I always think that my generation suffers from a case of Peter Pan Syndrome, an excuse that metaphorically wraps all of us up in the idea that we don't ever need to grow up. I do not distance myself from this herd. I've tried my best to put off any kind of thoughts about my future. A lot has changed in a year.
When asked, I honestly tell "adults" that I have had one of the most rewarding, eye-opening years of my life. I think it's a bit precocious for a 22-year-old to assume that people would want to hear all about her. Then again, I think we all have a voice, and if me speaking a bit louder is going to provide some sort of validation for our generation, then I am all for it.
For the past couple of years, most recently by Time magazine's Joel Stein, Gen Y has been dissected, occasionally unfairly but most of the time truthfully by the media. We've been dubbed the "lost generation", or the spoilt, self-entitled generation fuelled only by validation from social media. This fixation on analysing the up-and-coming generation fascinates me _ in a lot of ways, I recognise the negative traits in myself and my friends, but on the other hand, I think our generation has a plenty of guts.
We're throwing ourselves into entrepreneurship, we're fearless about putting our thoughts and personal lives out there for everyone to see, and sometimes a touch of recklessness just makes it all the more fun. We're the generation that is fighting to beat the numbers and statistics, and I think a part of our self-entitlement comes from having seen the world and knowing our self-worth.
My year in Bangkok was a lot like coming home, but a lot of it was also about trying and failing and actually relating with other lost souls around the world. It may be a "first world problem" at its very best, but I think sometimes those who already have it all forget what it was like to feel like you're jumping into the unknown, blindly making it up as you go along and sometimes feeling like you're playing the role of a grown-up.
The idea that graduation means you jump right into adulthood is mere fiction. I still have nights that rival my first year at university, stumbling around with my closest friends and having four-hour brunches to talk about everything and anything. But the difference is the 10am lecture turns into a full day of work and responsibilities. I used to want to live abroad, I fell in love with the idea of infinite possibilities, and those things only liberal arts majors have time to ponder. "I'm in love with cities I've never been to and people I've never met," wrote novelist John Green, and I actually think the wanderlust of it all applies to fresh young graduates. There's always that bucket list we all aspire to complete, and places we want to see. But when you really think about it, the wanderlust is sometimes replaced by a more realistic set of goals like learning to complete our tax forms or adjusting to being back at home.
After I left my first post-grad internship after only three months, realising it wasn't making me happy, I spent a month standing still. By standing still, I mean that I was a little bit disillusioned and disappointed. But I realised I was too young to be that cynical and too young to find my colleagues uninspiring. I realised I did not want to grow up and be like them. That was a turning point for me because up until that moment, I thought I had it all figured out, but it turns out I just felt like a little kid who finally figured out the password to something everyone already knew all along.
Then, purely by chance, when I wasn't looking, I turned my hobby into a full-time job and received my first salary. This full-time job turned into seven months of both personal and professional ups and downs, and my world finally stood still. I felt settled, and it was one of those moments that just hits you as you're driving to work on a Tuesday morning.
Life really does go on, and although you will always take fragments of your university life with you, I've realised my bucket list has changed quite a bit since last summer. Even though a lot remains the same in a year, a lot can also change, and I think the big things are falling into place.
This year I've expanded my mind, I've become more tolerant and more accepting, and eventually went on to enjoy the company of those who couldn't have been more different from me. Bangkok used to be this big, explosive but somehow tired bubble that I was very apprehensive about. I still don't know if it was me who changed or that I simply grew up; but we're a thriving metropolis, and I think if you let it, the city welcomes you back and lets you roam around in your own way.
Bangkok, you have been wonderful this year. It may seem contradictory to the main theme of this piece, but I am returning to the UK for a year to start my post-graduate degree at the London School of Economics. I'm going to be studying something I have absolutely no interest in pursuing professionally, and I don't need to justify it to anybody. It is something I have always wanted for myself. This was a constant on the bucket list. I want to be intellectually challenged, I want to learn from people across the world who are better read, to have my ideas questioned and learn how to defend my beliefs.
If being in Bangkok this year taught me anything, it's that you've got to make the most of everything, and you've got to do it your way. Life in your early 20s should be about collecting, the people, the mindset, learning how to travel and figuring it all out. Being a 20-something is all about the back and forth, changing your mind then tweaking that aim if it doesn't feel right. After all, we're only young once.
Nikki Chatikavanij was an intern at the Bangkok Post and is now studying for her post-graduate degree at the London School of Economics.