*A piece by Widly Creative contributor Bailey Mezan. Bailey is originally from San Diego, California and now living in Tel Aviv. She is also the content producer for Dreame, and the Editor and Chief of Dreame Diaries. I love reading abstract fiction novels, swimming in the gorgeous Mediterranean and playing the piano. *
Since reaching my mid-20’s, I’ve felt a personal responsibility to align myself with one lifestyle and pledge my allegiance to one chosen path with its specific discipline, mentality and aesthetic. To march within one of two camps while spouting their long and proud legacy to anyone who will listen. I am speaking, of course, of the free-spirit and the suit.
The free-spirit may be found in cozy coffee shops, hugging steaming mugs of Brazilian coffee, passionately discussing the failures of our university system – ‘It doesn’t teach, it stifles.’ They argue rigorously that seeing the world is the ONLY way to learn. A spirit works for a few months in a bar, a restaurant or doing chores for their parents around the house for cold cash. They save $7,000 or so, suffer slightly while living at their childhood home and then, following a long farewell Facebook post, they pick up and leave again.
I know what your thinking, to reduce an entire species of 20-something-year-olds to two camps is a gross over-generalization. And I’m with you. Take my personal story for example. While my life has admittedly been sullied by capitalism, my story is not so straight forward. After traveling for a number of months, I met a guy and settled in Tel Aviv – the city where I currently work and live. I have friends here, family and a life – yet it is not home. Take the practice of making a bank transfer. To complete the simple task of sending my roommate rent money, I sit with Google Translate open in one tab and my bank information in another, translating each detail line for line. In other words, I have to transcribe a language, just to send my roommate the rent. I am living in a perpetual state of ‘tourist’ while still maintaining an entire existence and livelihood.
Yet, I too experience intense pangs brought on my fear of missing out (FOMO) when I scroll across a heavily bearded man and his sun kissed girlfriend or his crusty comrades on their trek across Europe. Their hair perfectly matted and falling across their grungy faces – they look totally and unabashedly free. When I see these pictures, I begin to worry: ‘I’m in my peak years. Yet, I have already conformed.’ I feel guilt over my ‘corporate’ job and my older-than-me boyfriend. I have surrendered to the hum-drumness of adulthood and I am living the quintessential post-grad life. My childhood friends would call me a free-spirit, but I know that I am surviving as a suit.
The truth is that the free-spirit and the suit live to make each other feel the sting of the choices they’ve made in their lives thus far. The 20’s are a specific moment in which everyone divides and fractures and this causes our hyper-paranoid sense of darwinism to kick in: who will survive and who will perish? Who is living the ‘right’ way? Social media is the unrelenting catalyst to all of this friction. Instagram was invented by a sadist who wanted everyone’s idea of ‘living,’ to be filtered in Juno and then quantified and heavily weighed against the masses. With constant reminders of each landmark seen and every promotion awarded by every person between the ages of 18 and 30, how can anyone relax and just live? How do you prevent the pangs of dread when scrolling through sunny photos of Vietnamese beaches or company bus rides to the Hampton’s?
While the differences are outstanding, the important thing to remember about these two distinct camps is that they are each just being born. We, in our early 20’s, are all confused, unsure of our choices and constantly grappling with the decisions we have made or will have to make one day. Will I be happy spending the rest of my life with one person? Will I regret not being more spontaneous? Am I meant for this career? I would argue that the 20’s are for nothing more than feeling as though you’ve done everything wrong. That you will spend the next 60-80 years on this earth repenting for all of the majors you mis-chose, or the job opportunities you let go, or the bridges you burned – all of the imagined obstacles preventing you from doing what you should be doing or being where you could be thriving.
This is, of course, the part where I offer a solution, or my idea of one. The truth is, I have never heard of a cure for FOMO, or a way of turning off the crippling pangs of guilt. What I do know is that I am privileged to have these problems, to be able to struggle though my options and I know that they are right (for the most part). I am young – I still have time.
Read More about Bailey Mezan in her Wildly Creative feature.