What 20-Something Has Their Dream Job And Dream Relationship?

Sorry guys. I’m wearing my Carrie Bradshaw pants today. They just fit so good right now for some reason.

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with my friend and we were talking about where we felt like we were in our lives. Yeah, it was that kind of lunch. Not the fun, flirty, gossipy kind but the “This may end in tears so we should probs get some dessert” kind. I told her that I felt like I finally got my professional life in order this year but as a result, the world took a giant dump on my personal life. (Which is interesting in itself because my professional life requires me to write about my personal life. Ugh, this has been a really weird year and I’ll tell you more about that later.) My friend, meanwhile, is in a great relationship. The kind that seems too good to be true and they’ve been dating for forever. Honestly, if they got married tomorrow, I would be like, “That’s not a mistake. Go you! Can I be the the flower girl?” Wonderful relationship aside though, everything else is sort of a mess. Her job sucks, her friendships are lackluster. And we both basically said in unison: “I would trade everything for what you have.”

In a way, this isn’t surprising. We always want what we can’t have, right? And what I’ve learned so far about being in my twenties is that it’s all about trying to attain the things we desire, whether it be our dream job or a dream relationship. We always seem to be chasing after SOMETHING. It seems to me though that we’ll never be completely satisfied until we have both our professional and personal life in order. They say that the trifecta of happiness is comprised of good friendships, a lover, and work. Why does one always seem to be missing from the trifecta? The one missing link is what fuels us, what spawns the success of so many films, music, and books. It’s what keeps us going out and buying stuff and waking up in the morning. Or in some cases, pressing the snooze button.

We’re taught that eventually we’ll achieve the trifecta. I mean, some of our parents did, right? They had good jobs, good love, and friends they invited over for parties. So if they could do it, so can we! But what I’d like to know is when? How long do twentysomethings have to wait for the perfect job and relationship? Is it strictly meant for thirtysomethings — a reward for enduring a fun but punishing decade?

I tried to think of who I knew that had already had the dream relationship and the dream job. I thought real hard and could only come up with one person. She’s only 24 but I bet if you asked her if she “had it all” she would say no. Why? Because “having it all” is a mostly BS concept. The culture that we were raised in have made that an impossible goal. No matter how much success we achieve, people are always going to want what someone else has.

The desire for balance is understanding though. Maybe it’s not about having a “dream job” and the perfect boyfriend/girlfriend but about having a little bit of each. If you become a workaholic and spend no time watering your social life, you’re going to be miserable. If you’re a social butterfly with no job prospects, you’re also going to hate your life a little bit. But balance is elusive for people in their twenties. It’s hard to be secure financially, have a job you don’t want to kill yourself at, and have a healthy amount of sex. Is it not? Am I wrong here? Is everyone secretly satisfied in all aspects of their lives and I missed the memo? I hope not.

They say the key to finding happiness beyond romance and your professional life is to find happiness within yourself. Um, this is a NO DOY concept. But I also think people can be happy with themselves and still get sad when they aren’t in a nice relationship or have a great job. That doesn’t make them weak and have underlying issues. That just makes them human. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Kylie

    I’m 23, I have my masters and my dream job that pays extremely well, I have friends, I have a great boyfriend I’ve been with for 5 years. Stop making excuses, its possible to be completely happy. 

    • hannah

      suck a fat one, kylie

      • Guest

        Kylie has been with the same person since she was 18, hello snoozefest

      • future gopher

        But a girlfriend provides effortless sex (and so much more :p).  If Kylie’s happy, then good for her; she deserves 100% to be happy.  In the fall of 2010 when I was going through job recruiting, I didn’t get any offers and was turned down by my dream company to work for.  I was still dating the now ex-gf at the time and was so caught up in getting rejected career wise that I was so stupid to let that bog me down.  Even though she was awesome, I wasn’t ever completely happy with myself because I had no job.  In the April of 2011, I landed my job as a junior in college and felt this sense of accomplishment that I landed my dream job AND I had an awesome girlfriend.  It was the best feeling in the world.  But she broke up with me four months ago and today was the first day of work at the dream job.  I had nobody to call after to say how my day went after I would always call her after my interviews.  I would still trade my dream job away for her in an instant.  Money is just money but I’m a big believe in love and relationships as corny as that may sound.  Money is nothing after I’m dead but what is something is to spend your life with the people you love most.  Thank you Ryan for always writing pieces that reflect exactly what I’m going through.  

      • http://twitter.com/straponheart Evan Hatch


    • mookie

      yeah, except everyone fucking hates you.

    • Yeah right, sweetie.

      how’s that secret eating disorder working out?

    • mel

      stop bragging, moron.  have a little more compassion for those going through something, as you undoubtedly will sometime in your life.

      • Ellie

        you’re assuming nothing bad happened to her. why?

    • Allie

      Wow, judge much? Consider yourself lucky. I’m 22, have a top-10 undergrad education, amazing job, amazing friends, and no relationship to speak of. People can be perfectly happy with their lives, and pleased with their trajectory, while still hoping for more- some kind of fulfillment that just hasn’t been found yet. Be a little more kind next time you speak.

      • http://twitter.com/straponheart Evan Hatch

        I’m not sure how you are criticizing kylie because you seemed to say the exact same thing as her

    • Maggie

      Happy or content? I’m 24, got a job that pays decent yet has nothing to do with my Masters (which in turn has put me about 30K in debt), only just found myself in a really good relationship and while I have friends, I don’t necessarily see them all the time which isn’t always a bad thing. And I’m pretty content.

      I don’t think this as the checklist of what’s defined as ‘happiness’ cuz as far I can see, happiness is a work in progress for life. 

    • ROC

      why is everyone hating on kylie?  because she didn’t answer ryan’s question  (the title of this essay) they way they wanted to? smh..

    • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

      My boyfriend has an ass like Michelangelo’s David (I win).

    • ariel

       You know, sometimes things happen to people that are out of their control. They get sick, loved ones pass away, life steps in and does as it feels. Telling people to stop making excuses lacks compassion for people who may be on a different path, perhaps had unforeseeable adversities.

  • Guest

    thank you for that last paragraph. i am so happy with where my life is right now and how i’ve grown up in the past 5 years. really happy. and my job is awesome. and i LOVE my friends. i have amazing friends. but i haven’t been able to have a great relationship and that sucks. and it sucks even more when people say “YOU need to make yourself  happy”. but you can be happy and still upset that something is missing. so, there.

  • Sara

    This is the story of my life right now, so that last paragraph was nice to read. Also, Kylie, congrats on your happiness. For the rest of us – chin up!

  • Constance

    Thank you for this post. I’m sure a lot of people in their twentysomethings are always wondering where and when their jobs/relationships are going to happen. That last paragraph is exactly what people should be thinking about.

  • http://twitter.com/joysteeq joysteeq

    It is funny how people in their 20s dare to say they understand the concept of happiness while people in their 50s -60s etc. are still trying…

    • Guy

      happiness isn’t dependent on age.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty Sure Alexander the Great had both of those things…

    • Anonymous

      Pretty sure Caesar had both those things.

  • Brie

    This was SO nice to read. Thank you for writing it!  

    I often feel stupid for complaining since I, unlike many, have A job. But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one looking towards when I might get to have it all. 

  • Ellie

    I majored in art and education (oh, an applicable. college degree….) I got the dream job right out of college.  I decided to move cities and found a second version of the dream job.   I was never searching for love, instead it found me by way of my best friend.  We have long-term goals together. We will be moving overseas in the next few years (since my dream job grants me this flexibility). It’s all about perspective.  It’s not hard or impossible; instead, it is amazing.  I am 27 years old.  GL :)

    • J.


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

      Ellie, you’re just setting yourself up for disaster.  This is how Lifetime movies always begin…you’re going to be diagnosed in cancer in a month, your plane is going to crash and you’re going to have to resort to cannibalism, or you’re going to discover your man getting a little something with Ryan.  You’ve been forewarned!

      • Ellie

        I’ll remember this, and you, Gregory Costa!

        J…My life hasn’t been without the curled-on-the-floor-crying moments.  I was handed some pretty shitty experiences in HS and early college. #whateverhashtagfitsthisstatement

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

        Not being forgotten means a lot to me.  Thank you. 

    • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

      Life isn’t done with you yet.

      • Ellie

        Did I say it was??  Ryan asked a question about 20-somethings, not… forever-somethings.  I know how shitty life can be.  I’m not oblivious like a few commenters might assume.

    • Guestropod

      It’s really easy to say ‘it’s all about perspective’ from, what, the point of view of someone whose life is working out on multiple important fronts.  

      • Guestropod

        I mean, what does that even mean?

  • Asdfghjkl

    I’m posting anonymously because I have all three and have never been happier with life :)

  • Annie

    “Is it strictly meant for thirtysomethings — a reward for enduring a fun but punishing decade?” Right now at 31 I’m asking myself if it’s something meant for fortysomethings. See, we can do this forever!

  • Anonymous

    0/3.  I’m doing well!

    • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

      So say we all.

  • Pointless

    “They say the key to finding happiness beyond romance and your professional life is to find happiness within yourself.  But I also think people can be happy with themselves and still get sad
    when they aren’t in a nice relationship or have a great job.”  

    MY THESIS STATEMENT, by Ryan O’Connell:  anyone is capable of getting sad.

    Really groundbreaking piece of work you have here, Ry-guy.  Someone give this guy a Pulitzer!

    • relax

      Dude…I don’t think ryan is trying to write a “groundbreaking piece of work.” I enjoy ryan’s writing because he speaks very honestly about things that everyone can relate to and in a way that IS relatable. The simplicity in his writing is what makes it so fantastic.

    • Crazygal4000

      so easy to hide behind anonymity!

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    I finally have my dream relationship. but I do find that my dream career (which is, um, writing for internet blogs since magazines are kind of over) has started to suffer. I’m not a good writer when I’m this happy, and I want to spend all my free time doing romance stuff with my dream boyfriend instead of working on becoming a better writer.

  • DeepThinker

    Isn’t it like, more about the journey, man, rather than the destination?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have my dream job or a dream relationship, but I’m happy as can be… Don’t let exterior parameters determine your happiness…

  • Guest

    Daniel Radcliffe. LOL.

  • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

    and what if someone has no work life (job), no social life (friends), and no significant other/hasn’t been on a date in over six months (forever alone)? I think if you addressed THAT demographic your article would come off less naive.

    • Anton

      Ambition: obsessive worrying about eating and fucking.

      • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

        somewhere — “What will it be for dinner tonight, safe sex or soup? I can only afford one!”

  • http://twitter.com/brooklyknight David Trahan

    I hope this dream does come true for as many people as possible. I wouldn’t say everything in my life is as perfect as it could ever be, but it’s pretty awesome. I have an amazing job that I look forward to going to every day. I love my work and my coworkers. I make great money. I have a wonderful family. I have an almost too busy social life, but it doesn’t get in the way of my ambitions. To top it all off, I’m in a 5.5 year relationship that still feels brand new. My sex life is great. The love and the spark is still there.

    Don’t listen to nay sayers. Just try harder. 

    Maybe it’s a gay guy thing… (haha)

  • Guest

    Honestly, if I see ONE more article with ’20-something’ in the title…

    • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

      Personally, I have ONE more year left. Then I must go on the “Logan’s Run.”

  • http://twitter.com/brooklyknight David Trahan

    and I’m 24

  • http://twitter.com/nawasaka Becky To

    A lot of these are just socially constructed standards. As they say, do what you love and fuck the rest.

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

    To all of you posting how great your life is, I think I speak for many when I want to ask you to stop.  I prefer my salt on…things…other than wounds.  I’d much prefer hearing how much people’s lives suck so my life seems a little more dreamy.
     Go ahead.  Who has the suckiest life here?  Liberal arts majors, where are you?  You start this off.

    • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

      I am a 28 year English major. I quit my job December 1st. I had a decent paying job (which has enabled me to live off some saved money for a few months), but I couldn’t take it anymore. I have one friend whom I put the weight of my world upon, 
      no love interest, no work life, no work prospect, I keep waking up around 3pm and I’m insanely irritable if I don’t, and I am deeply introverted.

      But know what? I quit smoking 40 days ago. 

      • Ellie

        Congrats on the quitting smoking.  I hope your situation improves. Are you happy, besides the irritableness? Have you considered teaching esl in Asia where there is a plethora of schools interested in native English speakers and our language?

      • http://twitter.com/vincesetzer vincesetzer

        Thanks. The though has crossed my mind. I know people who have done that. I still have some time to weigh my options (not done with school just yet – will be by end of summer ’12).

      • wawa

        Hi, your story sounds very inspiring. Common, but inspiring. Also, yes, I’m with Ellie on the gratz for quitting smoking. I know it sounds tough, but at twentysomething, I’m pretty sure time is not of the essence and you’ll find your feet again. And an English major too? I never got that far. I would hope that you’d do things that makes you happy, and you’ll see it’ll all pay off.

      • Asdf

        Well done on quitting smoking. Also, well done on having the courage to leave your job. Now, then, I’m going to take the liberty to tell you *my* favourite Final Fantasy VI character. 
        I can assume where your loyalties lie, so I’ll lay mine out as a toss-up between Celes — especially if you off Cid in WoR — or Clyde (nee Shadow). Suppose it depends on where your views fall on being able to move on from the past or dying by it. Either way, tragic characters, those. What’s more: this is not at all off-topic.

      • Anonymous

        This made me smile big.

    • Ellie

      Some people prefer sugar….maybe it’s good to see that it is possible to achieve some form of what Ryan defines as happiness while in his 20’s.  Even if the first 1, 2, 5, 9 years of the 20-something decade treats you like shit.  

      The important issue here is t is really all about perspective.  There are a lot of commenters who have said they have none of the things Ryan mentions but are still happy.  However, I don’t think Ryan was looking for that.  His title asked a pretty specific question.

    • Asdf

      “Liberal art majors, where are you? You start this off.”

      Posting in Thought Catalog’s comments.

    • Guestropod

      I have been unemployed for a year and I am constantly dodging 800 numbers, but I have a good relationship and friends so IDK.  

  • Annelbell1

    I LOVE this! The perfect words to describe what I have been agonizing over for months if not years. I’m about to turn twenty five and things seem to have been heading downhill for sometime now. But alas I still have says with a little ray of hope where a small voice tells me it gets better and I have to keep working hard to get there because it doesn’t come free. Things are often sh**ty during these twenty somethings but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves just keep pushing forward. Reading this was awesome thank you author for the blog… I am not a big blogger or social networker myself but I happened upon this and I’m glad I did. Thanks again everyone and for those of you doing wonderfully keep this in mind if you should ever fall.

    • ..

      I LOVE THIS!!

  • Ehe1988

    This piece is so spot on. I feel reassured, though, that I’m not the only unsatisfied twentysomething. Phewf. (Not that I enjoy other people’s suffering…)

  • Anonymous

    As someone who is graduating from college after this year, I am wondering if the rest of my 20s will actually be downhill (or is it uphill?) from here (things have been good so far)…. I’m sort of picturing it as a flat coast. On one hand, I feel like everything in my life will be pretty much exactly the same, except I will pay more bills, meet some more people, have new moments of great joy, and continue to have a new crisis every 6 months. And then I will wake up one day, be 33 and holding my 2 year old child, wonder whose baby it is, and wonder why I am living with someone that I just met one stupid day and how are we in love? Or he is just a random man in my house and I have a random baby?

    But then on the other hand when I think about the day-to-day experiences I think they will all feel very singular and big: there will be lots of intense ups and downs. In hindsight it will seem like everything flew by, but in reality it will be like high school with money for grades, bars for cafeterias, and no amount of social media that can compare to the thrills of AIM.

    In high school I would think about being in college for 4 years and then becoming a “real person”. In college I just question the reality of this person and think about the rest of my life. And that’s a big fucking chapter!! It’s too big! All of this twentysomething general mayonnaise malaise would go down better if we could have an idea of the chapters ahead –– something more specific than decades. 60 is basically the new 40, 30 is the new 20. 20 is the new 12. I’m fucking 14 years old, bout to be a freshman in a school called LIFE.

    • LDN

      I love the way you write, you should catalogue your thoughts.

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