Do We Expect Too Much of Twenty-Somethings?

Strap in kids and prepare for one of those blog posts. The brain fart type. Incidentally, I was supposed to post this Sunday but I keep adding to it, so it is the least organised word vom compilation ever.

This is a little summin’ summin’ my mind has been stewing up for the last few weeks, but really for the last year or so, since I was welcomed, -fanfare, party poppers, tequila shots and all- into the twenty-something club. Albeit, I’ve only got my toes in at the moment, as I’m only 21. I am 21 years old with this entire decade ahead of me. A decade that is supposed to be the epitome of freedom, of invincibility and self indulgence. But it’s also supposed to be a decade of achievement, of bucket-list-ticking and milestones…right?

We’re supposed to finish school, graduate university and/or choose a profession, have sown our wild oats and whored about enough now so that we can pretend to be a proper adult, land a graduate job, but wait, somewhere in there, aren’t I supposed to go travelling or volunteer or something? We’re supposed to do something worthwhile, invent the new social media obsession or toss all of it off, and turn a sprinter van into a house and drive across the world. But of course, we also have to learn those hard life lessons about god know’s what, get our hearts broken, protest and join cults. Don’t waste these precious years, but learn a new skill even if you never use it. Make mistakes, but not twice, obviously. Buy a house, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make. But isn’t travelling the only thing that makes you richer? Find someone to love and that you might actually consider sharing a toothbrush holder with. Get a promotion, but quit your job if you hate it before you have kids and you can’t just do things on a whim anymore. Save money for a rainy day but constantly be living large. Fuck everything, I’ll have a large gin and tonic, please.

What I’m oh so subtly trying to get at is that there is a long ol’ list of expectations for your twenties; of things we want to do; the ‘place’ we want to get to in life; the things our parents want for us; what society want us to do; what we feel we should do.

The catch is that we can’t possibly do it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gunna have a good whack at it, burn the candle at both ends and whatnot, but on the the 23rd of August 2025 (aka, the eve of my 30th birthday), I don’t want to be thinking shitshitshitshitshit where did the last decade go? I didn’t do this, that and the other, in my twenties, when I was supposed to, and then feel like I failed some arbitrary, decade long test.

As far as I can tell, twenty something’s are filled with discontent, with uncertainty and wants.

Perhaps because we love other people’s lives too much, we compare ourselves to their achievements and allow jealousy to cloud our own ability to make decisions for ourselves. We mentally count how many things they ticked off the twenty-something-to-do-list and  keep a league table, and then feel shit about ourselves when we’re not winning the title.

You know what else we do, though? We judge other people for what they have/haven’t achieved. We snort and say “why’s she going out with him, he’s such a bum, he’s only a [insert profession here]!” We judge people for getting engaged too young. We read that kid from GCSE science class’ Facebook post about his promotion and tell ourselves it’s only because his dad got him the job in the first place.

We’re all guilty of it. We encourage the expectations of our generation, and the stupid, pointless notion that there is a perfect time for everything, in this unconquerable decade.

But most of all, I think we, the almighty twenty-somethings, the millennials living in a time where Trump is president, starter houses cost £200k, Brock Turner is free, undergraduate degrees are as common as STIs, feminism is a bad word, petrol costs the same as your car, ‘ghosting’ is a thing, 16,306 animals are under threat of extinction, Britain has told the EU where to go, and contouring is apparently the the answer to loneliness….are all just a bit overwhelmed.

This decade was promised to be everything sparkly and wonderful about life and it doesn’t feel like that all the time. We’re probably poor, in debt, wanderlustrous and under a fuck ton of pressure from parents and whomever else wants to put their two cents in, to get our shit together. There are too many things we feel like we should be doing, too many expectations for us in just a decade, when the reality is we just can’t do it all.

And then again, there are just too many things we want to do. We don’t set realistic goals for ourselves and then slump into morbid depression when we convince ourselves that we failed. Millenials do not deal with failure very well. Fact. I’m convinced that The Social Network film makes just as many twenty-somethings feel like failures as the baby boom elders who hound us about pensions, house deposits and body clocks. (I’m also convinced there’s a correlation between dealing with failure and amount of time spent on social media).

But what do we have to do to make it to our 30th birthday and feel satisfied?

Satisfied in that we can think goodness gracious that was good, and still be determinedly reaching for what’s next.

I don’t actually know the answer to this, but I’d start by scrapping the one-size-fits-all twenty-something-to-do list, however illusory we may think it is. I don’t mean to never talk about twenty-somethings as a demographic (because we are and so are millennials, it’s just data with a title). However, I strongly believe we need to stop setting universal goals against decade yardsticks. There just are too many expectations for our twenties.

I’m not saying all this to comfort myself for a time when I feel a bit unaccomplished or whatever, I say it because it’s realistic. I intend to spend my twenties finishing up university, graduating three years after all my school friends did, sufficiently whoring about if I fancy it, taking advantage of my metabolism and freedom to nap, travelling in large trips and short breaks whenever I can, looking forward to the day I see a whale in the ocean, getting a big girl job and loving it, drinking 19,565 cups of coffee, going to see as much live music as possible and working my fucking ass off because I want to. 

But y’know, plans are meant to change and all that…maybe I’ll go off coffee and drink 19,565 cups of darjeeling tea, (winky face). My expectations for myself are a bit flexible, but get to decide them, not some invisible, omniscient ‘they’. We all need to set our own -slightly loose- expectations, taking our individual circumstances and wants into consideration, i.e. If I buy a house before my 30th birthday, I’ll eat my own arm because I’m just that poor and that’s just how it’s gunna have to work.

On a final note, I put the title of this post as a question, because that’s how it’s been sloshing around my brain, but really it should be ‘Look how fucking much we think we should get done in our 20s, LOL LOL LOL GO GET THE TEQUILA’

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UK Student and Lifestyle Blogger. Coffee Snob. Adventure Lover. Book Reader. Gilmore Girls Aficionado.

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