I have spent more of my life that I’d like to admit gazing at the iridescent glow of my computer’s monitor, wishing there was even the slightest chance that it would love me back. So you can imagine that I, being in my 20s, consider myself fairly well versed in the World Wide Web. In all that time I should have been spending becoming a socially well-adjusted human being via contact with the outside world, I often came across a particular brand of article: The “Things to Do in Your 20s” article. These articles were like sex to me…and by that, I mean that when I would read them I would start with high hopes and expect a satisfying conclusion but would end up merely frustrated and depressed.
Every article beseeched a sea of lost burgeoning adults to “travel the world” and “find themselves.” If I had the money to travel the fucking world, I would not be consulting strangers on the Internet for life advice; I’d have it pretty much together, thank you very much. For most of us, these articles do little more than remind us of how fun life can be for the 1%. There is, much to my chagrin and the chagrin of many, a marked dearth of articles addressing your average 20-something. I, your knight in Cheetos-stained T-shirt, will try my best to combat this travesty, to free you from this plight. Here it goes:
1. Grow up.
Let’s be real for the hottest of seconds. College was high school without the parents. You got wasted as often as possible and class was an afterthought. No judgment, but I think we all know that it’s over. You don’t get to spend another decade being useless; the “real world” starts NOW.
2. Choose a career.
I know it’s intimidating. Hell, I peed a little just thinking about it. But you have to do it if you want to keep living at least somewhat above the poverty line. No, you’re not going to be 1000% sure that the career you choose is perfect for you, but that doesn’t mean you should postpone your decision for 10 years. Your job is not what is going to bring you joy every day. The joy comes from the contrast between it and the rest of your life. That’s not to say you should try actively to hate your career; just don’t expect too much from it.
3. Get real.
To go along with my last point, idealism has to start taking a back seat to reality. I know that everything seems manifestly unfair. Your boss is probably an asshole, and your hours are doing a number on your social life. Your relationship is tricky and occasionally stressful. There stark truth is that sex isn’t porn and life isn’t a Disney movie. At first both of those sound a little depressing, but think about it…you probably wouldn’t really want either of those things for a lifetime. Reality is harsh, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with it.
4. Get used to being lost.
You do not get a year off from responsibility to fucking find yourself. The only self you’ll find is a broke loser so selfish that he or she perverted common anxiety about the future into some faux-spiritual, deep-seated unrest at the core of his or her being that could only be assuaged by time being a wastrel fucknut. NO. Accept your anxiety, accept that you’re lost, and choose a path. No matter where you end up, the “you” that you eventually find will be a better person for the journey.
Save your goddamn money starting right this fucking second. Don’t travel the world, dumbshit. You can be a cosmopolitan globetrotter when you have the money to explore the world and the maturity to appreciate its wonders. Go to Amsterdam when you can enjoy more than just the Red Light District and weed. You will probably have kids one day, and they’d probably like food and maybe a college fund.
6. Make relationships count.
Oh, you date for fun, you say? You’re just seeing where things go? You’re keepin’ it casual? NOT ANYMORE, YOU’RE NOT. That’s not to say your next relationship has to end in marriage…but stop entering into relationships you KNOW won’t last. Society tells entitled asshats to “Have some fun, maybe go out and sleep with that guy/girl who you know is bad for you just for the hell of it. It’s your life and you only have one shot at it!” Give me a break. Relationships are intimate bonds that people share and adults know not to take them lightly. There’s a reason that every breakup hurts, even in shitty relationships: You bared your soul to someone else and they said, “I don’t want who you are.” That is always rough. Always. So stop getting into relationships you know will end in disaster. Care enough about the other person to not waste his/her time. Oh, and by the way, marriage is not where fun goes to die. Stop thinking of a spouse as a “ball and chain.” He/she is not ensnaring you into mutual misery; he/she is freeing you from a life devoid of the magnificent love you will share.
7. Begin the process of time fulfillment.
It sounds saccharine, I know, but it’s the truest and most important of the 7. If you live your 20s right, you will begin to grow into the truly fulfilled person you were born to be. The “you” who begins to live for others as well as yourself. The “you” who begins to take joy in the little things rather than just crazy parties. It’s wonderful if you let it be.
Now let’s try to live like people. Not world travelers, not contemplative philosophers…people. I think we just might get our 20s right.