I was recently linked to an article titled The Brain on 23 by Molly Sprayregen on the Huffington Post, and as I was reading I had such a profound reaction that I felt like I needed to form some kind of response. My instinct was to write a quick Facebook comment back, but I didn’t think that would make enough sense or allow me to fully express myself on this subject. I’ve been feeling a little blue and uncertain about my future, and just this week I decided to put those thoughts to rest. I watch a lot of Marie TV, and she recently said something that really hit home:

“Clarity comes through engagement, not through thought.”

It’s a thought I think everyone in their 20’s or those in a position where they feel unsure of themselves should consider. At the very least, this is a response on how I want to feel as a 23-year-old.

Response to “The Brain on 23”

We are the 23-year-olds of Generation Y, and we are powerful. We are the ones who fight conformity with every fiber of our being. We’re more than a statistic; we’re influential, and we’re not afraid to tell those who have come before us to stuff it. We don’t rest easy at our 9-5 desk jobs, because we’re multi-passionate, and we realize now that working towards a dream-oriented career is not out of our reach. We are the ones whose parent’s encouragement or our own ambition has pushed us to pursue higher education, weather it’s in the form of working towards a formal degree or working less than luxurious jobs so we can afford to travel the world. We’re English teachers in South Korea, Peace Corps volunteers in Peru, and trusted educators of Teach for America, not just because we’re searching for our way like every generation of 23-year-olds before us, but because we know we want to impact the world in a positive way while we do it.

We’ve been through heartache, loss, and desperation – we know what it feels like to have one-night stands, or drink so much that our entire weekends are ruined. We know those aren’t feelings we want to repeat, not necessarily because they’re unworthy of experiencing, but because they simply take up too much of our valuable time. (We might not always succeed at prioritizing over the prospect of a wild night, but we’re on our way to finding a balance.)

We are 23 and we know the value of time; we’re the first to demand that ours be taken seriously. We hold ourselves high as professionals, no longer filling the role of squirmy intern or know-it-all president of [fill-in-the-blank] society, but as forward thinkers who are vital to the growth of organizations bigger than ourselves.

We have graduated from drinking watered down beer to skillfully crafted lagers with names we respect. In fact, we might even know what kind of food to pair our drinks with, and we have Pinterest to show us how to cook it; we do a mighty fine job. We are fighting our way through the midst of suppression, because what company wants to hire a recent graduate that can’t prove themselves worthy? You better believe we can.

We are 23 and the days of uncertainty about graduation and what would come after are behind us – thank god. There’s no more sitting on dorm room floors dreaming about landing the perfect job, or happy hour with the best co-workers in the world. We’re out there, we’re working, and we work hard. We know there’s no such thing as the “perfect job” unless we create it ourselves. We know things aren’t just handed to us on a silver platter, because even those of us with fathers and mothers who are still be willing to support us, realize that sometimes it’s necessary to break up with our parents in order to chase what we really want.

We’re sitting in our grad-school classes absorbing every word dripping off our New Venture Planning Professor’s lips because we feel it in our hearts that we can build empires with our knowledge. We have power. We have drive. We have ambition. We didn’t consciously make the choice to commit to another $50,000 loan just to zone out as we discuss economics, because this is our future.

We are 23 and we take responsibility for our choices. We realize that they affect people in more ways than we can imagine and that we owe it to ourselves and to our communities to make a difference. We walk down the street of our respective cities, proud of the fact that we had the balls to move here in the first place. We are not passive participants in our lives, we are activists, and achievers, and fighters, and strugglers, and hustlers. We know that paying your dues does not mean wasting away where our talents are under-used and over-abused, but rather committing to pouring all of our youthful energy into companies we believe in that heighten our strengths.

We worry, but not out of a lack of ambition, drive or direction. Our uncertainty comes from knowing there’s something bigger, better and more fulfilling out there for us, and this feeling of fear is one we must overcome to get what we want and deserve. We own our potential, and we aren’t too shy or too proud to shout it out to the world.  We do not settle for mediocrity or the idea that the only worthy careers to pursue are medicine and law. We know the power of marketing, and we know that it’s not about trickery or brainwashing, but about building a human experience meant to help those around us.

We’re innovators and trendsetters. Technology does not frighten us; we don’t stress about machines taking over our lives, because they’re the very things that can save us. We depend on devices that appear from the surface to remove us from reality, but on a deeper level unite and globalize us in a way humanity has never been able to experience before. We meet friends and potential lovers through social media and dating sites because we realize that Mr. or Mrs. Right probably isn’t waiting around the corner. We’re not ones to wait around for opportunities, we grasp them with firm fists. We know the only right way is not our way, and our own culture is not the only one we understand and respect.

We are 23 and we might not have all the answers, but we’re sure as hell not letting anyone stand in the way of figuring them out.

Join the Conversation


  1. Interesting post and response. I am also twenty three so I can relate to wanting to find the “bigger and better’ thing out there. I feel like for me being 23 Korea is the perfect place to be able to chase my dreams (travel) while stick chipping away at my student loan and having a 9-5.

  2. Other than you being 23, I don’t understand why 23 is so important. I mean this can be anyone at any age. Most people with a clear direction for their lives (or parents who know the value of a good education) go on to graduate from college around 21 or 22, but I didn’t start college till I was 25.

    And a lot of what’s said here about life in general resonated with me as well.

    Wisdom (read maturity) doesn’t come with age, it comes from you experiences and your willingness to grow.

    1. Hi Nailah! Thanks for taking the time to read and write a comment. I totally agree that the fact that the article is surrounded around the age of 23 is very unimportant. It was more of a literary decision, rather than a practical one. I’m 23, the writer of the original article is 23, and so it’s written from the perspective of a 23 year old. It’s not meant to exclude anyone, and the more people who relate to it the better.

      I totally agree that maturity comes with experience, and I think that’s what the difference in view points comes down to.


    We are both 27, but we definitely can relate to most of these feelings! There have been moments where we have sat and thought, “What’s next? What will we do after Korea?” It does weigh on you in your 20s, but over thinking it certainly hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We started instead talking about our goals and dreams and eventually we started to figure out what was important to us and felt more sure of our future.

    I think our generation is filled with some brave and adventurous people who aren’t afraid to fail. Once we get an idea into our heads, we follow through even if that means going against the grain. Our families didn’t understand why we would up and sell all of our belongings and move halfway around the world, but we knew it was just something we had to do.

    “(We) fight conformity with every fiber of our being.”
    Great post, Neysha!

  4. I liked this post, but I think at the same time it comes off as a little pretentious. That we are 23 and we know just about everything. Cause let me tell you, at 23 I didn’t know a goddamn thing. I was working in a job I hated, stuck in a city I hated living in, and I didn’t have the guts to quit for several more years. People find their answers in their own time. To be honest, I’m 31 now and I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life. Just trying to piece it together, one day and one dollar at a time.

    1. Hey Taylor! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I understand why you feel as though this might have come off a bit pretentious – in fact, it was one of my biggest concerns when I hit the publish button. The thing is, though, that isn’t everything we post a little pretentious? Who are we to say “so, and so place is the best place to travel to?” or whatever it is we’re writing about this week. It’s opinion based, and the age of 23 is simply there because I happen to be 23, plus it’s a reply to the previous article.

      At the end of the day, “We are (insert whatever age you are) and we might not have all the answers, but we’re sure as hell not letting anyone stand in the way of figuring them out,” is the ultimate meaning. I wrote this because I felt that the first viewpoint was extremely depressing and I’d like to have more hope and more faith in myself than what that author portrayed.

  5. This reminded me almost of Stephen King’s opening to the Gunslinger when he wrote about being 19. Also, your opening statement about hitting against conformity kinda made me think, “Didn’t we say that when I was 23?”

    I’m dating myself but have to agree with what some other people have said. At 33, I’m still clueless. Going through life with a “know-nothing” attitude has gotten me more than the previous decades of thinking I had it all figured out.

    I appreciate your desire to hit back at an article on a widely-published source like HuffPost. I think every generation hits that point when it’s time to come through and succeed at life and when that doesn’t happen for everyone, people start groaning about blah blah generational problems and issues.

    I hope you have a brilliant 23rd year and achieve all that you want to get out there and do. Cheers for putting yourself out there and saying some things that we all might not agree with. Bravo.

  6. I am also 23 and I also read Sprayregen’s article on HuffPost. However, I feel like I can’t identify with Sprayregen’s article or yours. Pieces of it, sure, I can relate to, like not resting easy at a 9-5 because I’m multi-passionate, but I don’t think that applies to only 23 year olds. Maybe what gets me is just the style of writing and the constant use of “we” encompassing all 23 year olds. I feel like I’m having words put into my mouth in a way or telling me this is how my life is supposed to be and how I’m supposed to think. As for grad school (having never actually been myself) I would imagine zoning out a lot regardless of the price I am paying because some courses are simply required to get your degree and some professors are incredibly dry.
    I think you raise some interesting points and you’ve also made me think more about certain things.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this because I know how hard it can be to write such an opinionated piece that not everyone agrees with~

  7. Nice post and passionate writing Neysha. At 27 I can relate to a lot of it, or I remember feeling that way right after college. I also agree with a lot of the comments here from the older of us, but I think it sounds like you’re at a good place mentally. Don’t let people tell you you’re pretentious when you write bold statements like you have about where you’re at in your life right now. Continue to own them unapologetically, especially as a woman in today’s world, it’s so important not to back down.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, but just remember, you’ll never have it all figured out. I think the longer I live the less I’m sure of, and that’s a good thing!

    1. Hi Evan and Rachel! 🙂 (Thinking I’m talking to Rachel? hehe). Thank you so much for your kind words – you’re very right. It’s important to be kind, but unapologetic about the things we stand for. I think that’s why I felt so compelled to write a response.

      I might not have everything (or anything for that matter) figured out, but I’d like to be happy and believe in myself while I do it.

  8. I actually went through this stage when I was 26. I was a little late in finishing school and entering the corporate world. I totally understand the feeling of not quite belonging since the transition was a bit gradual for me. I had to shed the mentality of a college student and having to start moving towards the next stage in my life.

  9. Wow! I could feel your passion flying of the page!

    I identify with your post way, way more than the original. However, I’d say I do have some friends who would probably identify more with the original. But to me, that writer just sounds super lost in her life abd it doesn’t seen to have much to do with the geneartion she’s part of. It might not even have anything to do with her being 23.

    You reflected the fact that we have so many awesome opportunities these days to really do what we want. And many of us are making the most of those opportunities.

    Awesome, awesome writing!

  10. I’m also older than 23 (turning 27 next month! o.O), but a lot of this resonates with me as well. Particularly liked this: “We’re not ones to wait around for opportunities, we grasp them with firm fists.”

    Well written and inspirational, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Nathan, thanks so much! 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. 27 is a great age to be (from the humble opinion of a 23 year old…)! Happy early (un-)birthday to youuuu.

  11. Very well written and so passionate! The 20’s are such weird times and can be some of the most stressful because it’s really a decade of self-discovery and the pressure of figuring out what to do with our lives is immense. The most important thing is that we continue moving in a forward direction and try to make a positive impact in whatever way possible, no matter what age you might be.

  12. You have gotten lots of mixed messages from this post! I liked it, and I liked the original one! I do agree with most that it is not just for 23 year olds…at 27 I feel most of these things as well, and also felt them at 23…sooooo what does that say about me?! HA! Our generation IS powerful and IS taking a different path than the generations before us, and I love it!

  13. I’m also a bit older (30), and while I love how passionate you are about the feels that accompany your 20s, I somewhat disagree in that 23 (or in your 20s) most have it figured out, because I don’t think we ever REALLY have it figured out, and I also think (and know from experience) that most in their early 20s are still getting shitfaced and learning from the mistakes. It’s life in your 20s, and really there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s made me a more interesting person, especially since I pulled it together after going wild 😉

    I was in a job that I always thought was my dream job for the majority of my early 20s, and I hated life, I hated my city, and all I knew was this isn’t what I want. And then I got to Korea and realized this lifestyle is what I want, but 3 yrs later, I’m still struggling with how to make the most of it so that it really matters and also gets me paid. While I think the article, and your response are pretty generalized, I love that you felt the need to respond and really ran with it to convey your feelings. And not everyone will agree, which is totally the beauty of it. Nice post 🙂

    1. That’s what’s so amazing about life – we always have a chance to recreate our reality! 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words, and taking the time to comment. I love hearing other peoples perspectives and reflections.

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