tween on the red carpet
You can no longer wear short, tight, stretchy American Apparel dresses but the nice Theory pantsuits are way out of reach. So you settle on something oddly in between that doesn’t work for any situation, and end up looking like Jamie Lynn Spears at a business meeting.
21. Your old habits are still there
You haven’t outgrown biting your nails or spending $5 on a tabloid magazine. You won’t give up quick runs to the vending machine even though your metabolism has slowed. You don’t care what his last name is or who bought you that drink.
You forgot to zip your purse again. You’re clinging to old habits and forming worse ones in a poor effort to correct them.
22. You’ve got growing pains
The thought of getting older when you feel so far behind emotionally and career-wise makes you scared and uncomfortable in this age. You’re itching to get out of 23, but in terms of your lifestyle choices, you’re still not ready yet.
23. You can’t relate to anything except articles like these
We’ve been there, sister.