There’s a good chunk of entertainment directed to young adults, and although it looks glamorous onscreen, the lives of young adults play by different rules in reality. It’s expectations bumping up against reality. I went to high school thinking it would at least be as fun as High School Musical, and I was sorely disappointed (I mean who doesn’t like High School Musical?!). Our 20s are such a significant part of our lives but it’s easy to let what’s on screen dictate our day to day decisions and lead us into lies about our stage of life. So here’s to debunking the lies young adults believe~
// Your 20s are the best time of your life //
Okay, seriously. How many times have you heard this? If you’ve heard it just as many times as I have, I definitely would have paid off my student loans by now. There’s a narrative around our 20s being this legendary time of our lives, and if it’s not, we feel pressure to make it that way. Something about being young is rich with opportunity, but if we aren’t making the most of this tiny window, our whole lives will come crashing down. And that’s just not true. Think about it. If our 20s were it, we’d see a lot more older people in depression or just a lot less of them. Each age is full of its own ups and downs. Yes, there is something rich in our 20s. We experience so much for the first time – being independent, developing a network of people outside of our families (and hometowns), making decisions about jobs and careers, etc.
This is important.
If someone had a rough start to their twenties, are they out for the count? Absolutely not! We put this intense pressure on ourselves to get our lives picture perfect by the time we’re thirty – to have our dream job, to have a dream spouse, to have a dream home. These are unrealistic expectations to place upon ourselves when our dreams are so volatile and our lives could change any second at this stage. Take the pressure off by realizing you are setting the groundwork for what your future could be. Don’t beat yourself up if anyone else seems to be living the dream. Take the time that you need even if your dreams take a little longer than you wanted them to.
Related Post: What I’ve Learned from The Defining Decade
// Commitments stop you from living fully //
We live in an opportunity rich society. We are so darn lucky to be able to have our preference satisfied, granted this is easier for some of us than others (keeping in mind educational inequality, class inequality, racial injustice, etc.). I’d venture to say that the biggest lie young adults are facing in their twenties is that commitments stop you from living fully.
This weekend, I went to a tailgate and met this former classmate of mine who’d taken the Dostoevsky class with me last spring. He discussed how he saw so many people define freedom as freedom from instead of freedom for. Freedom, for many, is freedom from restrictions, from limitations, from any boundaries that set up parameters for their lives. It’s why we look forward to college and beyond. As adults, we can craft the world as we choose with no one else to judge our decisions.
But the freedom that actually is more beneficial is freedom for. A freedom that accepts and even invites boundaries. Because boundaries have a way of clarifying what’s vital to us. So for this lie, I’d say – don’t be afraid. Get some parameters to give you perspective on your priorities. Don’t let commitment scare you away from an organization or a series of relationships. When you are committed to others and they are to you, you can fully invest with no reservations and without looking over your shoulder to see what’s next.
Related Post: Why avoiding commitment leads to decision fatigue
// Traveling will help you find yourself //
Though I have nothing against traveling, I find this is one of the lies that is more isolating. Only particular kinds of people can afford to travel. Does this mean that those who don’t travel will never find themselves? Of course not. I do think traveling can illuminate parts of a person to themselves, like how terribly un-detail-oriented they are or how they are late for absolutely everything, but I think those can also be revealed in daily life as we pay attention.
This lie, among other lies, is harmful though it’s paved with good intentions. Traveling becomes a form of consumerism when its purpose is to collect mementos of how you found yourself in Europe. You can “find yourself” and learn about who you are if you push yourself. It’s not about that particular place, but rather the circumstances that reveal you to yourself. I also think many adults travel and expect to be a completely different person when they return. While incredible changes can occur, it isn’t a failure if you don’t change much. At the very least, you entered into a perspective that was not your own. That’s pretty cool!
Related Post: When Love is Worth Keeping Around
// Being in a relationship is the ideal //
I think there’s an assumption that once you’re in a relationship, everything is all sunshine and rainbows. But everyone knows that one person that complains about their significant other every time you see them. Relationships are work. And two flawed people have to learn to navigate their style of communication, of giving and receiving love, of meshing well with the friends and family of their partner. Relationships, when they work, are a beautiful picture of trust and vulnerability and support. Couples that can laugh together while being intentional and have the same core values are examples of this picture – like my roommate and her fiancé (yes, my roommate’s engaged + their engagement photos are stunning!!!)
While a relationship is a good time, there’s something special about being single. It’s not considered unless it’s the player who can’t commit to anyone they meet. And yet, it’s a good time. You can dive deep into your friendships. You can devote time towards your career and greater life goals. You can explore personal interests and hobbies. It’s a good time to build good habits and behaviors for yourself. Just a reminder – being single or in a relationship – each stage has its challenges.
// Your job defines you //
This lie doesn’t just hit young adults but it’s one of the lies that has transcended any stage of life and can be applied by greater American culture at large. And while we know this isn’t true, societal conventions try to tell us otherwise.
So, what do you do?
What do you want to do when you graduate?
More often than not, we are identified by what we do, and we fall into the trap of believing that what we do defines us. And the only way I know to combat this lie is to consider and live a life outside of work. What are your hobbies? What are your hopes and desires? To chase after those dreams and play around with those hobbies will expand who I am to myself and others because I can redirect the conversation to something outside of work.
Lead a life that reminds you that your job doesn’t define you.
I hope these lies were dissected and that you enjoyed the HIMYM memes sprinkled throughout this piece! Let me know which of the lies caught your attention.