It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a twenty-something.
There are so many articles, so many lists, so many demands of “You’re a twenty-something, and THIS is what you’re supposed to be experiencing.” You’re supposed to be single and making mistakes. You’re supposed to be in a stable relationship and know all the answers. You’re supposed to know how to cook an elaborate meal, balance a checkbook, have the financial resources to always travel, and have a pet that depends on you. You’re supposed to have your own fashion sense, your own circle of friends, your own cell phone bill. You most certainly are supposed to be in a stable career, but it has to be one you secretly hate and are repressing your creative ambition for. You should not know when your bills are due, but you should know when the newest season of “House of Cards” premieres (Valentine’s Day, by the way). You should know all the presidents in alphabetical and chronological order, as well as the coffee order as your best friend.
There are so many expectations. There are so many contradictions.
When I read these lists and articles, things claiming “25 Things You Must Do at 25” or “Why Millenials Are Ruining America” or “Why Being In A Relationship Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be”, it all becomes overwhelming. Whose standards are we holding ourselves up to? The internet’s? Society’s? Our own?
These lists and articles are entertaining, I’ll give them that, but I think they also do something to our perception of what it means to be an adult at any age. Being in a world post-graduation (whether you have your masters or your high school diploma) is difficult. All these lists and articles seem to be classist and cater to the fortunate individuals who had access to higher education and money–are all 25 year olds traveling to Europe or Instagramming their cocktails? No–some 25 year olds are parents, some are working minimum wage jobs with only a high school diploma, and everywhere in between.
To read a list that says “As a twenty-something, you should be traveling EVERY CHANCE YOU CAN”, and to not have the resources to do so, it sounds like you’re missing a crucial part of being an adult. And while traveling does have its merits and lessons, they can be learned other ways too. Independence, responsibility, and furthering your cognitive development can be achieved in numerous ways, pertaining to what you need and are able to gain access to. Reading “You should have found the love of your life by 28” is absolute garbage, and there should be no deadline for finding someone you want to spend a week, a year, or a lifetime with. Reading “You should be single until you’re 30” is crazy, too. You should be single if you want to be, and if you want a partner, you should have one or work on having one. It’s not easy to be single, and it’s not always easy to be in a relationship. But there’s no dichotomy of what is expected of you in your twenties–either be with someone, or don’t, as long as you’re happy. See also: not everyone has to go to graduate school, not everyone has to be making $50,000 by the time they’re 30, and not everyone has to have read “Catcher in the Rye”.
What experiences that are right for you, are not necessarily the experiences that are right for everyone.
There is no wrong or right way to grow up–as long as you do it (at some point). As long as you clamor to be a better version of yourself than you were 5 years, 5 months, or 5 minutes ago, you are growing and being exactly the kind of 20-something, 30-something, or 50-something you are supposed to be. Becoming an adult doesn’t happen in this vacuum of 10 years–and although youth is wasted on the young, youth is truly wasted on those who think the game’s over once they blow out 30 birthday candles. You have an entire lifetime to do and become what you want, so instead of freaking out about the things that haven’t happened yet, celebrate the things that have and are about to happen. Make plans, stick to them, don’t worry whether or not you are following anyone else’s expectations but your own, and be a damn cliche and live in the present.
You’re doing great, kid.