Winging an Early Life Crisis

akinkunmi
4 min readDec 15, 2020

I am awakened to the personal demands of the decade in much the same way I am awakened to the micro gains around my midsection, this sudden consciousness that I can no longer inhale a crater into my stomach as I did some five, seven years ago. At best, I can inhale it into a false compactness, real only when framed by hunger. I am conscious of the need to make some changes to my diet and to my life, of the need to steer it in the ‘right direction’ if I am to make something out of it.

Twenty-one this August, a recent graduate grappling with the graphicness and rush of real life, I am in the middle of an early life crisis.

I began writing this in the early hours of January 1. I was in church, at a cross-over night service, too distracted by the weight of the future and my place in it. I have wondered about it for years; in recent months, more seriously, and with more concern. My only comfort was that Amanda Lee Koe had just responded to my comment on her post. I found the post and her reply to my comment quite resonating.

Misery loves company; some kind simply looks for familiarity, for something that whispers: ‘Hey, it is okay. I have been there too.’ This was what her post was to me.

There’s a sort of overwhelming anxiety for the future that wraps itself around your lungs and constricts it; a Babel sitting on your bones, pulverizing them before you even start to move.

I saw a tweet not too long ago: ‘Niggas be 21, thinking their life is over.’ I thought about how aptly this described me. I turn(ed) twenty-one this year. It sort of feels like my life is over. Sometimes I fail at reminding myself it hasn’t even started.

There’s a general reminder somewhere that thirty is where it tips over. The deadline. If you haven’t made something of yourself then, it might well be over. I calculate how many years I have left to build this Taj Mahal, or at least figure out the draft.

But it’s not the concern about early success that cooks the pressure. It’s insignificant. It is the bubble of not even knowing what direction you’re supposed to steer the ship that is you, what the purpose that should drive your ‘intentional’ steps is. ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself.’ ‘Nobody really knows it yet. Everyone just wings it.’ These lose meaning when the graduate applications want you to paint a rough trajectory of your future (which you’re still oblivious to) and the life coaches at the seminars say you should picture exactly where you want to be in the future and reverse plan towards it. It is harrowing when the picture returns blank or murky, especially when your colleagues who are also supposed to be ‘faking it till they make it’ with you at least have an idea what it is they are faking.

You start to wonder if you’ve passed your zenith.

Growing up, inching closer to the twilight of your teenage years, closer to getting your degree, the reality that your life is about to get really serious, about to be dropped into your hands starts to creep on you. As it crashes into your palms, the panic rides your body every time you think about how life has not positioned you with the luxury to sit and wait for clarity — or fail too many times — as you wing it and try your hands at many things. You try your hands at things that interest you — sprinkle in some intentionality and hope.

Amanda’s post was about being lost at the start of the previous decade, about the meanderings and cul-de-sacs that dotted her path to her present self. It was a beacon of hope, especially because it was less abstract than the thousand people I had heard describe their journey with similar phrasings and diction. They often felt too distant; their stories, contrived and unreal. There was an intimacy about Amanda’s story that made it feel real; maybe it was in how deeply I saw myself reflected in the contours of the detailing — not in the flesh and blood of her day-to-day situations, but in the degree of distraughtness. Maybe it was because of our shared love for writing. If there had been some resistance in my fibres to the reality of the encouragement it offered, her response to my comment lulled it. Here, it essentially said, is this one real human person who was as lost as you are now years ago. They made it to the finer side of the tunnel, are still making it, but there is some light. It is possible.

--

--