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Partly because it’s been a consistent topic of conversation amongst my close circle of friends, partly because it’s clear to me that many of us are going through the same transitions in life (in one way or another), and partly because I keep hearing my mother’s repetitive words ringing in my eardrums: “You know, when I was your age…” (and what daughter or son doesn’t love to hear that phrase chanted over and over… and over again…).
Yes, yes, the 20s. The early 20s, in hindsight, now seems like a walk in the park. But the late 20s. Oh man, the late 20s. Now that’s a different story. In our early 20s, we were still on the brink of childhood. We could be bratty and indecisive, and blame it on our “youth”. By our late 20s, we are supposed to have it “figured out”.
And I would venture a guess that it’s probably a generational thing. When my mother (bless her) was in her late 20s, she was already married (for a good six-seven years), with full-time career… and house. Amongst my friends (all of whom, I might add, are educated, well-traveled, and entrepreneurial), and I’ll include myself in this mix, the story reads quite differently.
I know our generation has been slapped with all kinds of (incredibly flattering) labels: selfish, egocentric, individualistic, lazy, idealistic… basically, we’re being told that we all have our heads up our asses. I think, for many of us, we’re simply trying to find our place in a very complex world (made more so by an ever-increasing amount of access to technologies and media that offer us an abundance of information and choice… and make it difficult for us to sleep at night) and make a mark in our own unique way(s).
With the rare exception of a select few, I don’t know many in their late 20s who are married and playing house just yet. We’re finishing degrees, paying down student loans (read: trying to), testing out different relationships, starting careers, changing careers, building companies, figuring out how to make a living in a strained economy and a volatile job market.
Figuring out who we are and where we fit in.
Our girlfriends (and mine are all amazing!) have been filling in for our boyfriends/husbands (Marie Claire magazine recently featured an article titled “Are Girlfriends the New Husbands?”); are ‘bromances’ meeting a similar fate?
Because now that so many women are off in the world, being educated and entering the workforce, the former reality of ‘dependency’ has changed. We possess the skills and the wherewithal to go out there and do it ourselves.
And, yet, in my late 20s, I still have a deep-seeded feeling (or is it a fear? I really can’t tell anymore), in the pit of my stomach, that I’m getting it all wrong. That is, if there is, in fact, a right.
Should I be married? With house? And a career that allows me to pay off my loans, my mortgage, my insatiable appetite for travel… oh, and a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes?
Am I wrong to be taking on contract work? Am I crazy to be pining after a man who is not only out of my postal code and my country, but also off of my continent? Am I a terrible person for not having a savings account, or a clue as to where I’ll be tomorrow, let alone in a year from now? Are other late 20-somethings feeling the way that I am now?
I hope so.
I know so.
The irony behind all this is that I’ve always been the girl who has it “all figured out”. Now I’m (mostly) okay with being the girl who is smart enough to know that I don’t have my shit together in every single department, at all times. I’m just grateful that I have enough introspectiveness to understand that if I keep working hard, taking risks, falling and getting back up again, life will offer its rewards.
I don’t want to look back on my 20s (though they are nearing their end) and think, “I could have done this…” or “I shouldn’t have done that…”. That terrifies me more than any of my current uncertainties.
The 20s, for my generation, are a rollercoaster ride of emotions, decisions, instabilities, and insecurities. As I write these words, I wonder if this is merely a reflection of the times, of the very fragile world that we live in.
The ride isn’t over yet. It never will be. And I hate rollercoasters. They make me vomit. Every. Single. Time. But I revel in embracing my fears (one of my favourite mantras is ‘the only thing to fear is fear itself’). Life is so much more exciting when we set out to do what we think we cannot do. Take that, 20s.
And, baby, we’re on this rollercoaster together. You. Me. And our 20s. Let’s ride!