1. A few old friends you haven’t seen in a while come to visit your apartment, which is both centrally-located and relatively affordable. None of them make passive-aggressive comments about the commute, and all of them give some compliment about the décor that is specific enough to be sincere. You apologize for how messy things look only because you know you spent ample time cleaning it, and someone makes a comment about how their place is a mess compared to this. You feel a small surge of power. Someone notices the candle set you got on super-sale at Anthropologie, and you say “Thanks, I got them from Anthropologie,” and immediately follow it up with “on super-sale.”
The wine and finger foods you’ve laid out for everyone prove to be the perfect amount to keep everyone talking while still leaving enough room for dinner, and you field several compliments about your Crock Pot pulled pork, to which you reply that you “made it in the Crock Pot,” and give a short spiel about the benefits of Crock Pot ownership when you are working a 9 to 5. Two friends seem sold on the slow cooker idea, and you briefly consider a career hawking cooking products on HSN.
After your friends leave one of them texts you, “Awesome night. You’ve really got a great place.” You feel a flush of pride, then turn to your kitchen (which has both a pot rack and casement windows) to get started on the cleaning. You put on an episode of your favorite podcast while you do dishes, and consider the evening a great success.
2. You are meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time at a quiet brunch spot in your city. Everyone is a bit stilted at first, but when you take a risk and order a bloody mary instead of coffee, your significant other’s mother responds with “I could go for a drink,” and orders one of her own. Everyone immediately feels more at ease, and the conversation over omelettes and fruit salad becomes markedly more natural.
They ask what you do for a living and you explain, careful to make it sound as important and legitimate as you possibly can, and they respond with curious, genuine questions that show both an interest in what you do and a total disinterest in judgment. They never make any allusions towards the money you make, where you fall on the career ladder, or any disappointment that you are not more “impressive” somehow. When everyone finishes their drink, your significant other’s father orders another round and makes a joke about “Sunday Funday.”
You look across the table at your significant other and they give you a small wink and rub your knee under the table, acknowledging that this is going extremely well. Their mother gives you a small but sincere compliment on your outfit, and asks what the two of you have planned for the rest of the day. She suggests a trip to your favorite museum and the three of you head off, slightly buzzed, to go check out paintings for a few hours.
3. You landed a job at a company you have followed and loved for years, in a role that leaves you both fulfilled professionally and with enough work-life balance that you feel you are getting to enjoy “being young,” whatever that means. When it comes time to plan your summer vacation, you are torn between genuinely wanting to stick around the office because you are so immersed in your work, and wanting to travel somewhere you’ve never been because you are finally financially capable of doing so. You send an email to a close friend proposing a coupon you found for a flight and hotel to the south of Spain for nearly two weeks, and she replies to the email within five minutes, with the word “YES” in all caps, followed by a stream of vacation-themed emoji.
You have a lunch meeting with your boss (which you do once a month to catch up, because your boss both trusts you enough to give you freedom and space, but values your time to talk openly and collaborate on ideas) where you plan to request your time off. You are hesitant to bring up the news of your vacation, as this will be the first time you’ve taken off work since starting nearly a year ago, and you don’t want to appear un-dedicated to the job you love so much. But you ask, and your boss is immediately excited and enthusiastic about your trip. “That sounds awesome,” she says, and jokingly asks you to bring her back some sangria.
When you email her to formalize your vacation request later in the day, she responds with an email saying “Enjoy it – you’ve earned it!” followed by a GIF of Aziz Ansari dancing on Parks and Rec. You meet up with your girlfriend over a glass of happy hour sangria after work to finalize your plans for your summer trip.
4. You decide, after years of hemming and hawing about it “not being the right time,” to finally get that pet you’ve been wanting your whole life. You announce to a few close friends that you are “finally taking the plunge” and actively looking for a dog to adopt, and have a few pre-emptive conversations about “getting a small dog” that won’t be as impacted by the fact that you live in an apartment. You confront a few nay-sayers who say they’d never be ready for the responsibility, but your pet-owning friends, whom you’ve always viewed as being almost mystically adult and mature somehow, tell you that it will be great, and the dog-owners insist that you will have to go on puppy play dates with them. You feel excited to become part of this puppy-owning club, which seems like a rare natural way to make new friends in your 20s outside of work. You also feel that this decision will push you into a new bracket of maturity, and look forward to having something to care about other than your own immediate needs.
You see a post on Petfinder for a rescue that is the exact size you were looking for, who has a mildly tragic backstory but seems to still believe in love and be ready to find his new forever family. He is a mix of breeds – they aren’t exactly sure what – but he possesses that almost cartoonishly spunky and happy quality that reminds you of some of your favorite dogs from childhood books. You go out to visit him at the foster home just outside your city, and immediately fall in love. He comes up to you right away and flops on his back to get his belly pet, and proceeds to follow you around for the rest of the visit, never straying once. You take him home on the spot, and spend the first night back at your place cuddling with him on the couch and showing him his new kingdom.
The pup becomes the love of your life as the two of you spend the summer going on adventures, meeting new friends at the dog park, and spending hours walking around, discovering parts of your city that you were never motivated to visit before when you didn’t have a reason to take spontaneous walks throughout the day. You find yourself, over dinner one night a few months later, encouraging a friend who is hesitating about adopting a pet yourself. “You have to do it,” you’ll say, “It’s hands-down the best decision I ever made.”
5. Over dinner one night, your best friend announces that she is engaged. “You’re the first person I’ve told,” she says, “I haven’t even called my parents yet.” She shows you the ring, which she was keeping in her purse so as not to spoil the surprise, and the two of you get misty-eyed together, and order a spontaneous bottle of champagne to celebrate. Over the glasses of champagne, you call her boyfriend (whom you love dearly) and weepily congratulate him, as well as jokingly remind him that, if he hurts your girl, you know where he lives.
She promises that she will not be “one of those brides,” and that, while she hopes you will be her maid of honor, it will be the most chill experience ever. You nod and smile, but feel a little worried that she will become your Engaged Friend, and that, at least for the year to follow, everything will be focused around the Big Day.
Over the course of the year, she makes limited social media posts once close friends and family have been informed, but otherwise rarely talks about it publicly. With you, she has a few conversations here and there about key decisions she’s making, but as she’s having a small ceremony, it’s not a very involved process, and her mother is doing most of the work. You honestly don’t even realize the day is approaching until she asks you to get your dress. (She has three bridesmaids, and all are asked to get whatever dress they like in the navy blue color she picked out.) You pick a dress that is perfectly flattering to your body, and which you found on sale for 40 dollars at a Nordstrom Rack.
For her bachelorette weekend, the group of bridesmaids take a lowkey, inexpensive trip to a beach house one of her family members owns and has lent her for the long weekend. You enjoy yourselves without blowing up your budgets, and feel excited for the ceremony to come. When it does, it’s lowkey, intimate, and very fun. You give a teary-eyed speech and everyone dances to a playlist of everyone’s favorite songs. In total, you spent only a few hundred dollars and thoroughly enjoyed yourself, and made out with a cute groomsman whom you are currently dating.