When I was younger I looked up to my parents, teachers, and coaches and thought “Wow! They have everything figured out.” These role models lived away from their parents. They had jobs to afford to live away from their parents and pay their grown up bills. And they had cars to take them to these jobs. They had seemingly perfect boyfriends/girlfriends/ husbands/wives. Some of them even had kids! How much more put together can you be? How much better could life get?
And so it was for this reason that my best friend, Chelsea, and I obsessed over their grown up lives during sleepovers. In the midst of eating sour skittles and staying up too late we would talk about our math teacher’s pretty girlfriend, or our dance teacher’s adorable daughter. We talked about how great it would be to finally be grown ups. We even went so far as to make plans about our future grown up lives.
To this day, I distinctly remember the exact moment when my best friend and I worked it all out. You’ll have to forgive my memory as this was (ahem) 15 years ago, but I think it went something like this:
Chelsea: I’m going to be married by 23 and then have my first kid at 25
Me: Yeah, me too! That sounds perfect. How many kids will you have?
Chelsea: Two. You?
Me: Three or four probably.
Chelsea: I want to have them all close to each other, though.
Me: Yeah, me too. I will have all of them before I’m 30 for sure.
And so it was settled. Married by the ripe age of 23 and having that first baby at 25. Closely followed by two to three more babies before our 30th birthdays. Fortunately for me, my best friend from when I was 10 is still my best friend today. As we both approach a quarter of a century (without prospective husbands or pregnancies) we look back on this conversation with a resounding:
Aw hell no!
Let’s review. These role models did not have their shit together at all. For example, I am willing to bet that some of my teachers still lived at home with their parents. What makes me say this? Well, many of my current friends are teachers and they definitely still live at home with their parents. With no shame. They drive their parents’ cars and some of them take the bus. And again, they do this with no shame. Moreover, I’m also willing to bet that instead of saving their money or paying grown up bills (whatever the hell those are) they bought too many shoes and had good old-fashioned irresponsible credit card debt.
But some of these adults had kids! Yes, yes they did. And I’m sure that worked out wonderfully for many of them. Then again, unplanned pregnancies aren’t always fun. Don’t get me wrong: babies are awesome and I do truly believe that many people can very successfully have children in their early 20s. Yet, it takes a very special type of human to have four babies before the age of 30. May the Lord bless their souls.
Let’s just say my best friend and I are not of that special breed. Instead, we (like many other twenty-something year olds) are not planning on having any kids before we’re 30. And you know what? We feel that way with no shame. Why do we all have so little shame being in our mid-twenties and having nothing figured out? The reason is simple:
Being a twenty-something year old is way harder than any of us expected!
It is not as glamorous as my best friend and I had in mind. Unfortunately, you don’t turn twenty and become amazing. In fact, you turn twenty and things slowly start to get further and further away from initial expectations. Credit card debt is always credit card debt, regardless of whether you are 18 or 25. There is no such thing as “grown up bills”. A car is just another thing to pay for and fix. Jobs are just things you have to do to pay for all the things you can’t afford. If you think this sounds cynical…
It gets worse.
Unless your parents were superhuman, they probably had no idea how to raise you. This isn’t a bad thing. I’m not hating on your parents, trust me – I’m sure they were amazing. This is just testimony to the reality of being a twenty-something year old. Life makes no sense. There is no manual for how to live a grown up life. All of these role models I looked up to probably had similar epiphanies themselves at some point. Maybe they were my age, maybe they were younger, but either way, it probably went something like this:
Brain: Remember all those adults you used to look up to?
Twenty-Something Year Old: Yeah, sure! Mr. Smith, Ms. Doe, and mom and dad!
Brain: Yeah, well, they all had no fucking clue what they were doing.
Twenty-Something Year Old: Impossible! They had apartments and cars and jobs and grown up bills!
Brain: How old were they?
Twenty-Something Year Old: 25!
Brain: You’re 25. Do you have a clue what you’re doing?
Twenty-Something Year Old: Umm….no…
Brain: NEITHER DID THEY!
And so, these great role models had great role models who had great role models. And all of these generations of great role models grew up and realized the same thing – the life of a twenty-something year old is not always a glamorous one.
But it’s okay. Everyone feels the same way.
A few days ago my best friend and I (the same one from 10 years ago) got together for coffee – a veritable grown up thing to do. Here’s how it went. We went to a tiny, hipster-esque coffee shop and waited ten minutes for someone with tight jeans and Blundstones to leave so we could get a table. We then spent $10 dollars on a coffee and a small gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free chia seed Greek yogurt with organic fruit. This left approximately $20 dollars in our bank accounts. Then, we talked about still being in university, barely covering rent, having to work on the weekend, and boys. It’s actually amazing how boys are still the prominent topic of all the conversations I have with my twenty-something year old friends. The only thing is that they no longer have cooties. Now they’re just assholes!.
The thing is, being a twenty-something year old is not all that we made it out to be when we were young. It’s a lot of working and studying and cleaning and trying to keep pairs of matching socks together. Neither of us have careers, neither of us have prospects for marriage, and kids are definitely not on the horizon. So, life isn’t what we thought it would be.
But it’s awesome.
! Note: In today’s super-sensitive day and age I feel compelled to clarify that not all men are assholes. Just like we were wrong about the cooties, we’re probably wrong about boys being assholes.