Recently I had a realization that my early 20s were a battle and how I had glittery and bubbly teenage years. It’s true partially, I did have a glittery and bubbly childhood and the teenage period. Good parents, good school, good environment, good people, some good-looking boys (well, both before and after puberty) made my experiences as a girl really positive. I think I am one of those few people who really loved their transition from a child to a teen to becoming an adult. And when I started university, I felt like, I got this!
I didn’t get this.
I got nothing.
My 20s got me.
20 felt like a battle. No, let’s scratch that, 20 felt like a series of battle in a war. Imagine the episode “Battle of Bastards” from Game of Thrones, the only difference was that it was happening every 6 months, and always, I was not playing the part of Jon Snow but the other guy, you know, the one, who is to be despised, who has no moral ground, who killed his step-father, who cut off a guy’s penis, who raped people, and who you really hate but then your twisted disgusting brain kind of liked the character for being the worst and the actor for playing the role so fine. Yeah, that feeling. That’s how my early 20s were. Also, to those who don’t know who I am talking about, it’s Ramsey Bolton.
Before anyone misunderstands and gets offensive, let me clear it out. I meant, my early 20s were harming my soul and my life but my brain was accepting it as something which was giving me pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, and confidence. Now when I look back, I can understand what it was. It was all that my brain thought it was, except for one part that I would like to add now- “false sense of”.
Take one incident, for example, most of the girls in my university used to greet everyone (junior, senior, batchmate, or friends) pretty much the same way. But I used to do it differently thinking it made me look or sound cooler than others. I thought it made me different in other peoples’ eyes. I thought it made me desirable in some ways. It started off with small incidents like these and then it became this unhealthy need of me trying to be different in everything, which eventually turned out to be harmful. Because when you constantly cater to your obsessive need of proving to yourself or to others that you are awesome, cool, damn care, different, and unique, then it backfires. And it backfires badly.
It does backfire, because you become cocky, ignorant, and downright stupid. I am not being hard on myself, I am just stating facts.
My need of being appreciated and noticed because of being different made me ruin my mental peace, understanding of the differences between right and wrong, what I can do and cannot do, who I am and who I want to be. It played horrible mind games with me. I tried changing it, but I also surrendered to the adrenaline rush of being the talk of the town, the topic of all conversations, the curiosity of all the guys, and the different badass woman/female/person or whatever I wanted to be back then.
Being a 27-year-old now, I often look back to those times though I have been strongly advised by my mother not to do so because she thinks I become very hard on myself for my past mess-ups. But the truth is, it doesn’t make me hard on myself. It just makes me feel a little bit pity for the naïve girl who once thought validation from people and environment is the highest of the highest peak one can ever hope to achieve.
I know, in reality, you do need validation, you do need people to appreciate you, you do need peace of mind, and you do need be different. But I figured it must be healthy. Unhealthy need of validation only brings a false sense of a lot of things that I already mentioned. So, now, when I seek validation, I do it from the people I love, from the people who are immensely close to me. When I now need appreciation for myself and for my work, I also welcome feedback, because I want to improve, improve till I die maybe. Now when I need peace of mind, I simply put my headphones in my ears and go for a walk, and lastly, when I feel like being different, I become different for me, myself, and I.
It’s definitely easier than said. But I try. I try every day. For me.
Tahiya Islam is the Director of Media & Publication of AIM Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit organization of Bangladesh.
Because of her passion for writing and public speaking, she has founded Pensive Stories where everyone is welcome to share their mental health experiences and stories through articles, stories, poems, audio, and video podcasts.