You talk to peers your age and feel that you can’t connect to them. You find them childish and immature, having different perspectives to yours about certain issues. You wonder why they don’t seem to grow up.
Or perhaps you feel like no one understands your outlook. Whenever you talk about something, people call you ‘intense’. Or they might say that you’re overthinking. Or you might think that you’re the one who’s flawed for thinking this way.
Or you just feel tired and wearied. You’re tired of all the responsibilities you’re carrying now, and all the work you’re doing now.
If that sounds like you, relax.
There’s nothing wrong with what you’re feeling.
You’re growing up, and you’re beginning to find that you’re struggling to understand why you think so deeply about things.
The feeling of ‘oldness’
Feeling old is not just about a matter of chronological age. It’s often the feeling of age emotionally, and spiritually.
Feeling old emotionally can sometimes entail the feelings of
- wanting to quit
- feeling lifeless
These feelings can affect your general outlook and mood towards work.
But why does this happen? For that, let me share my story briefly.
I may not fully understand what you’re going through, but I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Some context. I moved back from the U.K. to Singapore when I was 24, and promptly found myself in a psychiatrist clinic. One moment I was speaking to board directors, and the next moment, I was seeing a shrink.
You can only imagine how difficult it was for me. I felt that no one understood my outlook on the world after moving home. It was almost as if I had gone on this great expansion of my mind, and was now being asked to make do with seeing things from the bottom of a well again.
I was very unhappy.
I felt that people didn’t share my outlook about how to approach life, nor did they seem to realise that the world was much bigger than the 728 square kilometres of prime estate Singapore was sitting on.
But this story isn’t about me. Its about you, and why you may be feeling this way, and how you can overcome it.
You’ve outgrown your friends
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me for lunch. I thought about it, and didn’t reply. 2 years ago, when I met this friend, I spoke to him about how hard it was to adjust to a different culture. His reply?
No one asked you to go to the U.K.
Instead of celebrating my courage, he criticised it.
That was the point when I felt ‘older’, that my perspective on life had changed, and that he didn’t understand at all that it was valuable to actually adapt to a different nation.
You may have outgrown your friends. You may find them to be limiting factors on your own personal development and growth, and you may find that it’s more valuable to find newer friends, with similar backgrounds to yours.
Take time to find those with similar viewpoints. Give yourself time. Often the most difficult thing in this period is feeling a sense of loneliness from feeling like no one fully understands what you’re doing or trying to do.
Build friendships slowly.
You’ve outgrown your family
Here in Singapore, it’s usual to stay with your family until you’re married. Back in the West, staying with your family is often seen as a ‘failure to launch’.
Think of your dreams as a flame that lives inside you. Your family may often be the people who end up blowing out those flames.
You may feel wearied because you’re constantly having to protect your flame from being blown out by people who love you the most. You expected that they would take greater effort to keep your flame alive.
But they don’t.
You’re thus emotionally tired from having to suffer their criticism often. And as a good friend once said,
We are different people amongst our parents, and in our family home.
Notice how you behave differently at home compared to outside?
You’re taking on responsibilities that are not usual at your age
This can often make us feel older than we do. You may feel the weight of responsibility as you make decisions that are not usually offered to those that are at your age.
Often, when you’re 25, you may be in your first job. You may be used to being managed.
But feeling older at 25 may mean you’re taking on greater responsibility such as leading a team, introducing certain policies, and making certain changes in the world.
Take time to celebrate that.
You value different things
Singapore has a tidy narrative of progress.
- buy a flat (before getting married, because houses take at least 5 years to build)
- get married
- have babies
But this may not be the life for you. Society’s narrative may not be something you want.
Or your friends’ ideas of fun – parties, alcohol, late-nights, may not be what’s fun for you. You feel older for enjoying what older people do – like long, intellectual chats, good meals, and nice wine.
Don’t see it as a problem, or something that needs changing
You’re special to see things in a different way. Don’t see it as a problem.
I used to face deep insecurities with seeing things differently from others.
And today, being 26, I’m aware of how close I was to losing my unique point of view. When I was 25, I was commenting on my company’s strategy and culture. I was issued with a performance improvement plan for not focusing on my job, and instead focusing on things that were outside of my pay scale.
But today, I realise there was nothing wrong with that.
Don’t think of yourself as having a problem. Think of yourself as having a gift.