Thought Catalog

How to be a 20-Something

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Be really attractive. Your acne is gone, your face has matured without having wrinkles and everything on your body is lifted naturally. Eat bagels seven days a week, binge-drink and do drugs: you’ll still look like a babe. When you turn thirty, it’ll become a different story but that’s, like, not for a really long time.

Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don’t live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with thoughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life ruiners who won’t let you borrow their car.

Go from eating delicious food at your parents’ house to eating Ragu tomato sauce over Barilla noodles. Develop an eating disorder to save money.

Move into an apartment on the corner of Overpriced and Dangerous. Sleep on a bare mattress with an Ikea comforter. Your mother talks to you about buying a top sheet and a duvet cover but feel like you’re not mature enough to own something called “duvet.”

“Date people who you know you’ll never be able to love.”

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Read the New York Times piece, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” Feel exposed and humiliated. Share it on your Facebook with the caption: “Um….” Your friends will comment “Too real” and that will be the end of that.

Work at a coffee shop but feel hopeful about your career in advertising, writing, whatever. Remember that you’re young and that the world is your oyster. Everything is possible, you still have so much to see and hear. You went to a good school and did good things. Figure if you’re not going to be successful, who the hell is?

Date people who you know you’ll never be able to love. See someone for three months for no other reason than because it’s winter and you want to keep warm by holding another body. Date a Republican just so you can say you dated a Republican.

Eventually all these nobodies will make you crave a somebody. Have a real relationship with someone. Go on vacations together, exchange house keys, cry in their arms after a demoralizing day at work. Think about marrying them and maybe even get engaged. Regardless of the outcome, feel proud of yourself for being able to love someone in a healthy way.

Start your twenties with a lot of friends and leave with a few good ones. What happened? People faded away into their careers and relationships. Fights were had and never resolved. Shit happens.

Think of yourself at twenty and hanging out with people who didn’t mean a thing to you. Think about writing papers, about being promiscuous, about trying new things. Think of yourself now and your face looking different and your body feeling different and how everything is just different.

Form the habits that will stick with you forever. Drink your coffee with two sugars and skim milk every morning. Buy a magazine every Friday. Enjoy spending money on candles, smoke pot on Saturdays, watch the television before bed.

Move into a bigger apartment on the corner of Mature and Gentrification and finally buy a duvet cover. Limit your drug-use. If you find yourself unable to do so, start to wonder if you have a problem.

Have your parents come to your place for Christmas. Set the table, make the ham, wear a sophisticated outfit, This will all mean so much at the time.

Think about having children when you stop acting like a child. This may not ever happen.

Maybe this is assuming too much. Maybe this is generalizing. Maybe society uses age as an unrealistic marker for growth. Maybe. Still feel the anxiety on your 30th birthday and think to yourself, “Oh shit, I’m no longer a 20-something.” TC mark

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    • http://www.facebook.com/noahtourjee Noah Tourjee

      I don't get it, wheres the stalking, occultism, and psychotic episodes?!

    • Chris

      I relate to the part about sleeping on a bare mattress.

    • http://hbgwhem.tumblr.com/ hbgwhem.tumblr.com

      Pretty sure this is a transcript of the graduation speech that girl gave in 'Twilight: Oh Shit There's an Eclipse Coming: Don't Look at it or You'll Need to Buy New Eyes'. This speech might apply to everyone, not just 20 somethings. When he heard it, Edward Cullen seemed to be like, “Yeah, no totally, you just described me, nail on the head,” and he's a 140something.

      • onlysaturdays?

        'nail on the head'… a terrifying image for any vampire!

    • http://twitter.com/camille_salome Camille Salome

      that was good! loved it

    • http://popserial.tumblr.com stephen

      Nice

    • Sarah

      Ryan O'Connell, I am honestly obsessed with you. Everything you write is better than the last. Truthfully when I open my Google Reader I skim through all the Thought Catalog entries just to see if you wrote one of them. If only there was a way to more completely consume your internet presence. <3 etc.

      • Ryan O'Connell

        THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

      • MalindaSpitz

        Who subscribes to Thought Catalog by RSS?

    • http://twitter.com/brownnnbear Jocelyn

      too real.

      • Chris

        Snowden Wright?

    • http://twitter.com/_justvibing @_justvibing

      bro, you did it

    • Jin

      I grew up in north korea and this really helped me understand what it's like to be a 20-somebody, as you said~~ thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/rawiya rawiya

      Too real, for real.

    • http://twitter.com/t_baugh Travis Baugh

      um….

    • Snoop Dogg

      Only on Saturdays!?

      • Blissmastree

        hahahahha i know, it seems totally impossible

    • Austin

      sluts sleep on bare mattresses, slut

    • Lol

      i love you van wilder!!!!!!!

    • Wikileaks

      this shit it suicide, bro. if you wanna be 20-something, smoke a fucking cig and take a shot. let your shit go. freaks

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505759069 Julian Tully Alexander

      Fuck…

    • A.M. THOMAS

      i don't get it…

    • http://thevagabondisland.tumblr.com REI KOZ

      I LIKE THE WORD “DUVET”.

      THIRTY YEARS OF AGE; THE BEGGINING OF THE END OF YOUTH.

      “Age is just a number.”

      -Chloë Moretz-

      BUT WHAT IS THE POINT OF “MARRIAGE”? PFFFT…

    • http://kid-eaa.tumblr.com arnie

      I don't use a top sheet. What's the point anyway? 23 feels good

      • kittymeetsgoat

        Keeps your body oils off your blankets. You wash and change the sheets and they keep your blankets/comforters cleaner and lasting longer. If you care about that sort of thing.

        • http://kid-eaa.tumblr.com arnie

          I'm just a dirty 20-something I suppose. Jk. I actually do use a top sheet most of the time, just not when I wrote that comment. I changed them last night, putting on the flannel with both sheets. I wash my comforters occasionally too, I'd say I care somewhat.

        • kittymeetsgoat

          Not passing any judgment, just answering the question you asked.

        • http://kid-eaa.tumblr.com arnie

          I'm appreciative :) thanks yo

        • http://kittymeetsgoat.tumblr.com Kitty Meets Goat

          I was raised to be very frugal and careful so I know about that sort of thing. Ha. And my 20's are over.

        • http://kid-eaa.tumblr.com arnie

          Right on, that's cool. I'm just beginning my twenties. woo

    • Wariov

      Scary.

    • http://exitclov.tumblr.com exitclov

      I feel “exposed and humiliated,” for certain.

    • Ocean_vuong

      This post came off very classless and ignorant to me. The 20-something profile you speak of only pertains to upper middle-class white people who grew up in the suburbs stricken by ennui and now want to “live their life” as “individuals”. This is not to say that there isn't a minority bourgeoisie who identify with this lifestyle, but surely this is not the how the majority of people in their 20's live, especially people of color.

      It might be funny to laugh and feel exposed or whatever, but the fact is so many privileged young people are completely oblivious to the world outside of their personal every-day comfort.

      I am 22 and was born in Viet Nam. I currently live in NYC on my own. I am a poet and a writer and I don't take drugs or drink because I value my artistic mind and its ability to create. I to school full-time and edit for a literary journal and have stay up deep into the night to make my art. My family can't afford fund my education so I'm on scholarship. What I rally want to do is drop out, work in a bookstore and write poems all day, but I can't because I have get a career and buy my mother and little brother a home of their own so my mom can stop working in a nail salon and inhale toxic fumes while cleaning the feet of rich white women. I have a duty and a debt to repay my parents' sacrifices for coming to this country. I value my friendships and relationship i have with my past lovers and we are all still friends, I have no desire to date a Republican just to boast about it.

      Please just be more knowledgable and try not to over generalization any age group. Being 20-something is hard. It's no joke.

      • Who cares?

        Geez, get over yourself.

        • R. U. Serious

          “Get over yourself” should be directed in response to the author, not to this well-reasoned call for perspective.

        • Who cares?

          Oh boo hoo. Read it with a grain of salt guys — we don't need a thesis on it.

        • howidislikeyou

          white. privilege. thank you for showing up.

        • Who cares?

          Neither white nor privileged, but nice of you to assume.

      • Reality

        I hope you are able to buy a house for your family. Living in NYC as a writer will surely achieve that goal soon. Good luck with that!
        Maybe this article isn't so off-kilt of how 20-somethings think… we're all apparently high on something

      • Dee

        Okay stop playing the race card. I am a 20 something black female that grew up in the Bronx and the gist is basically the same. Move out, struggle, make progress toward your career and your other goals (like helping your family get a safer place to stay and be able to support them) then mature into the person you are going to become. Stop taking it so damn literal. yeah you're a minority but so am i, it doesn't change anything and neither will your complaining. get off your high horse, it's a blog for God's sake. Not scripture in the Bible.

        • Ratatouille

          I don't know, I think that this blog is up there with the Genesis or stories about Moses in hilarity.

      • bert macklin

        hahahaha oh how self righteous…

      • I'm cool, trust me

        Well guess what, I can’t relate to your empoverished Vietnam background so how dare you write such a classless and ignorant comment and force me to read about a lifestyle that doesn’t describe me personally. Get a sense of humor. Not everything written is meant to speak to you personally.

    • K-daddy

      Smoke pot on Saturday? Who does that? Nice pacing – wish I was a writer. Can't wait for your insights when you get old – – say 25 or so. Kristy's Dad

    • Ocean Vuong

      This post came off very classless and ignorant to me. The 20-something profile you speak of only pertains to upper middle-class white people who grew up in the suburbs stricken by ennui and now want to “live their life” as “individuals”. This is not to say that there isn't a minority bourgeoisie who identify with this lifestyle, but surely this is not the how the majority of people in their 20's live, especially people of color.

      It might be funny to laugh and feel “exposed” or whatever, but the fact is that so many privileged young people are completely oblivious to the world outside of their personal every-day comfort.

      I am 22 and was born in Viet Nam. I currently live in NYC on my own. I am a poet and a writer and I don't take drugs or drink because I value my artistic mind and its ability to create. I go to school full-time and edit for a literary journal and have stay up deep into the night, sometimes the morning, to make my art. My family can't afford to fund my education so I'm here only on scholarship. What I rally want to do is drop out, work in a bookstore and write poems all day, but I can't because I have get a career and buy my mother and little brother a home of their own so my mom can stop working in a nail salon and inhale toxic fumes while cleaning the feet of rich white women. I have a duty and a debt to pay my parents for sacrificing so much for to come to this country. I value my friendships and the relationship I have with my past lovers and we are all still friends. I have no desire to date a Republican just to boast about it.

      Please try to be more knowledgable and not over generalize any age group. Being 20-something is hard. It's no joke.

      • http://www.facebook.com/noahtourjee Noah Tourjee

        You should write your own How To Be a @20 -Something! I want to read it Really bad! I'm sure it would include every single person's experience and that would be the best part! Because you wouldn't just be writing an article from your personal point of view (who wants that??) but you would be writing a scientific explanation of what everyone experiences going through their 20's which would be awesome on this blog!!!!!!!!!!

        • Ocean Vuong

          Noah,

          Everybody has a right to their own opinion, but that doesn't mean we can go cheering the genius of the KKK.

          The fact is, there shouldn't even be a “How to be 20-something” article when, as a society, have no idea on how to be human being. Very few people from our generation are reading scientific articles, they are reading blogs like this. And because of that, the author should at least attempt to not be so narrow in his thoughts take up the challenge of informing those who need it most. It is this kind of deliberate self-stupididty you are advocating that makes our generation appear so idiotic. Why accept a space for ignorance, even if it is a casual culture blog? Why allow yourself to be submerged with such simple and futile ideas? Why advocate your own deprecation?

        • Owen

          I agree eff the KKK.

        • http://www.facebook.com/noahtourjee Noah Tourjee

          Well, 4 ppl 'liked' my comment and only 10 ppl 'liked' yours Ocean, so Do The Math. Besides, I am anxiously awaiting your How To, PLEASE e-mail it to me!!!!

        • Bensaucier

          Ryan can't speak for twenty somethings, but you can speak for society.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O4N52YW4Y5CAKIWQGYZHQEQAPI Kevin K

          Yes I REALLY want to know exactly what it means to “be a human being”. Sorry we haven't dealt with genocide. Sorry war hasn't been a prevalent experience for this generation. Sorry we never really have to be hungry. Sorry we have financial security. Sorry we had a decent public school system, which allowed us to further ourselves. Sorry we have risen to the point that our biggest issues can be “where should we order pizza from?”. Yeah we feel sorry for those less fortunate, and a great majority of people donate to charities. We should not get criticized for finding this article humorous, because it relates to us. Should we go on less-fortunate people's blogs and bitch at them for not going to school, for being lazy, for not trying, and for being an overall societal sore?

        • C.W.

          No, most people don't donate to charity. And no one's asking you to apologize for getting luckier (although you may want to apologize for being a jackass). Just fucking acknowledge that the experience of able white upwardly mobile privilege is actually NOT the experience of anyone who doesn't meet those qualifiers, and those experiences are valid and worth talking about too.

        • edify

          Your parents probably told you, “You can be anything you want to be!” You probably think your schools and institutions treat everyone the same. You've probably only ever had to think of yourself, your life, and how others affect YOUR experiences. You probably also think you, your friends, and you families just 'worked harder' than everybody else's to achieve what you have, too.

          It's almost endearing how naive you are and how ignorant you sound. But, alas, I suppose you're right; of course “to be a human being” means to worry about where your delivery pizza comes from. It just means you're that kind of human being.

          I mean… I love how defensive you are about your privileged life: I can laugh at a vacuous, self-absorbed blog if I want to! How dare someone attempt to make me view my privileged experience any differently! So sorry for being born luckier than him and holier than thou!

          Go on, Kevin. Be your pretentious, self-serving self, and procreate so that more of your kind can maintain the status quo, worrying about what pizza delivers to your house on the hill.

      • oweng

        I agree, it just gets annoying when people start making pretentious generalisations like this. Hey I know, how about we just agree that there are a bunch of different people out there and there's no need to write amateur crap about our 'lifestyles' and what it's like to live on the corner of 'Overpriced and Dangerous' (whoa). Isn't there more interesting/important/fun stuff to write about? And what's with the sanctimonious style of the article (“try being gay, realize you weren't really gay and laugh about it with ur friends, buy some vintage clothes, read charles bukowski”)? Just by virtue of the writing style, which comes across as pretentiously fatalistic, you inevitably get some people who wet their pants and respond with crap like 'too real' and 'deep'. In writing this kind of bullsh*t you've already squeezed out all the meaning of life, of its potential diversity, leaving only a shallow, materialistic shell of an experience that any jackass from a relatively wealthy background is going to relate to.

        • Ocean Vuong

          Amen. Thank you for attempting to be a better human being.

        • ryan

          Well put. And with that said it is important to realize that some writers write for the world, others write for other writers with similar tastes, and the worst simply write for themselves. It is very easy to tell who is who.

      • sarah

        I don't think that the writer of this is saying that by being twenty you have to live in a shit apartment, do drugs, drink excessively and work in a coffee shop.
        I think more, the writer is saying that when you're in your twenties you're young, you're still learning, and you can still bounce back. So do what you love, take risks, explore, because this is the time in your life where most people don't have the restrictions of a family, or a white collar job or whatever so you can actually manage to go on an adventure.
        Or maybe that's just what I get out of this.

      • Sabidd

        I totally agree with you, and get all of your points. These kind of things are only meant for fun though, take it with a pinch of salt.

      • lolwut?

        So… Your working on your career as a writer. OH WAIT 20-SOMETHING.

        Even if you don't identify with all of it, you're definitely part of some of it.

        • Grammar Police

          “You're,” not “Your.”

        • fyi

          YOUR turn to get a life. Time to get off the high horse and stop policing internet blog comments.

      • Get over yourself

        Look, it's fine to feel sorry for yourself , and if it makes you feel better, I suppose you have the right to write an embittered and sobering response to a light hearted article. But it's probably a good thing that you need to work a real job though, because based on your humorless worldview and dim rhetoric, you probably compose truly awful poetry anyways.

      • AverageAfrican

        Damn those rich white women, paying your mother's salary. Maybe those nail chemicals will allow her to hallucinate just enough so as to be able to remember the good old days when she was contracting parasites through her feet while working barefoot in the rice paddy.

        • averageamerican

          That's probably what they said about your ancestors when they came across the Atlantic. Damn those rich white cotton farmers for bringing your great-great-grandmother to America, the land of milk and honey. Unless, of course, you are South African.. then you probably were a slave owner anyway.

    • Gecko

      Yay. I'm a white 20-something. Thanks for telling me how to live my life :P

      If you couldn't tell, that was sarcasm.

      For all those who like to stroke a group with the same brush (aka; stereotyping) I have a group of friends, who I value very much, who are also white-middle class and do not fall into a single thing mentioned in this article.

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