What’s life like at 22?

Remember what life was like in your early twenties?

Were you a fresh university graduate debating to do more study or dive head-first into your career? Or were you already sick of your full-time job?  

Were you still relying on your parents financially? Or had you already left the family nest and gotten married to your high school sweetheart?

Or maybe you were in the middle of a life-changing gap slash sabbatical year, unsure about your next move and wondering if you had been hit with a quarter-life crisis?

Truth be told: it’s quite common for many young people to experience a sense of uncertainty about their future in this period of in-between-ness.

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If it’s any consolation, even Grammy Award winning singers aren’t immune to these growing pains.

“We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time,” Taylor Swift croons in her anthem about being 22. “It’s miserable – and magical. Oh, yeah.”

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Jeffrey Arnett is an American psychologist who coined the term ’emerging adulthood’ after spending nearly a decade interviewing 18-29 year olds.

Through his research he found some of the stereotypes against this cohort are exaggerated.

“It’s true that emerging adults have high hopes for work, and even, yes, a sense of being entitled to enjoy their work,” he writes in Aeon. 

Arnett said these young people want to make use of their freedom while they can.

Since its first instalment in 2006, SBS Insight has invited a diverse group of young adolescents to reunite at three-year periods to take snapshots of what’s happened in their lives. They’re not teens anymore so what’s changed since?

Growing up is a time of transformation and increasing independence. Now at age 22, they’ve returned to talk about the challenges and lessons they’ve learned so far in navigating the transition to adulthood. 

As an adolescent, Dubbo local Lionel Wood was passionate about playing football and had ambitions of being a professional player with the Parramatta Eels. His father was absent and he lamented the absence of good, strong role models. 

“Why I want to play football is probably because young kids nowadays don’t have good role models. I just want to one day hope for them to look up at me,” a 13-year-old Wood said.  

“The hardest thing about being a teenager is knowing that you can take the wrong turn at any time … You should always have a shoulder to lean on.”

At 16, he realised the footy dreams were not going to happen. 

“Obviously I’m probably not that good at it. But I gave it me best and, yeah, didn’t end up.”

Wood became a leader and community mentor himself, first taking on the school captaincy in his final year, and now working as a community liaison officer mentoring kids and young adults. Since the last show in 2012, Wood has also been awarded the Dubbo Young Citizen of the Year.    

Then there’s Lina Darwiche. Since the last show, she has given up her dream of being married at age 22.

“…You just grow up and your expectations and things change as well. So I’m teaching now which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Only when Darwiche started working, she realised she had been obsessed with a fantasy life. Now she’s single and focused on her job as a primary school teacher.

“I have a set of kindergarteners – they’re my kids, I love them to bits.

“I’m in no rush. I don’t feel, when I was younger I just had this picture where, you know, where I’d get engaged in my final year of uni so then I’d finish and get married then …  I’m just sort of waiting for the right person and at the moment my job takes up my life,” she said.

Arnette said that young people are smart to use this period in their lives for experimentation.  

“They would rather use the flexibility of their 20s for the kinds of exploration they couldn’t have pursued when they were younger, and won’t be able to do later – go to a different part of the country or the world to live for a while, try to break in to a glamorous but long-shot profession such as music or acting, or simply work in a low-pay, low-stress job for a while and have a lot of fun with friends … That’s not contemptible, it’s wise, and we don’t give them enough credit for their wisdom,” he said.

But eventually as their twenties draw to a close, young adults do start to reach some of the traditional milestones such as becoming financially independent, marrying and becoming parents.  

“By age 30, nearly all of them are more than ready to trade their footloose freedom for the rewards of enduring bonds to others.”

 


 

Insight has followed the progress of one group of young people from the age of 13. This week Insight hears from them and asks: How do they think they’ve changed over the years? Do they think they’re adults yet?

Catch Insight at 8.30PM on Tuesday on SBS or live stream at 杭州桑拿,sbs杭州桑拿会所,杭州桑拿网,/insight/live

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