When it starts to happen to you, it’s gradual. It seems only yesterday that one or two of your high school friends were getting engaged and you scoffed because “we’re so young” and “they’re really going to regret it.” But, the years go by. Your first job out of college becomes your second and third, and you’re edging ever-closer to your 10 year high school reunion. Then your social media feeds change — they’re suddenly littered with engagement announcements (especially around the holidays) and you even know some people who are trying to get pregnant. You’re 25. And if it’s true that nobody likes you when you’re 23, then it’s equally valid that nobody’s patient (for you) at 25. It’s all “what are you doing?” “Where are you going?” “who are you with?” and “where are my grandkids?” And you’re here saying “slow down!” because you’re not yet ready to be in your late 20s.
25 is full of a smattering of successes and failures amongst your peers. Whereas when you just graduated college, you were all wobbly-kneed and full of wide-eyed baby bird syndrome, when you reach your mid to late 20’s…people expect you to grow up. Some of us still have not graduated beyond that uncertainty and have clung to the millennial stereotype of posting Instagram photos while you eat cereal in your pajamas (either in your parents’ home or a crappy apartment with several roommates). But it’s also the age when you can have a conversation with a friend who makes double or triple the salary that you do. An acquaintance of mine (she’s only 26!) just bought her first house, and I personally barely have enough in my bank account to pay my student loans (whoever said writing is a lucrative career was well-meaning, but delusional).
Besides the wildly-varying degrees of success that start to become all-too apparent at age 25, there’s also the now-foreign world of adult dating. Looking back on the carefree college party hookups and college boyfriends, it all seems innocent now. Back then, you were just…whatever. Sleeping around, hooking up, dating, or holding hands with your boyfriend across the cafeteria table. It seemed adult then, but really, there were no consequences, so it was child’s play. Now…dating seems to be heavy with a handful of unspoken and verbalized expectations, assumptions, and possibilities. At this point in life, whether you’re still going out to bars and swiping on Tinder, or trying on monogamy for size…there’s this real possibility: “Anyone I date could potentially become my life partner.” Every boyfriend/girlfriend will become either become your forever, or leave your life altogether. It’s a concept that was always true, but starts to become a little more real each passing birthday. In college, real adult life seemed far away. Now, how are you supposed to start finding love AGAIN now that you’ve successfully found your first grey hair? (or two, or three).
And wherever you are on the road to being ready to “settle down” or “settle up” as I like to call it (think positive!), you know that you can’t just date anymore. Unless there’s a specific arrangement and understanding, after six months of being together with someone, questions will come up. “Is this the person for me? Does she think I mean forever? What if he’s moving faster than I’d like?” And it doesn’t help that likely, neither one of you feel like you’re really adults yet (mortgages, loans, taxes…they’re all pretty new or foreign concepts).
What we have to keep telling ourselves is that dating, and life itself, moves at a different pace than our constantly-updated Instagram feeds: it’s slower than the wifi, but short enough that you’ll regret wasting any precious moments on wistfully sculpting someone else’s definition of the perfect 25th year. Or even your 30th or 40th year. It’s okay if you’re not ready to get married yet, or if you don’t really know what you want to be when you grow up. Life is what happens when you’re busy taking selfies, or grumbling over someone else’s engagement photo shoot.