My word for 2022, and specifically, turning 21, is unhinged. I define “hinged” as a conformity to internalized ideals - ideals that might not still make sense. I define “unhinged” as a questioning and an observable rejection of previous ideals. Unhinging is ignoring the sunk cost fallacy. Unhinging is action. Quieting the voice inside your head saying “should” because there is no should. There is only “will”.
A year ago, I wrote this in my journal:
“The sameness is also a blessing, because things feel good and the same. I remember realizing that for all my existentialism, I’m happy with how my life is. I’m quite happy. I’m really grateful for each opportunity to live and make memories and to have everything that I do. It’s easy to be disillusioned with the monotony, but the steadiness of a morning cup of coffee or the shadows from my blinds is so lovely. Life is so lovely. I am so happy to be alive.”
And a year ago, I wrote this, and I posted the link in my bio just like I did today:
“There's one more child-driven thing that I'd like to carry into a new decade. A toddler stares at an orange like it transformed their world. A second-grader lights up from being gifted a sticker. Cynicism sculpts our aged perspective as this washing machine of a world jostles us, but it doesn't have to. I hope to preserve a childlike wonder at the wonderful world. To the flickering sunrises, the towering sycamore trees, and the sound waves of a new favorite song: **sometimes, you are such a blindingly beautiful moment that I can hardly see the next one coming.”**
I hope to carry the raw peace and unending wonder with me into a new older self. But I’ve also become increasingly comfortable with the chaos and uncertainty of any moment - not just the peace. Uncertainty is a prerequisite to freedom. The first step of a free life is ideation in the form of mindfulness. The existentialism that consumed my nineteenth year was a mental preparation. And for what? The second step: action. In year twenty, I made a complete career change (multiple, to be accurate). In the face of the MCAT, I tore myself away from six years of telling myself that I wanted to go to medical school and go to residency and into a fellowship and practice medicine. Two weeks before my flight to Europe for my study abroad semester, I filled out a leave of absence form and had to explain Bitcoin to my parents to justify it. The more that I bent my comfort zone, the more I realized that there was no inherent comfort in the cage I’d constructed. Every authority figure was just a random person who was randomly assigned to some random project because she’d done two that were moderately similar before. And the more that I realized authority was constructed, the more I became the only person who could tell myself, “No.”
Freedom is terrifying because the cage’s arms were still something to hold onto. The stability of a known life and the grasp of a routine (from a standard cup of coffee to a well-trod Friday night) keep us tethered to a world we’ve known. But freedom is beautiful because there is joy in saying “Yes” to a phone call that tears your sleep schedule to shreds and there is passion in reshaping the answer to “Who do you want to be?”, despite the sunk cost of “Who were you?” We have just this one body and this one heart and this one life and I’ll be damned if I let my own arms block my path.