Here, allow me to explain the world to you:

Disclaimer: This post will not explain the whole world to you. It will attempt to explain different types of twenty-somethings living today. But given we’re so incredibly self-involved and self-obsessed, the whole world really centres around us anyway.

Snow white - fair trade organic

Being young is exhausting work.

Everyone knows that teenagers and twenty-somthings are a different species. Media outlets today are rife with articles analysing and complaining about Gen Y and then subsequently trying to categorise and fix us. Clearly, we’re a complicated case that needs to be studied to ever be successfully eradicated understood.

So in the interest of science, I will thus seek to provide an insight into the mind and culture of a twenty-something. This will hopefully fulfil the twin functions of expanding the horizon of human knowledge and clarifying the questions my mind has about a culture I belong to, know absolutely nothing about yet claim to be an expert in.

Indie tom and jerry

An image that makes sense to Gen Y.

So let’s start by confirming that everyone is indie.
I see the confused look on your face so I’m going to stop right there and clarify:
According to urban dictionary Indie is:
1. (n) An obscure form of rock which you only learn about from someone slightly more hip than yourself.
2. (adj) Indie is cooler than emo.

This begs the question, what is an emo?
1. (n) An entire subculture of people (usually angsty teens) with a fake personality.
2. (adj) Like a goth, only much less dark and much more Harry Potter.

Now just to clarify, not everyone who falls under ’emo’ is actually an emo.  There are wemos, which are wannabe emos, and memos, which are mistaken emos. The latter is someone who is not an emo but is confused for one. I can’t personally explain how this happens but apparently it does.

Moving on, there are also lads:
1. (n) A lad is a male who specialises in creating and distributing exquisite banter.
2. (n) Males who like polo shirts and have a penchant for exposing genitalia and being a douchebag.

Now just for the record, ‘chavs’ are young lads.

And to complement the chavs, there are teeny-boppers:
1. (n) Stupid girls of ages 10-14 who squeal and giggle so much that Satan is willing to drag them back to hell.
2. (n) Females who wear small denim shorts no matter the season, are obsessed with pop-punk bands, are desperate to grow up and are unable to structure a sentence without using the word ‘like’ 5 times.
3. (n) The ethnic group Hitler would focus on instead if he were alive today.

An accurate description of how I feel when I'm around teeny-boppers.

An accurate description of how I feel when I’m around teeny-boppers.

There are also modern day hippies:
1. (n) An overgrown child who may occasionally abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with their impossible ideals in the modern world.
2. (adj) An urban hillbilly.

And who could forget the gym-junkies:
1. (adj) People with a Hulk like physique and intelligence level.
2. (n) Members of a society driven by the slogan “get shredded or die trying”.
3. (n) People who use the terms ‘looking ripped’, ‘nice rig’ and ‘do you even lift’ at least once in every sentence.

Now I can’t possibly write an academically sound piece about sub-cultures without mentioning the following:
There are wiggers (white guys who think they are black), chiggers (Chinese guys who think they are black) and hasians (hot asians).
There are skinny guys, who suffer from manorexia, and browned up girls who suffer from hipstertanorexia.
There are stoners who smoke the sacred herb and look like Jesus and there are coke-heads who are people fortunate enough to have enough money to support a devils-dandruff addiction.
Devils dandruff is cocaine, and how this comes up in conversation is beyond me.

There are geeks, whose IQ’s exceed their weights but they’re not to be confused with nerds who are people you’ll end up working for when you grow up.
There are also punks who are rebellious hooligans with funny hair and gangstas’ who have street cred and are unable to find sweat shirts that aren’t 5 sizes too big for them. They’re also not to be confused with thugs although I struggle to understand why.

Now this educational and mildly nauseating journey through sub-cultures leads us to the Hipster: the ultimate sub-culture enigma.
StupidHipster21. Definitions are too mainstream.
2. (n) Someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts and has a hair style that can only be described as ‘complicated’.
3. (n) An individual who hates corporations and everything mainstream, yet still buys Apple products.
4. (n) A mainstream label referring to someone who rejects mainstream labels.
5. Everyone in my masters program.*

My head hurts too much to even begin making an assessment on what it means to be a hipster. Basically, if you walk round my University, everyone you see will qualify under this label. And no one will actually know what it means.

So there you have it. My contribution to society for the week. I am more confused than when I started.  Labels are gloriously vague, unnecessary and potentially damaging. For todays’ twenty-somthing’s, life is confusing enough and everyone is just trying to find a way to fit in.

The roads that we take are merely kaleidoscopic images that shift with every turn of the head. Everyones either lost in the rat race or lost somewhere outside it. I think it goes without saying that it’s easy to make fun of lifestyles and subcultures, but truly understanding them is a different matter. And maybe the reason society can’t understand twenty-something’s is because we can’t (or don’t want to) understand ourselves either.

hipster red riding hood

*Admittedly, this may not be a very descriptive definition – but it’s true nonetheless.

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So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”                                              – Dr. Seuss: Oh The Places You’ll Go!

When I was five, I was certain I wanted to become a ballerina. At seven, I wanted to be a doctor. At ten, I thought becoming a professional singer and joining the Spice Girls was for me. At thirteen I wanted to become a forensic pathologist. At fifteen, a lawyer.
At every stage of my childhood, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had an answer. And more often than not, it was a different answer to the one I gave the week before. But funnily enough, when I actually ‘grew up’ I started running out of answers.

Through school I’d always been hardworking and studious so with my good grades came a self belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. The only problem was that I didn’t know what that ‘anything’ was. When I graduated high school I was offered a scholarship to a top University and took it with open arms assuming that when I finished my undergraduate degree I’d be a grown up and thus know what I wanted to be.
I’ve finished my undergraduate degree, but I’m still no ‘grown up’.

The past few years have seen me go through many phases of self discovery. I’ve met incredibly diverse people and travelled to exotic and contrasting parts of the world. I have found myself a thousand times only to realise a week later that the person I found was just one facet on myself rather than a whole. I’ve been surprised by my abilities, disappointed at my failures and encouraged by my resilience. I’ve experienced highs climbing mountains – both physically and metaphorically, near death experiences at the hands of hippos and extreme lows which have left me drunkenly analysing my life at 11am on weekday more times than I wish to admit.

But after all that I still don’t think I am any closer to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. To be honest, the only thing I have figured out so far is that I don’t think I want to grow up.

No doubt, most twenty-somethings reading this would know the exact feeling I’m trying to describe. None of us can change the decisions that have brought us to where we are right now: the job we have, the city we live in and the path we’re on. But we do have control over the future. After all, we’re twenty-something, not eighty-something, which means that we have a lot more life still to live and quite a few more chances to get it right. There is no such thing as ‘too little too late’ in regards to learning a lesson or creating a life that makes you happy.

I think the biggest obstacle people face is fear. We are afraid that there is something wrong with us because we aren’t happy with where we’ve ended up; despite the carefully calculated plan we followed to get there. We’re frightened of the uncertainty of the future and thought that no one else is feeling the need to walk out of their current life and start over. We’re increasingly scared with each passing thought of a new beginning, that our decisions will be frowned upon and those we love the most may not be proud of us when the dust settles. And not to mention, we all become a little more fearful and crazy when our constant need to compare ourselves to others only serves to illuminate our own faults and shortcomings.

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It’s all pretty scary. But I don’t have the ability to erase the fear or a step-by step guide to a solution. But maybe that’s a good thing as calculated paths are what got some of us to this point in the first place. We followed specific plans until we landed in a place so far removed from what makes up happy that we forgot where our passion lives; so far down the wrong path that we can’t even figure out what we want to be when we ‘grow up.’

At the end of the day, I think if we’re all superbly honest with one another (and ourselves) we’d soon find out that none of us are certain about much. We’re not alone and we’re all just trying to figure it out without screwing too much up in the process. We need to set happiness as our only goal and learn that the key to life is making yourself proud. I’m not sure if or how it’ll all work out, but I have faith that what’s meant to be, will be.

The reason for my reflective-state-of-mind, if you will, is that I’ve recently been accepted into a Masters program. After working so hard to get into the program, I’m now left second-guessing whether I truly want to be in it. I suppose part of it is fear of change and fear of the unknown.
It’s safe to say though, that I’m not sure if I’ll ever figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I still just hope that I will never have to grow up but rather have an entire lifetime to exhaust all resources and opportunities to figure out who I am and what makes me happy.

If the past few years have taught me anything it’s that we never stop changing. Life is about mastering the ability to continually keep going after what you really want; having the courage to always start over when you aren’t happy and acquiring the knowledge that you’re not alone in the process.

John Lennon credited his mother for telling him that happiness was the key to life. At school when a teacher asked Lennon to write down what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wrote down ‘happy.’ Lennon said “They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

I just hope I can continue to grow old and learn; all the while never growing up or out of happiness.