Turning 23

A quarter life contemplation post

July 11, 2023 (1y ago) • 5 minute read

Candles flickered on the cake; their warm glow flooded the room, and the clock struck midnight. This time it was different from a mere birthday celebration with friends. I couldn't help but feel a surge of mixed emotions. Twenty-three. The age that seems to straddle the line between youthful exuberance and the borderline haunting realities of adulthood. It is a peculiar age for sure, one that holds both immense possibilities and daunting uncertainties. And so, as I find myself at the crossroads of youth and maturity, I can't help but reflect upon the whirlwind of thoughts swirling within my relatively immature and nascent mind.

Turning twenty-three doesn't come with a bang or fanfare. It quietly sneaks up on you, nestled between the exuberance of turning twenty-one and the perceived significance of entering your mid-twenties. Society doesn't grant it the status of a milestone, yet within the depths of this age lie moments that shape the trajectory of our lives.

At this juncture, the real world beckons, demanding that I make choices that will define my future. The decisions that once seemed far-off are suddenly at my doorstep. I am forced to confront them head-on with a reasonably approximate idea of what it actually means. The weight of responsibility presses upon me, urging me to determine my path. What should I do?

It's a paradoxical age, one where the vast array of choices is empowering and overwhelming. I stand amidst a sea of possibilities, watching friends and peers embark on diverse journeys. Some are delving into academia, driven by the passion for knowledge and the desire to become one of the bests in their fields. Others dive head-first into the corporate landscape and attain a sense of independence. And then some take a leap of faith, venturing into the unknown, guided by nothing but their instincts.

In the face of these divergent paths, I am beginning to question my choices and feel a pang of uncertainty. Comparison creeps in, whispering tales of self-doubt and insecurity. But my journey is unique, and the pace at which I progress is my own. There is no universal timeline for success or a single road to happiness. Each decision we make contributes to the tapestry of our lives, adding shades of experiences that make us who we are.

During my recent visit to my parent's house, I stumbled upon one of my old math textbooks lying in the corner of my bookshelf. As I picked it up and thumbed through its pages, I was teleported back to a time when I was fascinated by math and enjoyed exploring its intricacies. I couldn't help but notice all the calculations and pencil marks on the pages, which denoted my successful solutions to complex calculus problems. However, standing there, I couldn't help but wonder: where did it all go? When and how did I lose my enthusiasm for this once-beloved subject? Was it the result of experiencing burnout during my competitive exam preparation? Or did I simply lose interest in favour of other activities? Has this happened to my other hobbies as well? These questions continue to plague me as I consider ways to rekindle the excitement I once felt pursuing things I loved doing.

I have also been having thoughts about existence. Amidst my contemplations, there is a bittersweet realisation that dawns upon me. The world is vast, and time is finite. There will always be countless books left unread, songs left unheard, problems left unsolved, and experiences left unexplored. It is an inescapable truth that can sometimes cast a melancholic shadow upon the seemingly joyful period in my life.

But in this vast expanse of missed opportunities lies the beauty of my individuality. It is valid for everyone. We are shaped by the choices we make and the roads we traverse. No matter how small, each decision now holds the power to steer the course of my life and illuminate the path ahead. The beauty should lie not in regretting what we haven't done but in appreciating what I have done and the potential of what I can still achieve.

Recognising the impact of mistakes that affect others often comes naturally, but acknowledging the ones that affect us requires introspection and effort. I have made some mistakes that intrinsically affect me. In the corridors of my mind, there exists a relentlessly self-critical voice. This voice has always urged me to push harder, to strive for perfection without granting a moment of respite. I have always held myself to high standards, never allowing myself the luxury of basking in the glow of my accomplishments. Instead, I placed myself under an unforgiving microscope and an alter ego voice whispering, "You can do better; You must do better" Rarely did I pause to soak in the satisfaction of a job well done, to nourish my spirit with genuine appreciation. Though this harsh self-discipline has fuelled my achievements, it also has exacted a toll on my self-esteem and identity.

After some reflection, I have decided to be less harsh on myself and improve. As I embrace the age of twenty-three, I aim to do so with a sense of wonder and a resolve to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. I understand that the journey ahead will be a medley of triumphs and setbacks, of laughter and tears. Still, within this tapestry of experiences lies the true essence of life. I hope to enjoy it all without being overtly critical of myself.

As I blew out the candles, I made a silent wish—for the strength to navigate the challenges ahead, the courage to pursue my passions unapologetically, and the wisdom to cherish each moment, knowing that this chapter of my life, like all others, is fleeting. With that, I step into the melting pot of adulthood, ready to walk my own unique path, armed with the lessons of the past and the hopes of the future.

Praying I do well.

Mayur Bhoi @ mayurbhoi.com