If we put down that near-barren wine glass that signifies the consumption of the better part of a bottle, if we turn off the Xbox, stop brunching, human-humping, and indulging in the other distractions that construct our twenties;if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that the only certain element of this defining decade is uncertainty. Far away is that safe four (perhaps five) years of cushion that college provided for us. Buffering us from the real world, college proves to be a quasi-adult world, where we are old enough to plan international trips and have prestigious internships, but are young enough to walk home in a banana suit on a Wednesday morning without it demeaning our self-image.
Life post-grad is uncertain. What am I doing with my life? Where will I live? What will I do? Who will I do? What do I want? What’s next? We move from city to city, jump from probable life professions to opposite industries, from the sheets of a lame, Latin lover to accidently kissing girls and liking it…All while watching our less-adventurous peers procreate and get promoted. I spoke with my sister recently about her next life move, “Well I can move abroad to teach English or I can stay in Utah or I can move to Portland, but I want to see more cities! I want to live in Austin! I am not ready to settle. Or I could just stay in Utah,” she listed to me. Frankly, most of us don’t know what the fuck we are doing.
Shortly after college, I returned from teaching English in Thailand to find out my twenty-four year old brother was diagnosed with brain cancer. The year that followed was a thick soup of obstacles, and instead of the innocent alphabet kind we grew up on, it consisted of brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, grief, and guilt, and was thoroughly seasoned with uncertainty. I debated on the decision to move home or stay in the city I lived in at the time. The stifling obligation to pay my student loans weighed on this decision, as relying on my parents for any kind of financial support was not an option.
I flew home once a month and was terrified each time of what I would there. How would he be doing? How were my parents? One day would be fine, and the next I was completely broken with devastation from my brother battling this illness. Why did this happen to him? One moment he was sick, but surviving, and the next he was in the hospital with meningitis. It was a roller coaster of uncertainty and it was a precious life being knowingly threatened. I wanted answers. I wanted to know if he was going to die. I harassed the surgeon and my own parents with questions. I needed to know statistics. I needed to know what was going to happen. And I needed to know it as soon as possible.
None of this was in our control. Through this experience I discovered the painful and beautiful lesson of living in the present moment. I couldn’t control my brother’s cancer or survival, but I could sit with him and my parents and my siblings, laughing about past Christmases and the intimate memories that only kin are privy to. The present moment became the refugee in this uncertainty.
I would never wish the uncertainty of a loved one’s life upon anyone. But it is through this experience that I can draw parallels to this era of our lives. In our twenties we must become comfortable with uncertainty, our only constant. There is a deep rooted fear in the unknown that often translates into our need to control. Although this need to control is most often not possible in regard to love, life and tragedy, you are in charge of your own life. You are too young and scrappy and alive to stay at that job you loathe any longer, to be in a relationship that is the food equivalent in satisfaction to a soggy, cold French fry, or to try to win the affection of friends who don’t reciprocate your efforts.
The true danger in fear of uncertainty is the stagnancy that accompanies settling. In our twenties we can easily become paralyzed with indecision. Don’t wait until three years have passed in your crappy cubicle and you’re still not doing what you love, or you’re in a quasi-relationship with the pizza man and you want something more. Make a choice! There isn’t a right or wrong choice; there are unexpected outcomes and lessons either way. Today is all you have and you can make it look however you would like. Uncertainty isn’t something to fear and let hinder your ambitions, but to embrace.