I turned 26 last week, so naturally, I have been casually musing about how I feel about the age. There’s nothing acute, painful, or anxious about this age.But upon closer, lazy inspection, 26 is surprisingly important, and full of moments that possibly mark a more substantial transition than any other year of your 20s.
So I started writing this list of things that happens when you’re 26.
26 is perhaps a little less monumental than 25, at least on paper. You can already, drink, drive, vote, buy cigarettes, rent a car, and you’ve already gotten stoned and thought about “what it means” to be a quarter-century years old.
Turning 26 brings about a simmering realization that you’re entering your “late 20s”, which will turn into 30, and then quickly 40, beyond which is basically a landslide to the grave. Okay, it’s not quite so dramatic. It’s more like 26 shows up in the middle of coffee one morning and hands you a freshly printed memo that reads: “You’re going to get old one day and die. You’re cool for now, but it will happen. You’re officially on notice. You won’t be young forever.”
26 is a strange age that simultaneously feels older than you expected, but still refreshingly, hopefully, thrillingly young. It’s possibly the one age where the expression “youth is wasted on the young” holds no authority; we are undeniably, wildly young, but we’ve been young for long enough to know how valuable it is to be so. We have more respect for our youth because, while we aren’t there yet, we can see that it will be done one day. I mean, weren’t we just 19? These blissed out, stressed out, sexed out times will be behind us one day soonish. So maybe 26 doesn’t make you feel old at all; maybe it makes who violently re-commit to being young while we still are.
With 26 you will not only realize which friends have no place in your life anymore, you will be surprisingly comfortable with letting them go. You get it now. ”BFF” refers to the intensity of the connection two people feel while they are friends, not necessarily to the duration of the friendship itself. People evolve and change and if we actually did stay friends with all the same people we befriended our freshman year of college, it would be indicative of an embarrassing stagnation in our personal development. The key to long-lasting friendships is finding people whose life lines grow parallel to our own, not forcing ourselves to be stationary points who never move for fear that they might move away from each other.
You will have a front row seat to the spectacular array of lifestyles and experiences that show you just how different this age can look on different people. Some of your friends will be doing exactly the kind of reality-defying, irresponsible, drunken antics that we all did when we were 20, and you’ll get the see the varying shades of quiet, self-loathing awareness that they’re getting too old for it. Some friends will be getting married (hell, some will be getting divorced), some will be having babies, some will be rising to challenges, some will be making real money for the first time, or crumbling beneath pressure, or failing to live up to expectations, or exceeding expectations, or buying a house, or having parents die, and so on.
26 can be very old or very young, depending on any number of factors. Your 26 is quite unlikely to look like someone else’s. Which is why it’s so fun. This is no one’s beginning, and no one’s end. This is the rising action of our narratives; the foundation has been established, but it’s still anyone’s guess where the story is going.
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