I am 26 and being a 20-something is hard. Not that being any other age doesn’t have it’s difficulties and challenges and not that I know what it feels like to be any older than 26 but I can certainly say that being a 20-something is hard and has been the hardest age range so far and I’m not the only one that feels this way. There’s a whole book about the challenges and hardships that 20-somethings face. It’s called “It’s a Wonderful Lie 26 Truths About Life in Your Twenties” by a slew of different authors/people, edited by Emily Franklin with a foreword by Alexandra Robbins. It contains 5 “Lies” and has a few different essay/stories under each about that “lie”.
Here are the “lies” and stories that follow them.
Lie #1: “I’ll have an amazing apartment and love my job”
A Letter to My Crappy One-Bedroom by Jill Kargman (I LOVE HER!)
Girls Can Do Anything! by Leanne Shear and Tracey Toomey
An (Un)Literary Tour of My Twentysomething Mind: Journals 1995-1999 by Megan McCafferty
Hired, Fired, and What I Wore by Alison Pace
Trade-offs: Why I Sold My Soul for Apartments by Donna Freitas
Lie #2: “I’ll have everything I need to live the life I’ve always wanted”
Breaking Up (with MasterCard) Is Hard to Do by Cara Lockwood
Money Does’t Buy Happiness, but It Comes Damn Close When It Buys a White-Tableclothed Meal and a Few Bottles of Wine by Laura Caldwell
The Real World by Erica Kennedy
Plan B by Megan Crane
Lie #3: “I’ll know myself—and what I want”
Pride and Prejudice by Anna Maxted
The One Who Got Away by Melissa Senate
Twenty-eight Is the New Eighteen by Shannon O’Keefe
A Thousand Times Yes by Beth Lisick
The Pursuit of Happiness by Rebecca Traister
Lie #4: “I’ll have satisfying relationships, great sex, and fabulous friends”
The Best-Laid Plans by Jennifer O’Connell
I Can’t Have Sex with You by Pamela Ribon
Twentysomething Seeks Same for Friendship by Leah Stewart
The F-word by Caprice Crane
I Hate You. Let’s Be Friends! by Deanna Kizis
Back to the Pacific Beach Café by Hollis Gillespie
My Own Mr. Big by Kristin Harmel
Knot Tied Up in a Bow by Laurie Graff
Lie #5 “I’ll be where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing”
Please Let’s Speaking English by Heather Swain
The Road Almost Taken by Anna Jane Grossman
Homesick for the Place You’ve Never Been by Julianna Baggott
Twenty-Nine-Year-Old Nomad Seeks Home by Giselle Zado Wasfie
There’s multiple generations that think of our generation as “lazy” or “slackers”. A part in the book, “Simply put, it is more difficult to be a twentysomething now than it was forty years ago. We face the most competitive hiring pool in history…the age at which older generations expect us to succeed is rapidly plummeting;…With professional athletes drafted out of high school and A-list singer-actors in their teens, we’re made to feel that if we haven’t achieved something monumental by age twenty-five, then we’re already over the hill,” is absolutely true. Our parents didn’t have the pressure to go to college like we did. Our parents generation did go to college but some also went to a trade school or just had an easier time getting hired because having a college degree (a piece of paper) was not everything like it is today. When I was in high school, college was shoved down our throats by teachers and we were made to think that it was the only way. If we didn’t go to college we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or do anything in life. While it does make getting a job for some slightly more possible and easier it still isn’t the only way. I went to college but never finished. However, going to college isn’t the only factor regarding employment. Every job wants you to have a certain amount of experience, even jobs that shouldn’t necessarily require experience. I had been applying to multiple secretary and receptionist jobs and almost all wanted a certain amount of experience. I am sorry and I am not putting someone who works in these jobs down in any way (I was applying for them myself) and I’m sure they face certain challenges in their jobs but it should not require experience. I feel like most of these jobs require experience because no one wants to take the time to train anyone anymore. So you need a college degree and years of experience. The thing is though how are you supposed to get experience when entry-level jobs or the jobs that you should be able to get without experience require experience? That is where a lot of my frustration and many others frustration comes from. The part about older generations expecting us to succeed at a younger age is absolutely true too. My cousin who is quite a bit older than me, probably in her 50’s, asked me what I was going to do with my life when I was 25. She basically told me I was doing nothing with my life (I was cleaning houses. Not my dream job but I was making money while figuring out how to do what I wanted to do,) and that I was spoiled and that my dad did everything for me in my life. While yes, my dad has helped me a lot and I will forever be grateful to him and never be able to express my thanks to him, he did not do EVERYTHING for me. I was pretty self sufficient for many years and still am as much as I can be. Anyway it was not an unreasonable question exactly but it’s not like I’m 40 stumbling my way through life still trying to figure out what to do and how to survive on my own. It was like because I was still trying to figure it out I was failing. Needless to say, I’m not super close to her nor do I wish to be. I feel that if my mom and dad are okay with my life than I’m okay. Also, I’m an adult so it’s not really anyone’s business besides my own anyways. Still though when I turned 26 I did feel exactly like described in the book “over the hill”. I had a slight break down a day or two after my birthday to be quite honest. I felt like I was old, I felt like I didn’t have my life together, and I felt like my boyfriend was going to leave me for someone younger who did have their life together. Even though realistically I knew none of it was true and in no way did my boyfriend make me feel like he would leave me, I had let the pressure of society and certain people telling me that I should have it all figured out by then, get to me. I don’t feel like that those types of thoughts ran through our parents heads. Maybe for some of our parents it did, but I feel like not a majority. However, I do feel like a majority of my generation does. I think this book is kind of evidence of that.
Another part of the book states “The truth is, we’re not averse to growing up; we simply want to grow up responsibly. If “growing up” means attaining typically adult accoutrements, then it’s not a question of won’t, but can’t. Generations before us could afford to support a marriage, house, and family in their early twenties because entry-level incomes could fund them. Today we wait until at least our late twenties, with good reason. We are the first generation in American history who won’t do better financially than our parents. Add to that setback the crushing costs of student loans and lower incomes than previous twentysomethings had, and it’s clear why taking our time is not just a preference but a necessity. Arguably, it is more adult of us to delay traditionally adult responsibilities until we financially and emotionally are able to support ourselves, let alone others.” This hit home hard for me. I thought that’s how my life should and would be like by my age. The fact is, it is just not possible sometimes. I was married and am currently going through the process of getting divorced. While I was married, though we were still living in an apartment, I don’t necessarily think we would have been able to get a house anytime soon. We were fine enough financially and able to get everything we needed on top of being able to go out now and again but we were in no position to get a house or start a family. I suppose it’s for the best anyway since we are now getting divorced. Now that I am essentially “starting over” while I am happy with who I am and who I am with, I still can’t help but feel a little behind in life. Shouldn’t I be married, have a family, have a house, have a career that I love and a decent amount of money in my savings account for all those family vacations we should take? Again realistically I know I am okay where I am since there are no set rules and I am happy but those feelings still creep in. Another thing to point out again just in case you missed it, the line “We are the first generation in American history who won’t do better financially than our parents.” Those entry-level jobs I was talking about that require all that experience already are certainly not helping. In an ideal world, we should be able to get a part time job in high school and college, transition to those entry level jobs where we can get a little experience in the working world and then move on to our “careers”, I know that it is not an ideal world and I know that it wasn’t for our parents either but I feel more or less they had an easier time doing this.
I do want to say before I go on that in no way am I trying to garner pity for my generation, nor do I feel like I am entitled to things or that everything is so hard for me. I work as hard as I can and while I could be doing better, I am doing fine. Overall, I have a pretty great life, I have a very loving and supportive family (most of them); my boyfriend is amazing; and my friends, while few, are there for me when I need them; I am happy. Also, I have two cute pups. Life for the most part is good, but it is still a fact that being a twentysomething does not mean what it is used to and it is becoming increasingly harder.
This is going to be a bit of a longer quote from the book, but I feel is so relevant to what I am going through, and undoubtedly others are too. “When I first began using the phrase ‘Quarterlife Crisis’ to describe a common experience occurring between the late teens and late thirties, it provoked derision from older adults. Contrary to a popular belief among older people, the Quarterlife Crisis is not the idle whining of a coddled, presumptuous post-adolescent. It is the response to reaching the turning point between young adulthood and adulthood; it is the the amalgamation of doubt, confusion, and fear that comes with facing an overwhelming set of identity issues and societal expectations at once. The Quarterlife Crisis can spark a variety of reactions ranging from subtle self-doubt to issues as serious as clinical depression…Some adults—usually those in a midlife crisis—roll their eyes when they hear ‘Quarterlife Crisis.’ ‘Twentysomethings can’t be in crisis!’ they say. ‘When you have your youth and freedom, you have nothing to complain about.’ I try turning the tables. ‘If that’s your reason for dismissing a Quarterlife Crisis,’ I reply, ‘then how can you complain about a midlife crisis when you have a spouse, a car, a savings account, and a backyard with a pool?’ They are not amused. The generation gap grows fierce.” The irony with the people that dismiss a Quarterlife Crisis is that they say we have our youth and freedom while they are also the same ones that think we should have everything all figured and settled and achieved something incredible in our twenties. The fact of the matter is that it’s just not like it used to be.
My Quarterlife Crisis as I mentioned earlier a little was a day or two after I turned 26 (July 18). I had a job that I knew was probably going to be ending soon, I was getting a divorce (though it was my choice and I am very much happy and in love with my boyfriend), I didn’t have nearly as much money saved as I would have liked, I didn’t have nor was I close to owning my own house, I didn’t have a baby, I thought I was getting old and my boyfriend was going to leave me for a younger, thinner, smarter, more attractive girl who had her life together, and I was almost 900 miles away from the only home I had ever known and my dad and my entire support system, besides my boyfriend. Although those things are still true for the most part, my job ended and I just found a new one (I start October 7), I’m still going through the process of a divorce, I have barely any money in my savings account, I don’t nor am I close to owning my own house, I don’t have a baby, I am getting older (though I am not old), my boyfriend loves me and wants to be with me, I am still 900 miles away from the only home I’ve ever known, my dad, and the rest of my support system. The last part is by choice, not that others aren’t, but I have always lived in New York until I met my boyfriend, he lived in Tennessee and couldn’t move because of his daughter (which I understand) and he asked me to move in with him, I did. I know eventually I will have all the things I want and I will hopefully be confident enough in myself that I won’t doubt the relationship that I am in. Not that I do now really but society typically does not make me feel all that good about myself (again this is not for pity nor a woe is me scenario as I feel like it is coming across as) but I am NOT model thin nor do I have all the things that I “should” have by my age and typically as men get older they want younger women. Why I let this stuff get to me, I don’t know. I am pretty confident for the most part and I am slowly but surely getting my life together to how I’d like it to be, but I will still sometimes get those “Quarterlife Crisis” feelings.
Being a twentysomething while being a really fun and amazing time, is also a really hard and challenging time, much more so than it used to be. I haven’t read the rest of the book yet but I will for sure write more as I do and I highly recommend that you do too. The point of this post though is that if you are a twentysomething and reading this, you are not alone if you feel like I do/did. It will get better, but it could also be worse. Be thankful for what you have and never stop dreaming and reaching for those things you want. Eventually you will have them.