If you’re a twenty-something, you’ve noticed that Buzzfeed, various blogs, and a number of online magazines and news articles have started a fad of telling us what we should and should not do/how we should and should not feel in this supposedly crucial identity-forming decade. Don’t get married before (fill in blank with the age at which the writer of the article started noticing her middle school friends flashing their nuptial bling on Facebook). Do travel (never mind how to pay for it). Don’t stick with the same partner for too long (there are just so many guys out there just waiting to bone you – why settle for one?). Do feel lost and confused and do whatever you want in order to lessen the confusion (because, really, even scientifically, that’s all your twenties are for).
I’m 27. I’ve lived through most of my twenties, and looking at these lists used to make me feel like I did everything wrong. I’ve got plenty of drunken nights under my belt, but I haven’t had multiple partners or smoked pot. I’ve gone to India, Mexico, and Egypt, but not that Mecca of the twenty-somethings: Europe. I mean, I’m still in my twenties, and I’m married, have a grown-up career, and two dogs. By all accounts, I’m hopelessly settled down. And, dear God, I cannot be settled down at 27. That means I was too rash and foolish with my decisions, and I will regret everything when I’m in my thirties.
I think part of the reason the woulda-shoulda-couldas of twenty-somethings are so popular right now is that most of the people who write these articles are in their twenties and tired of seeing their peers settle down when they themselves haven’t figured it out yet.
The other part? Millennials are the thing to talk about because we’re growing up. We’re entering a work force with no jobs. When we do get jobs, we get disillusioned by them because we were taught to reach for the stars and create a bright, shining new world, when in fact, the real world is a big goop of muck. And, I don’t know. Old people just love to complain about those darn kids and their rock’n’roll, right?
There are plenty of other twenty-something bloggers responding to this epidemic of online articles (and a thirty-something responding to equivalents for your thirties. Great. Something to look forward to). I’m glad. For a while there, I was worried that everyone in my age group was blindly following Buzzfeed because the internet made them forget the difference between wisdom and mere bullshit that’s tailored to go viral.
At 27, I’ve seen over 100 friends who got married in their twenties (I just searched “my friends who are married” on Facebook and counted every couple who got married in their twenties for a grand total of 102. And that’s just the people who have a Facebook that they keep updated. Pretty scary how easy it is to stalk on Facebook. “My friends who have children” is not a viable search option, though. I guess even Facebook has to draw a line somewhere). Two divorces. Three, if you count one of B’s friends who I don’t know personally. So, maybe the inevitable divorce that awaits all brides under 29 is just a myth. True, maybe some break-ups are looming in the future, in the dark abyss of the thirties and forties, but do I really want to look at my friends and wonder who’s going to get divorced first?
Instead, I’d like to focus on the successes. There are some fabulous married couples in my circle of friends and acquaintances, some of which are working on their second or third child, that haven’t gotten boring. And then, well, there are a good many who have gotten boring. They prefer to go to the zoo with their kids or venture into their hometown for a staycation (because, seriously, where is there any money?) or have a steak at home and watch Wheel of Fortune (what we did last night, actually). And they don’t give a shit. Because, guess what? We’re fucking twenty-somethings and we’re just trying to play grown up because, in the end, ain’t that what we’re all trying to do?
I actually know people who are happy. I actually know people who aren’t confused. I do know a lot of people who are confused and occasionally miserable, but if they let the confused and miserable part of this stage in life life dominate their personality, I either stopped following them on Facebook or just unfriended them in real life. I don’t have time for that depressing shit.
Here’s the thing about your twenties: there is no “thing” about your twenties. Life doesn’t work in nice, neat little decades. There are a few years when you live with your parents, your caregivers, people who are taller than you and tell you what to do, and then another time period when you’re trying to figure things out on your own (and then there’s a whole new level of tall people telling you what to do). For most people in Western civilization, the latter starts when you graduate college (at 22 if you’re a good little girl), so we’re inclined to think the second decade of life is THE ONE. The one where you figure things out. The one where you do all the things Jack Kerouac would want you to do. The one where you get messy and “find” yourself.
I may not be thirty yet, but I have an inkling that figuring “it” out via traveling and drinking and all-around fucking up won’t stop at the big Three-Oh. Frankly, I hope it doesn’t. If you’ve got “it” figured out at 29.9999, then what the hell do you have to look forward to for the next 4-6 decades of your life?
Here’s to a messy, confusing life for the rest of your life. Because, come on, that’s life.
And, because the writers on Buzzfeed need something to do as they age, here’s to future lists: “43 Things You Need to Do Before You’re 43” and “96 Things You Should Do in Your Nineties.”
(if you were wondering why this is over 150 words, this is part of an occasional series where I go over the limit)