Life As A Millennial: The Struggle Is Real In Our Early 20s

In your early 20s, so many aspects of your life are uncertain and so much of it is yet to be defined.

Home lacks a definition. We are stuck somewhere between the cozy abode we’re now forced to call our ‘parents’ place,’ and the apartment that—no matter how much we decorate—doesn’t quite feel right without family… or friends… or roommates to share it with. We are forced to define ‘home,’ but are left wondering how long it will take until its meaning has solidarity. We ask ourselves why everyone else seems to be so settled into their lives.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]We are forced to define ‘home,’ but are left wondering how long it will take until its meaning has solidarity.[/gdlr_quote]

To find answers, we scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, trying to find a standard by which we can judge ourselves, our accomplishments, and those around us. But rather than seeking standards, we set expectations. Expectations for ourselves that we base on the many pins we archive on Pinterest and the overwhelming amount of wedding portraits we roll our eyes over on Facebook—though we appear in many of them.

We swipe right on Tinder because we hope the journey to Prince Charming comes as easy as a flick of the wrist (literally). We date. We dump. We cry. And we convince ourselves that the heartbreak will last just half as long as the relationship ever did. We’re either jealous of our peers’ perfect social timelines full of engagements, weddings, and babies or experiencing intense FOMO on ladies night. We’re up at night fighting through the first year as husband or wife, contemplating whether marriage should have waited just a year longer.

We date

We’re fashionable and trendy. We’re expected to have professional attire in our closets, but our finances scream “broke-like-a-college-student,” without the advantage of student discounts or pity funds from grandma. We’re adults now. We’re expected to pick up the tab for happy hour and ignore the reality of our personal finances to endure expensive dinners out with friends. We feel accomplished that we’ve finally relieved our parents of our car insurance, cell phone bill, and healthcare payments, but we’re in awe that we’re still encouraged to invest in stocks now in order to be millionaires by 70.

So we work. And we work after work. We toe the fine line of accepting God-awful happenstance jobs that pay the big bucks or scrape by with entry-level gigs that we love, forcing us to take on second and third jobs in our spare time. We start our days three hours earlier than we did in college. Though we might be young and full of energy, morning comes just as fast and we quickly regret last night’s happy hour that escalated to two-too-many cocktails or the concert we just had to see on a Monday night.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]We toe the fine line of accepting God-awful happenstance jobs that pay the big bucks or scrape by with entry-level gigs that we love.[/gdlr_quote]

We yearn to have social lives. We want to network to build our careers, travel before all of the babies come, and drink too much before it’s widely unacceptable to do so. But the hangover monster has already hit us, marking our age and reminding us that the rest of the world expects us to be responsible adults with full-time jobs. We’re expected to stay in on Saturday nights, snuggling with our cats and making memories with living beings that likely won’t be there to reminisce in 7 years.

We’re convinced that we are losing our minds. Mental health days are backed by positive research and talked about amongst co-workers, but never actually implemented into company policies. Spring and winter breaks are no more. We may be paid for our short vacations, but they cost us valuable PTO hours that we won’t have if unforeseen family deaths or, God forbid, life-altering illnesses arise. We travel and explore the world with the idea that every day could be our last, and life is too short.

Some of us are still exploring degrees and pulling hair over diplomas whose minors won’t matter in the real world. In the back of our minds, we know that—out there—we can be anyone we want regardless of the title we hold from the university. And once we finally break free from years of standardized education, we’re either a) regretting the thousands of dollars we owe the government or b) contemplating whether or not to gamble a little more debt for grad school in return for a bigger paycheck. We claim that will make us feel more adult.

But even then, we can’t overcome the pressure to accomplish something great or be someone everyone knows. Just about the time we’re feeling like we’ve gotten into the groove—managed to tackle a morning routine, volunteer once a month, and visit home for holidays—one of our classmates invents a million-dollar app, reaches 10,000+ followers on Twitter, or makes a face for themselves on YouTube. We ask ourselves: what stats prove that I’ve accomplished anything in this high-tech world?

Someone Everyone Knows (1)

So we contemplate running—running away from our worries. Everyone assures us that staying put—where there’s comfort of family and job security—and playing it safe is the only option. Still, we dream about skipping town and moving across the country to chase our dreams before they slip away or our own maturity and logic eats them alive.

Our maturity tells us that voting matters… now more than ever before. Despite all of our efforts to avoid politics and controversial conversation in college, we’ve finally grasped the importance of researching candidates before voting and watching the oh-so-boring presidential debates without the entertainment of correlated drinking games. We want to know where 25 percent of our paychecks are disappearing to, and we want to be sober for it. We yearn to have better reasons for voting than admitting our selfish need to be a part of history by electing the first female president or our favorite asshole reality television star.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]When you’ve reached your 20s, there’s no longer a report card to define your achievements and failures.[/gdlr_quote]

Eventually, after years of avoiding their advice and putting distance between us, we crawl back to our parents. Spending years doing everything in our power to break free from them and become individuals—void of their wants, morals, values, and advice—we’re finding it’s those exact principles that have guided us all the way. In fact, many of those very principles are responsible for our greatest successes.

When you’ve reached your 20s, there’s no longer a report card to define your achievements and failures. There’s no way to gauge how efficiently you are juggling life. And there’s no outsourced measurement for happiness. That, my friend, comes from within… no matter how many aspects of our lives that we have or have not yet defined.

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Feature photo via wandeleur.com

2 Responses

    1. Alexandra Floersch

      Thank you Roberta! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve gotten feedback that’s said not much has changed about being in your 20s… even from older generations now in their 40s and 50s. It’s eye opening to see that we’re aren’t the only ones that are feeling or have felt this way. Have a great day!

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