Ask Anahit: The Terrible Twenties

In this month's advice column, one reader asks how best to negotiate a mid-20s identity crisis

Feature by Anahit Behrooz | 08 May 2024
  • Ask Anahit

Do you have any advice for someone who’s having the cliché mid-20s identity crisis? I’ve watched Frances Ha and The Graduate so many times lol but I can’t find a lasting route out of the ennui… Start a podcast? lol. It all feels insurmountable but I’m also so aware of the pity-party nature of it all.

Oh, my sweet summer child. I know you don’t want to hear this, I would not have wanted to hear this, but: buckle up, baby, because you’re in it and there’s no way out. I don’t mean this to sound defeatist – in all honesty, I think it’s kind of beautiful. The whole point of your mid-20s is to have an identity crisis; it’s why you are on God’s green Earth for those crazy few years, to feel strange and panicked and ill-at-ease, to want things so desperately you can hardly breathe and to maybe not get them even slightly, and to learn whether you want them at all.

The lesson to take from Frances Ha (banger) isn’t how best to navigate past an identity crisis, but rather that such crises are points of generation rather than failure: your mid-20s are meant to be a coming-of-age, a second adolescence minus the braces and underwire bras. (The lesson to take from The Graduate is that Anne Bancroft was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman and if six-years-younger-than-me Dustin Hoffman were in front of me, I would fuck him too.) The other lesson to take from Frances Ha is that trying to impose any kind of redemptive narrative on your life – a bohemian weekend in Paris, an impossibly romantic friendship, Adam Driver in sunglasses – is only going to break your heart because life isn’t a French New Wave film, and every small and ugly thing you feel will still be there.

And honestly, thank fuck for that. My 20s were so hard (my 30s are also a disaster but maybe you will be built different), but when I think of the alternative – everything settled and decided barely out of childhood, being exactly where I needed to be and staying there for the rest of my life – I want to scream and scream. I’m so grateful for the ennui, for the mess, for the agency I had to imperfectly compile my life myself, to do it without a blueprint. So many things didn’t work out, haven’t worked out, but like – at least my failures are mine. Start a podcast if you like! Keep watching mumblecore! But also try and just sit in it, in the possibilities as well as fears of the blank page.