A response to the wildly popular “The Brain on 23” in HuffPost..
We are the OTHER 23-year-olds.
We are the ones who stay past 5 and don’t care about getting “the corner office” because we’ve finally found meaning in our work. We bike around city streets on a hipster fixie, confidently living counter-cultural to the crowd-sourced dependency of social media. We balance ambition with good fun and make steady progress toward realistic goals.
We acknowledge mistakes like cruising on auto-pilot while dropping $50-grand on a liberal arts education, and vow to learn concrete skill sets in technical competency at our next opportunity. We pay off student debt twice as fast as minimum payments require, because we know that freed-up capital launch our next dream. We spend more time goofing off with friends at our house than trying to pick up dates at house parties.
We drink and smoke socially, in moderation. We merge our restless, innovative passions with the tried-and-true mantra of “long obedience in the same direction” to achieve better results than any generation before. We don’t wait for certifications to pursue our heart’s desire – we do it while writing a Master’s dissertation, while teaching English in South Korea, while living fully in the moment.
We are 23, and we have clarity now. We are coming to grips with habits formed at university, and our conversations flow seamlessly from snarky social commentary to business plans for a world-changing social enterprise. We recognize the limitless potential of our smartphones as deceptively clever emotion-broadcasters, and instead use them to share real-life updates with our closest friends and family.
We get excited about a night in and the chance to try a new recipe (with real, fresh ingredients), as a needed respite for our travel-weary souls from the go-go-get-it calendar. We are cued in to competitive advantage, and we will give benefit-of-the-doubt to any startup company that provides free shipping. We’re not in college anymore, and we’ve moved on to cooler parties. We don’t need to bar-hop at 1 A.M. because we know which brewery drafts we like.
We keep our radar alert for opportunities to volunteer since 40 hours a week is not enough to make a difference, and we never take life too seriously – because stress is exhausting. We don’t get possessive about significant others and prefer to date casually so we can still be friends when we realize romance won’t work. We imagine the stories we’ll tell at cocktail parties once we’re married, which makes it easier to stay away from awkward online dating forums.
We are 23, and we know that the days are long but the years are short. So we sacrifice other budget-busters to save up for the flight to a family reunion or Christmas get-together. Life is great. Once we started reading the classics and discovered intellectual humility, we realized the world is not ours. Responsibility is no longer a burden, but a window to success. The more our personality changes that direction, the more we like our new friend group. (Odds are, they like the new you more too.)
Fear is overrated, and the never-ending interviews of movers-and-shakers in Forbes’ 30 under 30 all point toward optimism as the way forward. Our realist worldview and globalizing perspective remind us that most of our frustrations are #FirstWorldProblems. We take recommendations for everything from restaurants to hair-stylists through friends on Yelp rather than anonymous experts, but still admit that we should spend more time garnering life advice from the wisdom of antiquity.
We spend less time on random television, instead picking one night a week to indulge the latest development in the stories of our projected collective consciousness on Hulu and Netflix. Yes, we know that we will never have more time or be less motivated than right now to prepare for life with spouses, corporate jobs, and T-ball games spilling over into music recitals. But we press through in the downtime to become the person that the people we admire would admire.
We are 23, and we don’t get ahead of ourselves. We plan to peak at 65, not 25. We are wise beyond our years and never under-estimate a solid reputation. We don’t have a 4-Hour Work Week yet, but we come alive rather than shutting down when we get there. We admire Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but are glad we finished college. At 23, our goals and priorities are becoming clearer than ever. And as we seek to understand more of who are we, we enjoy the journey, realizing that we never quite reach the end.
Joshua de Gastyne