I can’t believe that I’ll be turning 25 next September. Granted, that’s nine months away but still. Unofficially, a quarter of my life has almost passed and as self-centered as it may feel, it’s freaking me out a little bit. However, I think NPR and Hannah Levintova says it best:
We are today’s recent college graduates; we have virtually limitless opportunities, but that freedom can breed indecision — and complacency.
To address these issues, NPR has come up with three books for 25-year-olds to help pull us “out of this twentysomething rut,” books to “remind you to take bold steps in the name of progress, even when your ideas for progress are a little blurry — and even if you’ll still have plenty to figure out as you go along.” I can’t think of a better reason to read and luckily, I have yet to explore these titles. If you’re a twentysomething like me, perhaps you’ll enjoy them as well. All descriptions are from NPR.
It’s easier to tackle the quarter-life blues, of course, if you’ve found a camaraderie of lost, disenchanted peers. All in the Timing — David Ives’ collection of 14 one-act plays — offers that solidarity as its descriptions of adulthood follies hit uncannily close to home. Each character gives voice to realities that we’ve probably sensed, but likely couldn’t verbalize with Ives’ elegance. “Sure Thing” pokes fun at modern-day dating; “Mere Mortals” contemplates the human tendency to embellish; and “A Singular Kinda Guy” takes on the difficulties of self-definition. There, the “Guy” is Mitch, and he’s an ordinary male on the outside. On the inside, though, he’s an Olivetti 250, portable electric typewriter, and he’s struggling to reconcile his true, typewriter-ly identity with the altered version that he wears in the presence of others. This delightfully cynical, insightful little book will make you realize that you are not alone in puzzling through the real world’s absurdities — not by a long shot.
Camaraderie is helpful, but it’s not enough. In bars and on back porches, you and your fellow amateur adults have pondered this odd, aimless stage of life. But if you’re serious about life change, this talk needs to translate to action. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings can help spur that transition: the first of six autobiographical works by writer and poet Maya Angelou, this book recounts a struggle for self fulfillment that is, most of all, motivating. Angelou begins the novel a victim of racism, a young girl stricken by feelings of inferiority as she internalizes the anti-black sentiments of the 1930s American South. Over the course of this and later autobiographical writings, Angelou battles this degradation to ultimately become — among other things — a professor, a speaker at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee.
Angelou is a caged bird who learns to sing, to make noise that resonates outside the constraints imposed by her universe. To move forward, be equally bold in breaking down your own metaphorical cages.
Once you do find the courage to leap — to begin writing, or applying to grad school, or starting that business — you’ll have to stand by that decision when it is challenged. Sometimes a Great Notion advocates for precisely such unyielding individualism. Written by Ken Kesey — author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest — this lesser-known novel centers on the Stampers, a family of loggers living in the fictional Wakonda, Ore. When the other loggers in their community go on strike to protest the pay decreases they’ve suffered since the introduction of the chainsaw, the Stamper family persists, refusing to break their contracts. Led by Hank Stamper — raised on his father’s motto “Never Give an Inch” — this family resists their surrounding pressures, facing townwide ostracism and scare tactics.
As you make change, obstacles are sure to emerge, be they externally imposed barriers or your own, internal hurdles — indecision, fatigue, fear of failure. But like the Stampers, if something feels right, don’t be afraid to risk, persevere and defy your nonbelievers.