We’ve all felt the pressure to have it figured out.
Some people—well, usually older adults—say that in your twenties you basically need to have your whole life figured out, on a personal and professional level. But it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to achieve something by a certain age. Society has pressured 20-somethings with expectations of success, almost like it needs to be achieved now or never. Obviously, older generations came of age in very different times, so it’s not fair to compare the successes of our generation to theirs.
The age you complete a goal isn’t more important than the goal itself.
Even with the COVID pandemic slowing everything down, it seems like our parents’ or our grandparents’ misconceptions about our twenties are not changing. I still hear the when-I-was-your-age-I-was-married-with-two-kids-and-a-house spiel from every soccer mom with a choppy haircut. I'm sorry, Karen, but maybe those aren’t my goals at the moment. Gen- Z young adults have also been sidetracked by an entire pandemic, so it’s normal that things seem to be developing slower for us.
Our twenties are the first decade of our adulthood. We need to be allowed to make mistakes, question ourselves, and try out different paths in order to discover what we like and dislike.
And yet, these misconceptions prevail, making our twenties feel more daunting than experimental. Here are six that you may have heard once or twice.
In your twenties, you should (not):
1. Move out of your parents’ house and/or have your own place:
This is a big one. It doesn't make sense that—especially with the inflation in our economy—we’re expected to have enough money to rent an apartment. And without roommates? Forget it. Also, if our university or work is close to home, and our parents are okay with us staying home, why would we move? It seems unnecessary, rushed, and—ironically—like a financial blunder. They expect us to give up free rent, food, and laundry services for a shitty apartment and lots of bills? … I don't think so. If you're okay with living at home, let it be. Move out when you’re ready, not when society tells you.
2. Have a college degree: This is a misconception rooted in the lack of college opportunities our parents used to have, but nowadays, college seems more like a debt trap than anything else. I mean, yes, a good education is important, but higher education will always be available. Maybe you want to take a few short courses after high school to find out what you’re interested in, or you want to gain some “ real world” experience first. Maybe you want to save up money, travel, or start a small business. There are so many options! Don't just focus on what is expected of you.
3. Have your dream job: Getting any job is tough. It’s like the Hunger Games, but with more trauma and rejection. Some people get their dream job as soon as they graduate college, but it's not that common. Others just don't know where they want to work yet or have some unrealistic ideas about the work environment. Maybe your dream job is not what you thought it’d be. But it won't be the end of the world if you quit and start somewhere else. So don't feel bad if you’re not there yet. Don’t feel bad if you’re not even close.
4. Be in the best shape of your life: Why do people think this one is true? Anxiety, COVID, college, dating, money, and so much more have us stress-eating more than breathing at this point—plus, all of that pressure is also bound to fuck up our mental health. It doesn't add up that we should be in the “best shape” of our lives in our twenties. Some young people might be in their best shape, but maybe others don't feel like they’ll achieve that in their twenties. Setting an age limit on health is not healthy. We don't care if Yolanda Hadid doesn't approve—we're going to eat the whole bag of Doritos if it makes us happy.
5. Be in a serious relationship/married: Settling down is not an obligation for this generation. I think now we have more freedom to choose who we want to spend our entire lives with, or if we even want that type of commitment. The priority for Gen-Z is to love ourselves first. We’re not accepting anybody's bullshit just to meet some old societal expectation of "love" or happiness. Also, dating during this era of Tinder and ghosting and unsolicited dick pics is tough. God, it’s brutal out here! Having a partner should be more of an option than a need or a requirement for fulfillment in our twenties.
6. Have a lot of friends: If you don't have as many friends as you'd like, it's not something to worry about. Like I said, your twenties are for exploring yourself, and this means experiencing a lot of changes. It’s normal to lose some friends in the process, either because you no longer have anything in common or due to distance. Maybe you just want to find new people to share new experiences with. It's always sad to grow apart from others, but growing apart is part of growing up. And it's not like we're dying at 29—new friends will come. There might be less of them than you had as a teen, but they’ll probably be stronger connections. You lose something, you gain something, and that's life.
With or without the pandemic, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to people from another generation, even to those who are the same age as us. Everyone’s goals and timing will be different. Don't be so hard on yourself for the things you’re not “accomplishing” in your twenties—or at any other stage in life. Allow yourself to experience new things, make mistakes, and learn in the process. Sit down and prioritize! Your goals for the decade could include nothing on this list—and that’s good!
Focus on you and what you want. It’s your life, after all.