I’m not the type to care about the opinions about my life. In the months since I have graduated college though, I have been bombarded with the constant stream of questions as to what I’m doing with my life, and it hasn’t exactly been encouraging. I would like to preface by saying, I’ve never really known and still don’t know what I’m doing, and maybe that’s why I’m so irritated by these rather non-harmful questions.
I know many other people in their early 20s whose lives are also in limbo. Maybe you still live in the city you graduated in, you moved back home with your parents, you took the first job that came your way, you packed up and moved to a completely new city, or maybe you decided to go to graduate school. These in themselves are substantial life decisions, but that’s apparently not good enough for some people. Everyone goes at their own pace and discovers what they want to do, but why do people keep asking what I’m doing?
Do I need to have something huge happen to me to be considered an adult, living an adult life? I don’t want to get married, I don’t want to have kids, and I don’t want to find a career that I’ll have for the rest of my life. There was a moment I had a few months ago where I was having an anxiety attack over the fact that I didn’t have a plan. Was I going to get a job teaching abroad, should I stay in Madison for a year, should I apply for a job in fashion and move to San Francisco? There were all of these options and possibilities and I thought I had to decide them, right now. Every time my dad would ask me if I had any new job leads I would freeze up and panic, like any negative answer I gave was just going to be a big disappointment. I had trained myself to cringe anytime the word “job” was brought up in conversation.
Then do you know what happened? I took a fucking deep breath and stepped back and assessed my situation. I’m 23 years old. I’m young, I’m single, I have a degree, and I have passion and all the damn time in the world. I was so concerned that I’m too old (scoff all you want) as I see my friends and acquaintances finding their dream jobs, getting married, having kids, traveling the world, and just generally doing things. Social media is probably a huge factor in the anxiety I have. I see everyone else living their best lives and I was jealous. The constant stream of questions was just a reminder that I had no plan.
I’m finally okay with the fact I don’t have my life planned out. I like not knowing, I mean what could be better than just letting life take you in whatever direction it may. There are still days when I panic as I see another person has updated their Facebook Career to something drool-worthy, but that’s life. I have absolutely no control over the people I know, but I can control my own life. That’s what you have to understand about people in their 20s is that they don’t have plans, they have dreams that they’re trying to make into reality.
So the next time you come across someone in their 20s, don’t ask them what they’re doing with their life. If they want to tell you, it will come up organically. Maybe ask what show they’ve been watching on Netflix, the latest book they’ve read, or a trip they took recently. Our lives are not defined by the jobs and careers we have, but by the people we have chosen to be. Creating a life for yourself isn’t a quick and easy thing, it is long and arduous, and having the nerve to assume I as a lesser person because I don’t know what a 401K is or why I need one, is just rude.