Sunday, August 22, 2010

20-something. Full of rage, not flaws.

A few days ago, someone posted to Facebook this article from the New York Times, titled "What is it About 20-Somethings?"

A thread of really great comments followed. The general consensus was that for as long as the article is, it leaves out a lot.

As a 20-something who has recently transferred colleges and moved back into her parents' house, I found it irritating: well-intentioned, maybe, but ultimately, patronizing.

Reading it, I was reminded of a psychology class I took at SVSU: personality theory. And okay, theorists across all disciplines will try to refute others' theories with their own. But the thing I noticed with this class in particular was that the theories didn't differ all that much: one psychologist would come up with an idea of how we ought to progress up some sort of "ladder" toward adulthood. And then another psychologist would come along, disagree, and suggest we climb his ladder instead.

I say to hell with ladders: We're all born, and we all die. But otherwise? Our experiences differ greatly depending upon our circumstances. Not only do we not all move at the same pace, we don't all go up. We criss-cross and go sideways. And sometimes that's because of conscious decisions we make, but often times, factors that are beyond our control come into play as well.

A topic that's been coming up a lot in the lives of my 20-something friends (female, especially) is marriage. Women seem to be under greater pressure to "hurry up and get married" than men, probably because of the whole "biological clock" thing. Two of my friends, both 26, are at different places in life (because they're doing very different things with their lives--what a concept). One's in grad school and single. The other is a high school teacher who's getting married in the fall. And yet, because they're the same age, their families' wishes for them are similar: Single grad student's family hopes she'll find a boyfriend soon; engaged high school teacher's family is relieved she's "finally" getting married.

So there's enough pressure--from society, from family, and from the voices in our own heads--to "succeed" without the New York Times tossing its blame game into the mix, no matter what the situation might be.

I'm 21. I spent three years at SVSU before deciding to transfer to Wayne State/move in with my parents. I've been rather tight-lipped about it. And that's because I've learned the hard way that people think transferring after three years is downright weird--a sign of failure, a lack of direction. Oh, the horror.

If my reasons for transferring don't make sense to you, I can live with that. But know that leaving was what made sense to me. I don't understand why people think it's okay to get all up in my grill about it just because I'm not doing things the way they did.

1 comment:

  1. My best friend knew what he was going to be when we were in kindergarten. He picked his college of choice when we were juniors in high school. He graduated from college in the "traditional" four-year window. He's now in his third year working in the profession he knew he wanted to go into when we were barely old enough to know better not to eat dirt. He's married, has a big house filled with the usual things allegedly successful people should fill them with.

    I, meanwhile, took a sporadic seven years to wrap up a BA degree in a field that doesn't exactly yield plentiful jobs. I'm still not positive what I want to be ("writer" is so vague). I just moved back home so I could stop just living month-to-month and actually save.

    He's happy "living the dream." I probably wouldn't be deemed a success by the traditionally accepted definition. Yet, I don't really have a problem with that. I have a better sense of what I want to do from here. I know that at this point, the lifestyle he has doesn't appeal to me, as much as he enjoys it.

    So there we are, two people roughly the same age who have taken progressively contrasting paths to our own definition of happiness.

    I couldn't afford a semester of school at this point, but I can't say I consider myself a failure. Maybe if that's the case in another five years. But until then, I'm fine not adhering to this archaic set of checkpoints you must complete in order to be considered a successful adult.

    In your case, it seemed as though you spent the better part of a year unhappy with most things academic. Better to be deemed unsuccessful by traditional standards and make a move that will clock out that unhappiness than it is to stay on pace to meet one of those adult checkpoints on time and remain disenchanted with the things around you.