A Message For 20-Somethings: “You’re Not Blowing It”
Remember when you were a kid, and 20-somethings seemed ancient? Adulthood seemed to be a state of authority and power; where you knew everything and could have whatever you wanted.
Ask a child what they imagine their life will be like by the time they’re 25, and they’ll probably mention fame, money, marriage, e.g. “I want to be a millionaire married to a member of One Direction (ideally Harry)”. Actually reaching your mid-20s is a wakeup call. “Hell no,” we think, “I don’t even WANT that stuff yet.” (Except maybe the money.)
Being 28-2016: I’m not ready for a relationship
28-1816: I have 13 kids
28-1000BC: I lived a good life, thrice I ate a berry and once a pear
— shut up, mike (@shutupmikeginn) March 6, 2016
But for some reason we still consider age 30 a deadline for life milestones. Even if we think we’re above age-related panic, 30 sounds pretty serious, and can force us to reckon with our assumptions about how we thought our adult life would turn out.
This was the case for writer Briohny Doyle, who channeled her thoughts about adulthood into the book Adult Fantasy: Searching for true maturity in an age of mortgages, marriages, and other milestones. The book challenges the traditional, normative markers of adulthood, questioning their relevance in today’s world.
If you’re feeling stressed about lacking a partner, house or offspring, this book might offer some consolation. Briohny goes through all of the normative markers of adulthood and unpicks their role in today’s society. She says acquiring things isn’t a sign of adulthood; maturity is.
acquiring things isn’t a sign of adulthood; maturity is
“I think that we should accept that maturity is going to look different for different people and look different at different times,” she told the Cusp.
Briohny shared one of her most mature decisions, one that bucks the adulthood archetype.
“A few years ago, my partner and I made the decision to take separate houses, and even though that put us back into a kidult frame if you just look at us on paper, I think we both felt quite adult to be able to make that decision and to be able to be really conscious about it.”
Briohny also counsels young adults against getting down on themselves because they don’t have a mortgage – emphasising that you can’t buy your way into maturity. In Adult Fantasy she examines the factors that have made housing a tricky prospect for young people, finding that it can’t simply be put down to one person’s failure to try hard enough. (No matter how many brunches or beers you give up.)
Her advice for 20-somethings feeling panicked about their adult status?
“Don’t worry. You’re not blowing it. I think all the experiences that you’re going through are important and they’re part of who you are and your maturity is not dependent on you owning things or having social things down like parenting or marriage or buying a house or whatever, to look the part.”
your maturity is not dependent on you owning things
Instead, find your own definition of adulthood. “What are your values? What’s important to you? How are you developing in those aspects of your life?”
And for baby boomers who wag their fingers at millennials, she has these words. “I think we all just need to be a lot less defensive and consider how things are changing and consider the ways that we can work together in order to make sure that this kind of situation where each generation is worse off than the next doesn’t become the norm.”
Adult Fantasy is a millennial manifesto, giving lie to the notion of “adulthood” as a rigid concept of home-ownership and coupledom. If you’re feeling anxious about your adult achievements, take comfort: you’re not the only one, and there are other ways to live. Adulthood isn’t a place you arrive at, but an evolution.
Adult Fantasy by Briohny Doyle is out now through Scribe ($29.99).
Amelia is the Editor of The Cusp. You can find her on twitter @amelia___m or instagram @ameliamarshall.