There is no shortage of internet articles about twenty-somethings. Everybody is writing about millennials these days. The posts by older generations tend to be unflattering. I’m tired of reading about how lazy and narcissistic I am just because I was born in 1987. Honestly, what’s lazier than broad-brush labeling of an entire generation?
The posts written by us are usually just some remix of a Buzzfeed style list of things we should know or do before we turn thirty. These are even more frustrating. According to these we’re supposed to be traveling, partying, having the times of our lives… but most of us are too busy trying not to be lazy and narcissistic. We’re trying to build our lives, our careers, our families, and our courage.
Twenty-somethings have always been a popular subject in movies and television. To the best of my knowledge they’ve also always been wildly misrepresented. It’s a disservice. When I was a teenager I watched ‘Friends’ religiously. Monica, Chandler, and the gang gave me a completely unrealistic idea of what my twenties would be like. They rarely spent time at work. They traveled cross-country or around the world with little to no concern about finances. The girls went on dates upon dates with great guys who just happened to show up at the coffee shop and talk to them.
Twenty-somethings in movies do the same. They take fancy, expensive vacations. They throw big parties in really nice New York City apartments. They wear designer label clothing. They buy expensive dinners. They live it up.
I’m not an idiot; I know movies and tv shows sell because they’re not realistic. Nobody wants to watch reality. Even our facebook pages aren’t real – they’re our highlight reels. Nobody is posting photos of the Saturday nights when they stay in and watch stupid movies in sweatpants on the couch. The problem is we don’t talk about that. No one sits college kids down and says “hey, listen, things are going to get really weird and difficult after graduation.” No one tells you you’re going to be slapped in the face with bills you never even realized existed; things your parents paid for without your knowledge. Nobody documents the scary stuff.
Listen, list of things I should accomplish by age 30, how am I supposed to hop on a plane and fly to Bangladesh to find myself… when I have to buy a whole set of new tires and be back at work on Monday? How am I supposed to work up the courage to skydive when I’m still trying to convince myself it’s safe to reach in the garbage disposal (while it’s off) and pull out the spoon that’s been violently stirring around in there for two weeks? If you’ve done these things, more power to you… but that’s not my path and it doesn’t need to be.
Why is nobody telling teenagers there is no set way to be in your twenties? You don’t have to be a free spirit, but you can be. You don’t have to be a wanderlust, but if you can manage a way to finance it and you’d like to – then sure, try it out. You don’t have to be a workaholic, but if your ultimate goal is the career of your dreams – then make it happen. You don’t have to get married before your friends… I guarantee you that you’ll never be the only single person at a wedding. It just won’t happen. The “before you’re 30” checklists are far more hazardous than the articles about our lazy generation, and we’re doing them to ourselves. We’re perpetuating the problem. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be a part of the problem. So here’s the only checklist I will offer for those of us in our twenties:
1) Start trying to figure out who you are (while remembering that it’s a lifelong process and you won’t know by the night before your 30th birthday)
2) Remember that life’s just not that serious.
3) Throw out this list and make your own, if numbers 1 and 2 do not satisfy whatever it is you’re trying to get out of this weird, wonderful decade of your life.