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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

thoughts 1 month before turning 26

I lose the ability to be on my parent's insurance, possibly President Obama's greatest contribution to this country besides momentarily making the presidency look hip, in less than 31 days. I've been throwing around that metric partly to sound slick about becoming older and also to arrogantly filter out people that would understand the reference as a measurement of turning 26, but reality is is that I've been giving myself a lot of internal pressure on truly growing up.

Through conversations with my peers, reading global trends as expressed and seen through others on social media, and my overall perception of the world, it seems that the pandemic has put not only a standstill (or delay, put nicely) on maturity, but has shifted what it means to be an adult entirely. In the grand of schemes this is a concerning phenomena, and humanity's continued downfall into losing standardization, accepting everything as normal, and breaking down cultural and social norms we've built is probably going to lead to destructive chaos within my lifetime - but this post isn't dedicated to some armageddon end of times scenario. I do want to touch on my personal viewpoint on what it feels like turning 26, with the circumstances that I've lived in and currently face, which I'll deem special.

I won't go too far back (I realized on a call today that it's been exactly a decade since I've taken college admission standardized testing - meaning that a lot of what I'm testifying is out of date) - and begin with how my college years were. At a time when many were struggling to sign up for classes and filled their stomachs with ramen noodles, I had the privilege of attending an "elite liberal arts" institution, where a lot of my day to day was handheld by the amazing university infrastructure. I actually can't thank W&L enough and can't understand why I wasn't more grateful for it at the time. Being a Resident Adviser for 75% of my time there, I had unlimited access to dining halls and snack corner stores, and openly admit that I was on the premium lifestyle known as "Parent's Insurance," which enabled my unhealthy addiction to the local Thai food, the only source of Asian cuisine in rural Virginia. Amidst a 90% Greek affiliation culture, my weekends (and even weekdays) were filled with wearing costumes for Fraternity mixers and because of my long distance relationship at the time, visits home were frequent. This is all to say, I don't feel like college me was quite "adult" enough.

I actually don't think the following professional career in investment banking was any different - while the work life balance was rather difficult, meals were spoon fed to me through business expenses, I made an unbelievably good living for a 21 year old, and the pandemic hit right around the time where the initial "I'm an adult" excitement wore off and I probably was reverting back to my childish self. I maintained a "back at my parent's place when I want to" lifestyle for about a year and a half, and enjoyed a laughably leisure filled career in Chicago after transitioning out of banking. The standstill pandemic period with all my childhood friends back home in similar boats felt like high school except there was no school, we all had money, and there was a global excuse to delay growing up.

I'd say my move to NYC really pushed me to become an adult - I felt a need to commit to the startup that I became a part of, no longer had parents or the business card to expense meals to, and a daily mirror that reminded me that I couldn't stay up until 3am eating ramen and still manage to lose weight. Being involved in church as a leader, especially to high school students probably further reminded me of my responsibilities to society as an adult. I do think my career specifically hasn't pushed me to my adulthood limits, as I spend a majority of my day interacting with people hiding behind pixelated monkey pictures, using applications like Discord to talk about what the best way to make $5 by receiving a completely curated invite list that's pre-determined by 5 influential figures, which gives the illusion that an entire market exists. I think there's a level of being jaded that comes with being in such an industry - much of which, I'll admit, probably comes from a subconscious comparison against the institutions that I'm surrounded by (finance, law, medical, and even big tech) that seem to outline what it "really means to be an adult."

My negative skepticism aside, I do think the pandemic has accelerated the inevitable - everyone realizing that there really are no set guidelines to doing adulthood correctly. Even if there was before, the paradigm has shifted so far at this point that it's too hard to turn back. Girls are making 6 figures a month reacting to ice cream emojis and making more than their fathers did in their entire career in less than a year - I don't think "work hard and it'll pay off" is a life lesson families can now afford to pass down. It's easy for wealthy families to provide such guidance to their children, who's actions ultimately don't really lead to any consequences at all. They can choose to chase the prestige of investment bankers, ultimately not be built tough enough for it, and resort to reacting to ice cream emojis on TikTok - regardless, they'll remind themselves that they've "worked hard and it has payed off." (oh no, am I becoming a liberal?)

All of this leads to my current stage of life, which I don't think is as depressing as I make it sound, and realistically something I have to get over before it's too late. I need to recognize what I'm called to do, whether or not I'm okay sacrificing time over meaning, and how much being a "legitimate adult" matters. I'm also growingly recognizing the toxic nature of being stuck in thought and sacrificing the reality in front of me for the endless what if scenarios that fill my day without much result. One could preach that they're able to accomplish whatever they set their minds to, but it seems that many end at setting their minds and never converting it to action.

I do think it's important to keep reminding myself that I'm relatively young, while balancing the reality that 30 is upon me and life stage progression is what keeps us sane. If New York City has taught me anything, it's that the last person I want to be is the 40 year old that sustains a 20 year old lifestyle because they can. Whether such individuals doing so because they have no choice or through intentions no longer seems important to me, as the case can be made that one leads to another, and more importantly, that both cases are quite sad. 25 turning 26 seems to be that point where you could dream that being an influencer full time is still possible, but it can't be through just dreaming about it nor is it likely that it'll be overnight.

All of this comes from my lack of faith for the path that the Lord is clearly shaping for me, likely due to my lack of prayer in trying to understand that is out there for me, and much due to the lack of commitment to one field or study that I've invested into in the past 25 years. But I also think 25 turning 26 is the point where you need to admit to yourself the realities that you've been pushing off, understand and confess to your limits, and fortify your talents and strengths to maximize the next 25 years to come.

In all honesty, I'm constantly switching back and forth being more than okay with ultimately coming back home to Orange County with this woman I want to marry, living close to my extended family, and enjoying pasta with comic books as my daily source of happiness and becoming the most recognizable face, globally (whatever that may mean). Perhaps I could achieve both.

It's really time to stop pushing this off and make a decision in what I want and what I can do, as it feels like I have one more crazy road shift in me before I really have to start worrying about health insurance.

Here's to my remaining 30 days as quarter of a century.

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