Big mistake: Zayn from One Direction wants to be a "normal" 22-year-old.

So you think you want to be 22?

You might have missed it yesterday (if you spent the day with your eyes closed and consumed absolutely no mainstream or social media whatsoever) but Zayn Malik, a member of popular boy band One Direction has left the band.

And it’s not to go solo.

Or because he had a punch up with his band mates.

Or even because he’s going to rehab (as far as we know).

It’s because he wants to be a real boy. Or rather, to live life as a “normal 22-year-old”.

Only Zayn and Pinocchio know the pain of wanting to be real.


Now, it’s obviously a black armband day for fans – so perhaps this is #toosoon.

But once we’ve moved through the trauma, it’s worth having a look at what Zayn has to say about his departure.

More: Zayn Malik’s announcement about One Direction breaks the internet. BOOM.

In his statement, Zayn paid tribute to his band mates but said he was leaving because there was something very important he had to do. Something that felt right in his heart:

“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined.”

“But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologise to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart.

“I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”

Zayn feels in his heart that he wants to be a “normal” and who relaxes and has privacy.

But here’s the thing that Zayn needs to understand: There is nothing relaxing about being a normal 22-year-old. And there is definitely shit-all privacy in a dirty share house.



You see, Zayn, being a normal 22-year-old isn’t really that great.

It’s not relaxing, and it’s not private. It’s definitely not something you’d abandon international stardom for.

It can actually be kind of shit.

Best case scenario, you’ve got a part time, low paying job and you’re living in a share house. You’ve probably got debts – whether it’s your university fees or a credit card bill for the months when your salary just didn’t cut it.

Your diet is probably an interchangeable menu of two minute noodles or pasta with a can of tomatoes or a can of tuna. You eat a lot of cereal (with milk, when available).

More: 6 reasons I’m glad I’m not in my 20s in 2015.

As for privacy, you’ve definitely heard your housemates doing the nasty while listening to some song you used to like and now despise. You have almost certainly had your housemates walk in on you in the shower or the toilet.

More than once, you’ve had to go to the bathroom at the nearest service station because it (a) has toilet paper; and (b) it smells nicer than than your own bathroom (for some reason your vegan housemate is convinced that only people who eat meat have smelly poo).

If you went to uni, you probably expected more important things to occupy your mind,  but mostly you’re just repeatedly asking yourself the question whether the neighbour’s cat will die if it keeps drinking water from the bucket bong, not because you like it but because it is the only resident of the house who picks up the food scraps from your floor.



If you’ve got a job, you’re probably a shitkicker, and as penalty rates start to disappear, you’re probably getting paid peanuts. There’s a good chance you’re getting harassed or bullied because people like to pass that shit down and you are at the bottom of the tree.

More: Bec Sparrow on why Gen Y women need to calm down.

If you don’t have a job, then you’re probably spending a big chunk of your time at Centrelink or filling out job seeker diaries for jobs at companies who want someone without experience, but who aren’t prepared to give anyone that experience.

You realise something that only people who have been unemployed know: it’s a full-time job jumping through Centrelink hoops and all you get for your troubles is low self-esteem, more debt and dwindling motivation.

That’s best case.


If you’ve got a job, some education behind you and a place to live, then you are a lucky 22-year-old.


At the moment, we’re seeing youth unemployment at unprecedented levels. In the best areas, it’s twice that of the general population (around 14%) – but in some areas it is up to 30%. If you live in an area with no jobs, if you’re Indigenous or you have a disability, the chances of you getting a job are painfully low. If you left school before you finished year 12, your prospects of work are halved again.

More: Eric Abetz says that youth unemployment will be solved by fruit picking.

It’s a critical time in your life, and yet without work, your accommodation is probably tenuous. Your health can deteriorate and you find yourself increasingly vulnerable to anything that will get you out of the dark and unstable space you’re living in – whether that is making money through crime or just trying to get out of your own mind by using any substance you can get your hands on.

Violence, incarceration, unemployment, hopelessness – this is normal for a 22-year-old in some parts of Australia.

So, Zayn wants to be a normal 22-year-old who can relax and have privacy. That’s cool. But it’s what every 22-year-old wants. But unfortunately, it’s not what every normal 22-year-old gets.

Hey, Zayn: you might want to give them a call and check whether it’s too late to take it all back…

What was your life like at 22?