This post, Being 23… came about, from constantly reading about how a 23 year old stabbed a girl; how a 23 year old made a million dollars; how a 23 year old crashed a car; how 23 year olds need their space today; how 23 year old earn enough to be independent, so on and forth, AND is also dedicated to those who have not been able to achieve any of this, but are still sorted, still alive, still willing to accept life on its terms, plan the future, Accept it.

The age 23 is a turning point. Confusing, couple of years out of adulthood, but still confused whether to cling to the childhood just past. It is the real world or IRL as it is called now. Thrilling to be there, being classified as a grown up, maybe conveniently so from the family perspective 🙂 But amongst all this, the niggling thought ‘Have I learnt enough? Do I know enough?’ with of course the peer pressure and competition.

And the internal questions raise their ugly head, mostly after a friend session over coffee or chai and hearing about their successes – “Where is my career going?” “Who am I supposed to be?”; “What am I going to do with my life?”

Is this fair? Do you need to have it all figured out? By 23? All sorted and ready to take on the world? There is no clear cut Yes or No to this.

Trust me, I’ve been there. With more questions than these, more angst, more pressure, more everything….

At 23……

I was a respectable double graduate, with PG in Marketing BUT

– Independent, earning for more than 5 years, with some research experience & around a couple of years of hotel experience
– from a family of service people who accepted my change of not wanting to study science, given that it had only ranking engineers, doctors and lawyers
– from a family who closed ranks against my wanting to follow my passion of getting into Hotel Management & also asking me to find a real job.
– Not having attended the IIM entrance in spite of an uncle & aunt willing to teach me; given that, maths, statistics and every other thing was daunting.
– Having secured very good score in TOEFL & GMAT, and secured provisional admission in two universities with the plan of taking a loan from the family, but was disallowed.
– Having to listen to friends and peer pressure of one set who were settled in business & had money to spend; another set who were waiting for their visas to push off to the UK and US and the third set – brightest of the lot who were way ahead either in studies of working for reputed companies.

A time of feeling low, depressed, and all of that yes. AND mind you, this was the pre Internet era, so you couldn’t rant, rave, rebel, demand space and independence. Rules, Respect, Obedience were a given!

Yes, you had some friends in similar straits and could discuss, but that was the extent. The only thing that kept one going were some questions that you asked yourself, every single day trying to find the right/correct answers, till you finally got it.

My questions were:

1) Who is my competition? What are the options? Who would understand you? Whom do you turn to help?

I knew it was useless competing with my family which had gold medals and rankers by the bushels; as also the friends who were similar (they were the only ones worth considering according to the family) Options were CA/CS/Law that I hated. Nowhere where my principled dad would make a call and get me a job. Again not too many choices, that left yourself only.

2) What is your future?

As a commerce graduate, even with specialization in Marketing (ha very few had even heard, wanted to hear of it, and hire you) and specialization in Personnel Management aka now HR (everyone had heard of it, but you had to pay your dues by starting in a factory at the bottom) there were extremely limited options.

3) What were your Strengths & Weaknesses! Forget Opportunities – they were over; Threats – too many to list down.

The strengths were networked in the city where I stayed; a reasonable extrovert; had a bit of financial independence; willing to work hard and take calculated risks.

Kept scribbling answers till I got them right, the way I wanted to, then acted upon it; they were:

1) Maintain financial independence
2) Study Professional, Specialized and obtain Masters degree.
3) Be on the look out for a new growing industry that would help propel career.

Achieved the first and second, by studying something that I hated (check above :)) securing admission, continuing to work & save because the studies soon forced me to quit. But, was an excellent teacher for primary so could make money quickly just before the exams 😉 Achieved the 3rd by campus placement for an industry (currently getting hammered on service levels) that was just on the cusp of taking off. Was I given a pat on the back, Nope do not recall; Were my parents proud? The jury is still out on that.

Is this all to boast, Nope. Just sharing that, you need that small percentage of focus to do what you want, the way you want. This is important in today’s world, which fortunately is much more relaxed, accepting, open with availability of options, accessible BUT at the same time more ruthless, less forgiving, more competitive, more global like a double edged sword.

In the end, It is ok to be confused, depressed, rant, rave, demand space and independence, BUT remember parents have also learnt and are more clued in today, but will still be worried, as they have a right to.

Parents, you have two choices, be like your grand parents, parents or the society you grew and cribbed about, or accept the changes, try to have a dialogue, support AND if nothing works. JUST BE THERE….because BEING 23……is tough

Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends