Five Things That My High School Classmates Are Now Doing

Most of my friends from school are in their early twenties, let’s say 21-25. And somehow in those few tender years since graduation, we’ve managed to go from drinking beer in a parking lot and smoking weed in the back of a car to being these, like, adults… or something. It’s strange to see how people just make U-turns or go off in incredibly strange directions at the drop of a hat at this age, when we’re largely free — and most of us can’t find good employment. And though there are of course exceptions to every rule, the people I once danced to Boyz II Men at prom with are now mostly doing 1 of 5 things.

1. Getting Married/ Spawning. This one has to be first on the list, if only because it is the most arresting when you see it happening. People with whom you were, only a few short months ago, doing body shots at a bar called “Skeezers” are now bringing new life into the world and preparing for it, like a real live person. They’re going to Bed Bath and Beyond with not a trace of irony, and they’re getting 401ks and other things that I’m sure are important but whose function I have yet to comprehend. Every week or so now, someone pops up on my news feed with the big announcement: They’re getting married! Every status update/ conversation for the next 8 months will now be about seating arrangements. They’re having a baby! Let me guess, your profile pictures will now be, in this order: An ultrasound of a blurry dot, a picture of your bare stomach (excuse me, “baby bump”) with some cutesy decoration, and then a series of pictures of a 2-day-old baby. Essentially these people just fell off the planet, mourn their loss appropriately.

2. Drinking As Much As In College. There is this distinctive phase in the early twenties, especially when people are having a hard time finding full-time employment and are considering extending their studies just ’cause, where people who really liked drinking all the time between class continue to really like to drink all the time. Wanting to get wasted at all times, constantly asking people to go out to happy hour, and generally not being able to interact socially without an Absolutely Fabulous-style buzz on gets extremely uncomfortable at a certain point. Yet, how is the allure not there in some ways? We’re the “lost generation” or whatever boring news magazines call us, the 20-somethings now have no idea what to do with themselves except go to Brunch on Sundays (our version of the North Star, keeping everything in perspective). It’s no surprise that the collegiate lifestyle of drinking and studying (lololol) would remain appealing to us long after our forefathers would have had a job by now.

3. Being Egregiously Successful. You know what I love? Seeing my acquaintances get internships at prestigious consulting firms, buy property at 22, or just generally achieving their dreams at a nauseatingly young age. It just would be that much better if such success didn’t automatically mean I no longer have things to talk to about with these people. It’s an undeniable human instinct to try and keep up with whatever conversation is happening around you, and if you’re at a party with the guy who starts every sentence with “Well, right after I finished up at Harvard…” or “The Senator I work for said the funniest thing the other day…” you’re going to want to justify your existence. Even if you walk away thinking how insufferable that guy was, in the moment, you’ll blurt out something awkward along the lines of, “That is so cool, I’m actually 99 percent sure I saw Jamie Kennedy at the grocery store last week, so, you know… big things poppin over here, too.”

4. Regretting College. Not the college experience, of course, but everything that came along afterward — all those jobs they can’t find, all that parents’ house they have to live in, all those loans they have to pay off, all that general misfortune that has befallen this generation. Of course, my friends who majored in engineering, computer science, or became military officers are all just running around in circles and laughing as they count their money from their relatively lucrative jobs (or, at least that’s what I imagine they do in their spare time). But for a lot of the rest, it’s a lot of working at Starbucks and circling fruitless want ads. It’s this, of course, that makes those few-and-far-between incredibly successful people all the more unbearable when you come across them. But not everyone went to college — credit where credit is due, two of my friends that are doing the best (and are perpetually employable) both went to technical schools and then did apprenticeships. If only we could all have had such foresight.

5. ??? Perhaps it’s just me, but I have a lot of people who are just… existing… and occasionally posting Facebook statuses (I assume so no one alerts the authorities about a missing person). But they’re not in school, they don’t seem to have a job, they don’t seem to want to do a whole lot. Sometimes they go “backpacking” or “couch surfing” and then are just gone for several months at a time, somehow making their way across Eastern Europe without getting pick-pocketed even once. They occasionally post statuses about wanting to go to the west coast, wanting to buy a van for not a lot of money, or trying to get over to Asia for a while. (I think those people imagine we’re still living in the early 1900s and they can just win a ticket in a game of poker 10 minutes before the boat leaves the dock.) Any time I hear from them, they are on a different continent and continuing to live by means unknown to anyone around them — in countries requiring tourist visas without ever having set foot in a consulate. They are just magical creatures, operating on that age-old plan of: 1. Acquire one-way plane ticket 2. ??? 3. Profit. Hopefully, they’ll all get their own reality show on the Discovery Channel. TC mark

image – John Walker

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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  • Thalia

    I have a girl on my newsfeed who is the epitome of “???” she is lich-rally just living in Australia and is always posting pictures/statuses about gallivanting around Europe or visiting her sister in China and climbing the Great Wall. I really don’t understand what she does. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=18903206 Caitlin P. Abber

    #5 always dumbfounds me. Mostly because — $? How?

    • Anonymous

      Well, a friend of mine falls in #5. I hadn’t heard from him in a while so I thought I’d send him an email see if he wanted to catch up sometime soon. Turned out he had just gone to Australia for a few months but that he would see me after.

      To get money he worked as a waiter, a photographer, assistent to a graphic designer (how he got that gig I will never know), a goat herder and a couple of other things. I am still stunned.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=18903206 Caitlin P. Abber

        I was a dog walker once. I mean, right after college. SO……..

      • Anonymous

        In a different country?

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    See.  I was smart.  I set my expectations so low that I feel pretty decent about my minor accomplishments in life.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Maybe she’s a Photoshop expert.

  • macgyver51

    The nerve of some people. Not only are they having children, they have the gall to be somewhat excited about it. Don’t they know they should be working as a barista and going to shows at underground clubs until 3am until they’re at least 33?

    • Anonymous

      Yep, all 10 of you are still boring.

  • Sophia

    I want to be one of those last people so badly

  • http://scribblesandtostitos.wordpress.com Yaa Yaa

    Hmm. No comment. I see a bit of myself in #5. And for those concerned, there is a method to our apparent “madness.” The accomplishments etc don’t get to me as much having children does / getting married and doing the whole “grown-up thing.” I mean, WHY would you do that??? lol…

  • http://twitter.com/caughtalite Berne.

    I had a feeling the five things I had in mind before reading your article would match with your list. A high school friend I hadn’t seen in years came to town and we played catch up. Among other things we talked about life after high school and what’s going on with our classmates. Unfortunately, I fall into the “???” category though your description sounds a lot better than what I’m doing. I’m not existing in Europe or Asia, but in the house I grew up in that I can’t seem to get away from. I’m on the edge of giving up on finding employment as a pharmacy technician and hop on the fast food wagon.

  • Anonymous

    So my thoughts on number 5, which proved to be the most fun of the five: I tried couch surfing after graduating college earlier this year. It was liberating, for about two weeks. Then I got sick of basically never wearing clean clothes and eating out every night. I also spent all my money. Maybe I was doing it wrong though. Yeah, I’ll go with I was doing it wrong.

  • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    like

  • Anton

    Number 5 is still not as mysterious as acquaintance living in williamsburg with no money, no friends, no phone and no job for more than two years.

  • beatrice

    Engineering and computer science is lucrative? Oh wait, I forgot, you’re a writer.

    • Anton

      That’s what I always say to my mother when she calls me on skype just to complain about my philosophy major.

  • guest

    How come drugs aren’t on here?

  • Wdeanis

    I’d like add a subcategory of number 1. Girls Becoming single mothers who suddenly switch to self-righteous Givers of Life and take an aggressive stance on social issues (“I hate commercials for ADD medications. Who are YOU to tell me my child’s creativity and endless energy is a disorder?? A greedy doctor just trying to make a quick buck, that’s who. The world makes me sick.”)

    Bitch I snorted adderalls for finals with you less than a year ago.

    • Kyle Johnson

      Awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    spawn everywhere

  • saradio

    I’m definitely #3 but I post on purpose… And love pissing off exes with my success and high school/college folks I now have NOTHING in common with. 

    In real life, I try to be more humble. 

  • Megs

    <—- Computer Science Major
    Not exactly.  See, we have people who do the running around and counting our  money for us.  We just sit back, watch, and appreciate ;)

    That part cracked me up.  I know a lot of 2's and 5's.  Haven't graduated yet but when I do I bet I will meet some 4's as well!  Heck, I will probably be one of them.  Unless of course my 'lucrative' choice of lifestyle pays off lol!

  • Blue

    I’m a 1 and a ???5.
    Except we don’t have kids and we do drugs.

  • Annonymous

    This made me realize how obnoxious I am. But come on .. what am I supposed to do about (I am #3). What is a tip to not be a dick? I can assure you it’s not intentional. I really want to be nice. Also, I am mostly jealous of people like you (the writers) and the #5s. I really _do_ want to learn what it is like being a writer and being a #5. But you are saying I come off sounding a douche. Gaaah.

    • Anton

      Being
      a bad writer is mostly about:

      -Staring
      at people on public transportation, obsessively thinking “I need
      good ideas, I need good ideas”.

      -Sitting
      in the back of clubs thinking about the uncoverable distance between
      your voice and your would-be readers.

      -Checking
      your email to see if any submissions were accepted. They weren’t.

      -Procrastinating
      on reading because you need to write more, procrastinating on writing
      because you need to read more.

      -Talking
      for hours to your friends about that amazing short story you ‘ll
      never write.

      -Getting
      drunk to muster up the courage to let your friends read what you’ve
      written. They generally respond “Cute, but it needs some work”.

      -Wondering
      why no one else likes your personal literary hero. Stalking people at
      St.Marks bookstore to see if anyone picks up her or his books.

      -Choking
      on benzos to face the crippling fear of knowing that in this business
      the more you hone your art the fewer readers you will have.

      -Trashing
      the emails from the parents you are bankrupting asking you to come
      back home.

    • beatrice

      haha uh don’t talk about work when you’re with the writers…it’s as simple as that. Frankly, I know enough #3s to know that none of them are douches

      • Anonymous

        I guess the grass is always greener. But Anton’s post makes me less jealous of writers! :)

  • Bruce H

    In short: 
    1. Have kids.
    2. Drink and screw off in your free time
    3. Find Success or…
    4. Not find success and have a “sad”
    5. watch other people live a more interesting life than you.

    Hmm. Sounds like my parent’s generation, and their parent’s generation. Except maybe they didn’t have the technology and the orientation toward self absorption to analyze it with the sensation that something profound has been discovered.

  • Kmodek

    Im 39 and single & I wonder the same things. Even when I wasn’t single, I could never imagine having enough money to get married, or to be able to be with someone for life who would never cheat or leave. How do these people manage to build or buy these huge houses?
    I have several old school friends who have traveled all over, then settled in other states. I always wonder how you just pick up, take off, and decide to live in Colorado and snowboard and camp in the mountains every weekend. How do you DO that?
    My main question is where do people get money to do these things?
    Everyone I once Hung out with are married with kids (and they’re SO BUSY you never see or hear from them), or they moved away to another state.
    I’ve been in the same place all these years, took one vacation (that was only because of a tax return helped pay for it), and my life now consists of having coffee alone at Dennys and watching Netflix, sometimes with my 13 year old (when she decides to stay home instead of at a friends house.
    I guess I’ll just always be wondering. The possibilities of an adventurous life is beyond my grasp.

    • Ant

          I’ve been completely silent on Thought Catalog but I felt compelled to give my opinion regarding your question: “How do you DO that?” But before I delve into it, you should know a bit about me: I’m 24 and I’ll be moving to Austin, TX next month from Long Island, NY, where I’ve lived most of my life. I’ll be picking up, and taking off with as few belongings as I can manage, and living with my cousin until I earn enough working my friend’s new bar to rent an apartment. 
          I also recently completed a dream of mine, an adventure of sorts that involved half a year of unconventional travel and although I haven’t been earning a great deal of cash, I earned enough to pay off college and to travel across the U.S.  
          The thing I learned from my travels and the thing that struck me about your question was how you emphasized “DO,” since that’s really the hardest part, to start doing what your gut tells you to do, and to deal with the obstacles once you encounter them. I believe most people don’t act on this feeling because they’re afraid to take a chance, afraid of the unfamiliar, even though the thing that should frighten them most is never having done anything at all.     I know we’re very different and that my example may not be what you were looking for at all, but I wanted to share with you that wondering leads to possibilities and those possibilities can lead to adventure or perhaps just simple change. It’s not beyond your grasp.           

  • ariel

    ” They are just magical creatures, operating on that age-old plan of: 1.
    Acquire one-way plane ticket 2. ??? 3. Profit. Hopefully, they’ll all
    get their own reality show on the Discovery Channel.”

    I hope we get a reality show! Finding ways to travel is really the way to go.

    • wanderlight

      i need to be one of these magical creatures.

  • Catt

    “they’re getting 401ks and other things that I’m sure are important but whose function I have yet to comprehend”
    Does anyone else get annoyed that every other article on TC makes some joke about not knowing what “adult things” like 401k’s are? It was kinda funny the first time I saw it, but not so much anymore.

    • Kdonovan94

      Yes. Arguably, being an adult, making serious choices that hold consequence and bearing responsibilities like mortgages and children are more interesting than the eternal childhood celebrated here like #s 2,4 and 5. But perhaps the writers have no experience with those things and thus can only make silly jokes about the distance of their lives from “adult things.”

      • Terentz

        Actually, I am an adult — and I made the choice not be saddled/stuck/trapped with children and a mortgage — that forces you to keep the job that provides the static and/or declining 401k.  IDK, the whole ‘tons of disposable income and freedom to do what I want when I want’ lifestyle appeals to me for some reason.  Spawning and mortgages and 401ks do not make you an adult — they make you…typical.  And if that’s your lifestyle choice that’s fine.  But, um, no, I does not make you any more ‘adult’ than someone who’s not stuck with a kid, a spouse and a house.

  • Catt

    “they’re getting 401ks and other things that I’m sure are important but whose function I have yet to comprehend”
    Does anyone else get annoyed that every other article on TC makes some joke about not knowing what “adult things” like 401k’s are? It was kinda funny the first time I saw it, but not so much anymore.

  • Anon33

    i think i would have been a number 4 if i hadn’t seized an opportunity; therefore, i am now a #1 and a #5, married and seeing the world with no children ever planned for the future.  heh.

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