Let’s all agree that our generation gets criticized more than any other. And I’ll admit that we certainly have flaws. But why is it that we’re always stressed, confused, and all over the place?
Maybe it has something to do with the endless expectations put on our shoulders the second we get out of college. Maybe it’s the constant back and forth of everyone’s opinion. Maybe it’s about all the contradicting “advice” we’re given.
Let’s review, shall we?
1. It’s okay not to have it all figured out. But make sure you have a set plan to survive because you’re broke.
Thanks for the heads up! It’s not like I’m the one getting all the emails about loans and credit card statements or anything. Or how about the fact that I’ve been eating ramen noodles for the last four years to stay on budget? We know how to take care of ourselves, but yet we never get credit for it. Plan or no plan, we will figure it out. We appreciate the vote of confidence, though.
2. Take risks. But make sure you play it safe.
Definitely my favorite. Everyone is so quick to tell us about expanding our comfort zone and taking a leap of faith. And right when we’re about to, we hear nothing but the possibilities of failure. How lonely a new city will be. How scary living alone will be. How broke we’ll be if we go for the acting job instead of the law firm. The list goes on and on. Do me a favor, wise elders, let us do our thing. I promise we have already gone through more pros and cons than Rory Gilmore.
3. Who cares what people think? But actually listen to my opinion. I know what’s right.
Why is it so hard for others to understand that times are different? Don’t get me wrong; I like getting advice from people who have been through similar experiences- parents, siblings, advisors, and mentors. But the world is simply not what it used to be.
School is not the way it used to be. This country isn’t even what it used to be. So let me stop you right there. You’ve all made your mistakes and clearly survived. Now it’s our turn.
4. Your parents will always be there to fall back on! But you’re a failure if you move back home.
I’ll never understand the stigma about moving back home after college. I’m not saying you should stay on your couch all day for years, but there’s nothing wrong with needing a little break before taking the next step in your life. We all just endured years of deadlines, tests, socially awkward encounters, breakups, and dining hall food. Some people are simply not ready to jump into what comes next. And that’s okay. Let’s stop judging.
5. Follow your own path. But make sure you fit in.
Uhhhh. Have we not been hearing this since middle school? Let’s “fit in” and be miserable doing everything the popular kids do! No thanks. Been there, done that. If you ask me, the concept of fitting in is one of the worst pressures added on to us. Comparing ourselves to others does absolutely nothing other than make us feel like we’re not good enough. News flash: what works for one person isn’t necessarily what’s going to work for you.
Stop trying to please everyone and take a look at who your real support system is. Who’s pushing you in the right direction and who’s simply pushing you? Sometimes people that we were once close with will become distant. Things change, people change, and relationships come and go. Allow yourself to let go of those who no longer help you grow. Everyone claims that our 20s is our time to be selfish. So be selfish. Be kind to others, but allow yourself to let go when things are simply not what they used to be.
Where does all this leave us?
Here’s my conclusion:
Screw the guidelines. The advice we should all be getting is: What’s the point of living someone else’s life? These are the years to be adventurous: jump off cliffs, date different people, stay up all night.
And while those are all great adventures, maybe the most underrated adventure of all is letting go of the unwritten rules and following our own path. Maybe the most important adventure is finding out who we are and who we want to become. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all about learning to let go of the world’s expectations and live our lives however we please – and to stop being ashamed of doing so.
The truth is that no matter what path we choose, we will find our way. The world works in mysterious ways and sometimes the most random choices will bring us to the right places. It might take longer. It might have more bumps along the road. But if you ask me, the biggest accomplishment is to look back and know we chose our own journey- we reached every goal even when the world told us we couldn’t.
So I say do whatever you want, pursue whatever you want. Don’t underestimate the power of following your gut. Most of all, be happy with your choices. Don’t let other people’s expectations become your reality. We always hear that life is short. But the truth is that life is also long. Enjoy it. Embrace it. There’s a difference between living and existing. I hope you find that difference.
Carpe diem, baby.