things people about 20 years older than me should know

Here’s some more free-form thinking. This is not directed at any particular person, but instead a certain denomination of the people I interact with. To be fair, this could apply to not just people around my teachers or my parents’ ages, but also anyone who tends to think like a conventional adult.

Firstly, let’s start with my outlook on Things In General. You have to keep in mind that I’m only 20, but that’s also part of the fun. Wouldn’t you like to know what 20 year olds think about? I know basically nothing and yet I still have all this confidence in my own beliefs. What were you thinking about when you were 20? Did you think you knew what you were doing, and where you wanted to go next in your life, and what your plan for the upcoming five years would be? I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a goal in mind.

Whether this is a personality thing, or the result of certain experiences in childhood and the adolescent years, I usually prefer to live in the moment. The most planning I do is course selection and grocery shopping, and I feel like that’s just the way I like to do things for now. Maybe one day I’ll find a goal, or some other reason to continue living for, but as of now I’m pretty content just doing whatever makes me feel alright.

I didn’t really have a specific structure in mind when I decided to write this, so I’ll go full stream of consciousness. Next up is the topic called Where I am and How Did I Get Here. I am currently living on my own in downtown Toronto, attending university (online), and generally being very Alone. There are a multitude of answers that I give when people ask me why I chose to move from the Vancouver area to Toronto alone, but essentially I just wanted to leave home. I love my parents and I love my siblings, and I had casual friends at home, sure, but when I started grade 12, I kind of knew that things had to stop going the way they were, and the only way out of that was to leave.

I had a pretty average childhood, for the most part, up until grade 4. The short version of this story was that I was being treated badly by my teachers and some of my peers, and developed a nasty case of anxiety that never went away. I was a shy kid to begin with, so of course being bullied by my teachers didn’t help at all. I changed schools, but by that time there were only 2 years of elementary left so it was almost impossible to make friends. After that, high school was bad. Despite it being a regular public high school in Burnaby, it was competitive and toxic and full of incredibly unhealthy things. I wanted to make friends, and so became swept up into the whole thing. It was very bad for me. Throughout all of high school, I was always ready to die. I wasn’t planning on committing suicide, or actively seeking methods of self-harm, but I knew that if there was a way to just disappear and never come back, I would choose that option.

… and here I’d like to apologize to my parents. I’m thankful they’ve always provided for me, and I always had too much to eat, and I was given a lot of freedom unlike my peers. But just like any teenager, I kept them in the dark about a lot of things that happened to me. I didn’t consult them when making decisions, and I would hide my feelings and thoughts all the time. It led to some pretty bad arguments (mostly between my dad and I), and I know that I’m still like that now. I just don’t want anyone to have to worry about me. Unfortunately, that also meant they may not know me as well as I imagined.

Anyway, even at the end of high school, when I prepared to leave home, certain bad things happened. I’m a fairly prideful person, and it’s quite hard for me to tell my family that I was assaulted or scared. I imagine it’s hard for anyone to tell their family about that.

So I went to Toronto, and went to university, and learned about living alone. I miss my family a lot, but I also get some peace and quiet. I have more privacy, since I rent a room in a house. I can eat as little or as much as I want and not feel guilty (that’s just me and my Eldest Sibling responsibility). I can go outside whenever I want without worrying anyone. I can sleep whenever I want. Of course, during the pandemic, it’s extremely lonely, but then I think to myself: I’m lonely wherever I go, so what’s the difference?

My dad (and many others, actually) judged me really hard about wanting to move back for school during the pandemic. I know it may seem like a waste of money, but hear me out.

  1. I don’t have to wake up at 5am for classes if I live in Toronto. This is a very simple reason. I also sleep at 5am these days, so maybe it’s a stupid reason.
  2. I can’t concentrate on school work at home. This can be split into more specific reasons: a) I don’t have a desk at home, and all my school supplies were in Toronto. b) I love my siblings, but we only distract each other.
  3. I have extreme anxiety whenever we leave the house. I realized this in hindsight, but during the entire summer, every time I had to leave to even go grocery shopping, I had really bad stomachaches. At the time, I was thinking: hey, this is exactly the same as when I was 9 years old. This is anxiety, isn’t it. I’m guessing now that it’s because I associated my home city with the bad things I’ve experienced, and I was unconsciously afraid.
  4. Even though my parents are pretty relaxed, there’s still a feeling of pressure. There’s my responsibilities as the oldest, and household things, and my bickering with my dad… there’s many positives to living at home, but at times it can be confining.

Well, I’m here now. It does get lonely at times, but as I said earlier… I’ve always been lonely. I’m bad at making connections with people, and have developed a fear of being betrayed or taken advantage of. It’s a self-defense tactic. If you don’t let your guard down, they can’t hit you.

All things considered, I’m a somewhat functional normal person, and I enjoy privacy like any young adult. I like to take things slow, and not think too much about the future. I don’t have high ambitions or goals: I just want to live every day with no regrets, and a little bit of happiness if I can squeeze it in there. If I can make myself feel better, either right now or in the near future, then I’ll make the decisions that will lead me to that place of comfort.

I’ve spoken to some of my friends from high school (I really only have 2, since I drifted apart from the others), and noticed that they live a life that seems very structured. They strive to reach certain life milestones at certain ages, like finishing a bachelor’s degree, getting jobs, finding a partner, etc. I don’t know whether it’s ingrained in them to live according to certain standards, or they just only know the one way to live, but at the very least, I know that this sort of life is not for me. I don’t feel like I have to have achieved many things at a younger age in order to feel accomplished or successful, and I don’t want to be pressured into doing things that won’t benefit me. So that’s why I’m studying something kind of useless, while wasting my own money across the country from my family, eating lazy dinners and too many cookies.

If there’s anything I learned from between the ages of 6-18, it’s that I know what I don’t want. I know that I should be good enough to myself because no one else is obligated to care or ask about me. If I don’t do things that I feel good about (or feel deserving of), then what’s the point? I’m on this wretched earth anyway, so I might as well make the most of it.

Another thing: at school, in academic contexts, I find that instructors don’t always understand the current movement of self-care. It’s a hard life out here, as I’m sure they’re aware, and kids are becoming traumatized earlier and earlier as a result of the internet (a lawless place) and also the pandemic, probably. I mean, depression and anxiety rates among children are higher now, and whether that is because people take mental health more seriously now than even 15 years ago and testing more kids or truly testimony towards the fact that the world is indeed harsher… I’m not really sure. But the problem exists. Some people react to the unfairness of the world by fighting back and speaking up; others retreat and hibernate; and yet others do both, interspersed with a healthy dose of self-care. What’s wrong with drawing things for fun? What’s wrong with writing self-indulgent stories about fictional characters and reading dumb YA romance novels? Or playing Tetris for three straight hours until your vision gets blurry? So, in a roundabout way, what I’m trying to say here is that academia may not be for me. Or maybe this specific part of it. There’s enough suffering as it is, so I might as well find something I enjoy doing. But again, who knows. I’m a bit of a masochist, so maybe I’ll keep going to school.

I’m not really great at talking to adults. Or… I guess I should say older adults, adults with more experience being an adult. To be fair, I’m not great with talking to anyone really. I like to get personal and possibly overshare, and then keep talking about all sorts of stupid things. I have no idea if my friends humour me and pretend to listen or if they actually think I’m entertaining, but that doesn’t really matter too much in the long run if they stick around.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. Maybe I’ll put up a part 2 later on, or maybe I’ll just talk about something else next time.