The Everyday Confusion And Stress Of Being A 20-Something

Unsplash / Rochelle Nicole

When we were kids, they made us focus on our grades. I mean really focus. Even our indoor recess hour became a time for educational games rather than downtime to relax and get out cooped-up energy. No more connect four but computer math games, solving equations whilst simultaneously avoiding space trash. The early years for the average now 20-something evolved quite rapidly.

When we moved through grades, we lost recess altogether, then replaced with study hall, only if we had enough free time for that. See requirements became a staple of each student’s schedule. It was no longer up to individual choice as many would have preferred it. Instead, it was now up to the governments to decide what we needed to know and the level to which we knew it. Standardized reading, math and science tests told them where we belonged and what natural talents we had to pursue. Sure, there were some that rebelled but most of our voices were lost. We began to be silenced.

Then came our time to choose.

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” Simple. “College,” we said.

That choice wasn’t so simple, was it? See, we live in an age where going to college has been engrained in our minds. We were bred by generations before us that taught us that the only thing that will get us anywhere, is college. So most of us chose and we chose just that. Even further then, we chose a major. All of this, knowing about the $$$$$$ it would cost but ultimately thinking that it was a college that would get us those high paying jobs that would get us out of that debt. We thought those years would be enough. If we chose a college, we would have it somewhat easier or at least easier than those that chose not to go to college in the first place. “Fools,” we thought. “You have to go to college.” We scoffed and judged but now after a longer look at ourselves, are we still sure we chose, right?

Those that chose “right” aren’t so well off. I chose a college. I chose my job path. I listened to what I was good at. Is this really what I wanted after all? How can I have chosen to be happy with just one thing for the rest of my life? Most of us that chose, end up changing our minds! It’s human nature to change your mind. We 20-somethings aren’t the only ones afraid of being held down. We aren’t the only ones that have restless souls.

I asked for loans so I could go to college and graduate. I wanted so badly to receive the most expensive piece of paper I’ve ever had to pay for. That’s just it, though, I haven’t paid yet. Those $$$$$$ really added up while I spent my time cramming my head with as much knowledge as I could. I earned that piece of paper but now I sit here with those dollar signs looming over me like a black cloud. I cannot progress until I fix this but how can I fix this? “Simple, get a job,” the world tells me. But as I wrote to apply for those desired jobs, there are more guidelines to follow, more requirements I needed to meet.

“Three years’ experience needed.” What?

Most of us 20-somethings thought that if we went to school, we could get those jobs we wanted so badly. We did internships, we did extracurricular activities. We thought those loans would help us not hinder us. Still, those jobs expect more of us.

“Go back to school,” they say. “Specialize, get an internship.” They’re unpaid. Us 20-somethings are already in debt. We can’t afford to work hard just for the experience and no pay. That doesn’t keep us warm and fed. We already chose the right thing. Unpaid internships and the Ramen we ate in college are staples of our lives even though we’re no longer undergraduates. We are scrounging for work, looking for ways to stand out amongst the competition. You want that job, go back to school, get those years of experience under your belt too, then maybe by some chance you earn that higher paying salary. Here’s a rude awakening; there are so many of us trying to get those jobs. It simply isn’t as easy or as right as we thought. You need the grades, the talent, the experience and by god if you don’t meet those requirements, then, “Sorry, we have someone more suited for the position.” That job we wanted so badly still isn’t in our reach and things continue to spiral downward.

Still, everyone wants us to choose and choose right but I’m a 20-something too and I’m not sure what that even means anymore. I wished repeatedly for someone to give me the answers, the next step or guideline or a new set of requirements to meet. I was raised on this standardized path but now I’m sitting here buried under bills I can’t pay with individual thoughts and dreams that I can’t make sense of. How do I achieve them? You thrust me out into this cold world telling me that it’s now up to me to choose but I’m still hoping I choose right.

“We must each follow our own path,” but where was that when we still had hopes, dreams, and talents of our own choosing. Just because I was good at something, doesn’t mean I should’ve followed that path. Maybe I wanted to be an astronomer but my written words were better. Maybe I could’ve made it staring at and studying the stars. I may never know now. Where was your encouragement when I still chose for my own? See, if I had more of my own ability to try to figure out who I wanted to be at a younger age, maybe I wouldn’t be on this path. I’m not trying to blame you but see us 20-somethings here and now, we’re confused as hell and we’re still looking for more guidelines. We’re stuck.

This world isn’t what we thought it would be and it isn’t what you thought it could be either. We expected more and all you path leaders expected too much of us. You thought we were solvers of all that you had chosen wrong on. But who says it was wrong. Who says that what we chose was right. We were not meant to be your salvation. We deserved a chance of our own, to make of ourselves, whatever we wanted, with the freedom and power to choose what we loved too and not only what path was standardly right and accepted by governments. We still deserve that chance. You still deserve it too. This standardized, institutionalized and generalized life wasn’t meant for a world as culturally and intellectually beautiful as this.

Excuse me and my confused 20-something rant. I hope you don’t take this so personally because frankly, I’m not sure who to blame. It isn’t any one generation or person. I’m just trying to figure it all out and I’m trying to make sense of it all, without the guidelines, without the rules. I want to live my 20-something life however, I want. TC mark

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