Optimism, social media, anxiety on minds of 23-year-olds
Being 23 is so fun and exciting. To be in love, to spend every waking hour communicating with your significant other and your many friends in new ways: Texting, WhatsApp and Skype messaging are, for us, as natural as water-cooler conversations for our parents.
I am about to finish my education, but some of my friends are already earning salaries at their first jobs. I share a flat with a few friends, but many of my other friends are still living with their parents. It is nice to know that if things get tight, your parents are mostly happy to help you out.
But wait; I’m also anxious. Apart of all these parties, my life is full of changes. I have my freedom, but it comes with uncertainty. I am ambitious, but I am afraid I may not measure up. My friends and my parents arrange things for me, so sometimes I feel a little bit depressed, but then my friends would take me for coffee and a muffin and I forget all those blues. I can always count on my friends, they’re the best!
But don’t be fooled by our neon-colored chinos, spiky hair and oversized glasses: We know what we want in life. We want a career, and we go to university exactly to get this. Learning just for the sake of knowledge isn’t for us. And we want to enjoy sex and relationships for a while before getting married. We start our sexual life early — I mean really early, compared to our parents — but we will get married later than them. We watch porn without blushing. We were raised on the Internet so no sense to make a big fuss about it. But make no mistake: We are not hedonistic. We don’t really like casual sex, at least not as much as the “noughties” generation.
Just don’t call us a short-sighted and self-centered bunch. Despite all the Instagram and Facebook selfies, we’re not egocentric; we just feel entitled to more things than the previous generation. Besides, we’re concerned about others and want to improve the world. But we’re not idealists in the way that young people in 1968 were. We have more modest goals: We want to find a job and make money, but it is important for us that we will do some good in the world at the same time.
The biggest change between older generations and us is gadgets and the Internet. Our mobile phones, tablets and laptops are an extension of our bodies. Last week, my friend forgot her phone for a weekend country trip and she had an anxiety attack. Adults will never understand that. We don’t use social media — we simply live there.
The social support is indeed useful, especially since many of us moved away from home. But parents are checking on us every day. They prefer to call, but I would rather text them back — it’s quicker. But it is not that easy for the third of us who still live with our parents. We face discussions, even arguments, on whether we should pay rent at home, whether we should help out with cooking and cleaning, and whether our parents can tell us what to do. At age 15, you reluctantly accept that these are inescapable conversations. But at age 23? I mean, come on — our parents didn’t live at home at that age, so there are no models to build on.
But in truth, being 23 means being on a very solitary journey: We have to figure out on our own who we are and what we want to do with our lives. We have to decide what kind of work and career we want, and whether we want a family. These choices are much more diverse, and as a result, much harder to make than 50 years ago. In fact, 50 years ago most 23-year-olds had little say in their future: It was already set out for them. So, yeah, I am kinda happy!
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Jordan Neuhauser: New York
The 23-year-old New Yorker talks career and adjusting to city life post-college.
Career: I work for Kapnag Heating and Plumbing Corp. It’s been in my family since 1925, when my great grandfather started it with his business partner. On a daily basis, I get to be in all kinds of places in the city, from multimillion-dollar homes to crappy houses.
I wasn’t pressured into taking over the family business. I talked about it with my mom and dad, and they said if that’s what I really wanted to do that was OK with them. I applied for some other stuff so I had other options, and I got a few job offers for things that in the end didn’t fit me. I started out as an intern, getting exposed to all aspects from manual labor to the management side. It’s good for when I eventually take over the company because if these guys are still working here, they know I paid my dues. They also know I can judge what they’re doing and see if they’re doing it correctly.
Hobbies: I got recruited to play soccer by Elon University in North Carolina. They offered me a roster spot, and I played four years during college. It was the greatest experience of my life. Those guys are still my best friends. I’ve got tons of stories from that time. When I returned to New York, I joined a competitive league in the city. Soccer will always be part of my life.
Home: I live in a really large two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. We’re paying much less than we should be paying. My family knows the landlord through our business so he gave us a good deal.
Adapting: Elon definitely had a southern touch to it, and the people were very friendly. But I’m from New Jersey. This is where I grew up, and I always wanted to be back here.
City life: I think that there’s always that post-college depression that everyone hits. On top of the “Oh crap” moment of living in the city, knowing I have to start paying my bills, I have to worry about my retirement and filing my taxes. You can’t just skip a class. You’re out of the college bubble. You’re on your own to survive.
Sebastian Thiel: London
At age 23, Seb is already getting serious: His entertainment company Upshot produces movies to reach out to discontent youth across the UK. But Seb’s not set for life — he just wants to continue building himself.
Career: I left college early to start my own company selling T-shirts, and from there I got into design and then film. That extra time allowed me to build experience and work intensively on different skills: editing, producing, directing, and I supported myself with prize money from winning competitions. I developed an online TV channel and that led to directing jobs. It’s mostly freelance work now, which is up and down. But I love what I do, film is such a powerful medium. I’m still exploring, building a body of work, rather than working toward a specific goal.
Home: I just moved into my new flat with my girlfriend. It means a lot to have my own space after just having a room for a long time, and it was ridiculously hard to get the place as a freelancer. I’m quite house-proud; I need my home to be beautiful. I always say my dream house would be an island like Richard Branson’s.
City life: The only thing wrong with London is the weather. I love it here, it has everything. A lot of nights, I go to variety shows or concerts, and through my work, I can go to private film screenings and premieres, which is really cool.
Technology: Everything I do now came through being able to communicate and reach an audience through the Internet. I wouldn’t have got jobs without people seeing my work online. YouTube has been key to that, and I still use it a lot for tutorials if I don’t know something. I download new apps all the time. One of my new ones will wait for you if you’re put on hold.
Love: I’ve been with my girlfriend for five years so it’s serious. What’s most important to me in a relationship is support, being on the same wavelength and sharing the same goals. And you have to be selfless at times.
Causes: Racism makes me angry. Poverty too, but then I think it’s so much worse in Africa, where I’m from [Zambia] than here. I don’t know if giving a little money every month makes much difference there, but I do it because it’s better than nothing.