Discuss Something: The Divergent 20s

There are a lot of things that can be said about high school.  “It’s a drag.”  “It’s cliquish.”  “It’s predictable.”  Everyone’s taking a combination of the same classes and have many of the same teachers.  You’re walking down the same cluttered hallways, and probably consuming the same questionable food in the cafeteria.  (Well, unless you bring your own lunch everyday like I did.  Peanut butter sandwiches and fruit were my staples).  You all live for the last bell of the day, and you’re all headed down the same basic path to graduation.

Then, BAM!   After your mortar boards have been tossed in the air, and you approach your twenties, nothing seems predictable.  Everyone’s headed down different paths at different speeds.  Your friends from high school have two children at age 23, and are thinking about going back to school for yet another degree.  (They already have one in their pocket).  Your sister’s finally found a job she likes and is having her first child at age 28.  Meanwhile,  your cousin is also having her first child at age 22 after starting a successful business.  And at 24,  you’re just trying to get some structure to  your own life, let alone preparing for the addition of another.  (Yes, this is currently my life).  It feels like madness!

But, as confusing as it all is, there are still five or so distinct paths of the average twentysomething:

1.  Undeclared:  The conventional college kid.  You’re still in your early twenties and feel pretty invincible.  You can stay up at all hours of the night, get drunk, and still make it to your 8 a.m. class only slightly hungover.  A vast circle of friends can vouch for these exploits, as well as a few significant others.  You haven’t dedicated yourself to one particular relationship yet because hey, you’re young, and you want to see what’s out there.  And you also haven’t completely decided on a career path because you still have time, and your current part-time job gives you enough money for gas and a night out with friends.

2.  The Bachelor/Bachelorette:  Your life is a little bit more structured since you have a degree and have begun to sort out your career after landing a job.  The job isn’t exactly what you wanted, or expected, but it’s a job.  You can apply for something else once you gain some experience.  And although you don’t have quite the stamina that you used to, you still enjoy a night out with friends.  This group of friends is smaller now, since your other “friends” have flaked off after graduation.  Your future significant other may even be in this core group since they all know your quirks and haven’t bolted.  But for now, you’re enjoying your time being single, and trying to pay off your student loans before you also find yourself with a mortgage to pay.  It’s an uncertain start, but you’re optimistic.

3.  The Honeymooners:  You’ve left behind the indecision of other singles, and taken the plunge.  This contentment in your personal life has given you more motivation to focus on starting a good career, but you still have a lot of stressors.  You not only have to deal with your own quirks, but now your spouse’s as well.  And because you’re married, your expenses have increased with no more aid from your parents.   You also feel more pressure to accept or maintain a decent paying job because you don’t want your spouse to have to support you all on his/her lonesome, and your college debt is looming large.  At the same time, however, you do have a built-in support system now that can back you up if you need to make a job change.  Things are starting to fall into place.

4.  Married…With Children:  Unlike your honeymooner counterparts, you’ve added another stressor to the mix: children. These mini-mes are a blessing and a challenge to your daily life, as you have to juggle taking care of them along with your spouse.  (You probably don’t have time to take care of yourself).  You have an okay job, but you can’t consider a career change at this point because you don’t have time.  Your children are your primary concern, and their needs/happiness take priority over your wants.  You also have more bills to pay, so risking unemployment is a tough move.  But despite all of these extra concerns, you’re pretty content, and you can hardly remember your life before children.

5.  LOST:  And then there’s you.  Yeah, you.  The one sitting on your couch day after day, applying for countless jobs, wondering what in the world you’re doing.  You have no employment, no significant other, and no children.  You kind of long for your more carefree college days with your friends, but now you just have to settle for looking at their increasingly full lives through pictures on Facebook.  (And you kind of resent Facebook for that).  You also have bills to pay, and you’ve considered moving (or already have) back home to help cut down on expenses until you can secure a job.  It’s a depressing existence.

Which path are you on?  Are you somewhere in between?

(And yes, these are also the names of tv shows because I have limited creativity).

– l  xo


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