Change Is Inevitable: What Maturity Means In Your 20s

by Kaelyn Malkoski

I’d like to think I’m mature, but I’m not so sure.

To be honest, I don’t really know what that word means. Does it make me mature just because, by definition, I’m an adult?

I have a new apartment, a job and a boyfriend. Check, check, check. My friends and family are positively and symbiotically interwoven in all parts of my life. I’m healthy, and most of the time, I’m happy.

But then, there’s that whole thing about being 23.

I’m making my own money for the first time, but I haven’t saved a penny since living in Chicago.

I want — no, need — to learn how to cook and I have this fabulous idea of taking a cooking class despite not having the time to do so. Dinner alternates between eggs on toast and kale salad. Peanut butter is sometimes involved.

I have the drinking habits of a second-semester senior in college, but the hangovers of a 100-year-old woman.

They are real, 24-hour, vomit-inducing, head-throbbing, crippling hangovers. Ironically, the most common words I utter from my mouth are “I’m never drinking again.”

Then, sometimes I spend the entirety of Sunday on my couch in my wiener dog t-shirt, ingesting grease like I used to do in college.

Only now, I can’t do so without having raging anxiety of having wasted a day.

I’ve discovered this idea of "fitness," which is more than just an occasional jog. But, without fail, one out of three times, I forget to bring extra underwear to my morning workouts and going commando to work is never cool.

Speaking of work, I don’t do the whole pantsuit thing. What the f*ck does it mean to dress “business casual," anyway?

Dressing professionally is one thing, but being professional is a whole different ball game.

At least 20 percent of my time in work meetings is devoted to writing down various acronyms and Googling their definitions.

In general, I really, truly want people to take me seriously, but I still think the best joke of all time is asking someone to join the PEN15 club. (Penis jokes are my favorite; they will never get old.)

There are moments when I want to freeze time and not move beyond a millisecond of the moment I’m in; simultaneously, there are times I want to fast-forward to what (I envision) will be my picture-perfect life at age 40, one that a white-picket fence protects.

I’m always in flux.

But, that’s just the thing: Being a 20-something is a fluid, ever-changing state. In our minds — because it’s easier to think in terms of black and white versus shades of grey — there is an ambiguous line that separates "being young" with "being old."

We tip our toes over that line and step back. Then, we cross over, cross back and do it all again.

It’s a fragile line to cross. As 20-somethings, we crave the benefits of being older: financial stability, the comfort of a partner, wisdom, lack of incessant anxiety, routine.

But, we wrinkle our noses at the idea of slow metabolism, monotony and — God forbid — commitment. (Being with one person for the rest of our lives? Gross.)

At the same time, we vehemently rebel against the idea of growing older because we enjoy our independence, energy and that feeling you get when you experience something for the first time.

We live for the butterflies we get when we meet a new love prospect. But, we so desperately want people to treat us as adults — as equals.

Just because we’re 23 doesn’t mean our inexperience or inabilities define us.

We want parts of being young and being old without any of the consequences, and we might want something that’s different every day.

We want our cake (and an endless variety while we’re at it), and we want to eat it, too (without getting cellulite on our asses or stretch marks on our inner thighs).

But, as we grow up — as we mature — we realize that, as with everything in life, those complementary consequences are inevitable and utterly unavoidable.

On any given day, I can be a little bit of 23, 32 and 40. But, who I am today or next Tuesday will never be the same. I’ll always be changing, growing and, maybe, achieving maturity.

Growing up is real and at this age, it’s never been more real. Thinking about the fact I will never be the person I was yesterday or a college student or a teenager or kid again makes my head hurt in the same way it does when I think about eternity and black holes and singularity.

It’s a f*cked up concept.

I recently read an article that reported your mid-20s are when you realize death is a thing. Just like being able to afford nice shoes, learning how to get a red wine stain out of your rug and other rites of passage that complement maturity, death becomes a thing — a pretty scary thing.

Knowing death is real is also directly proportional to mid-life crises.

"What do I want in life? When will I meet my husband? Where? What if he’s not right for me? Am I ready to settle down, get married, have kids, be a parent? What if I’m a sh*tty mom? Do I want to live in Chicago forever, or do I want to move back down South? Is this the right job for me? When will I write my book? Will it be successful? AM I REALLY AN ADULT? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?"

We’re constantly straddling that line where the only solace in this never-ending brain chatter is knowing we aren’t the only ones struggling with our identities and coming to terms with balancing our desires to be old and young, achieving the ever-coveted maturity.

But, what is maturity?

I think, more than anything, maturity means being okay with change. It’s about acknowledging that change will happen, and it’s out of our control. We will not try to revert, negate or defy it.

Do I like change? No. Have I ever liked change? No. Does change exist? Yes. Will my life continue to change each and every day? Absolutely.

Acknowledging change will happen is the first step to maturity. As soon as we not only admit this, but also accept it, which is the next and final step, we have room to grow.

We will have room to better understand the world around us, the environments we’ve adapted to and, most importantly, ourselves.

Because, while we might always be unprepared for the next second, hour or day, we’ll have given ourselves the capacity to navigate through change.

I think maybe that’s what maturity is. (And, by my definition, it’s still okay to think the PEN15 club is funny.)