I thought it would be a simple process. You know...adulting. In the Midwest, the common trajectory of your life once graduating high school looks like this:
Step 1: Graduate high school.
Step 2: Go to college.
Step 3: Have fun in college. Live life. Turn 21.
Step 4: Find a boy or girl you kinda like but aren’t too serious with because you’re young and will never have a chance to experience any fun again if you find the “one” too early.
Step 5: Graduate college.
Step 6: Find a job.
Step 7: Get married to that boy or girl and finally be okay with being serious.
Step 8: Have a baby.
Step 9: Find a house. *Note: Step 7-9 are sometimes not in that order. Depending where you’re located in the Midwest is dependent on the judgment you will receive based on this order.*
Step 10: Get into a routine, think about staying in your job for the next 40 years, get in a car pool, find couple friends, find Mom or Dad friends, stop avoiding your finances and come to reality of the lifelong student loan debt you have.
Step 11: Repeat Step 10 and pay off debt forever.
I’m not sure who came up with this trajectory, but this is the path that society, culture, or family may have helped you form. This is the “Template” that we feel like we need to follow in order to adult appropriately. Some of these may be different from person to person, but we all have some sort of template--that once you reach the final step, you will be happy.
At age 25, many young people are doing the things that go along with the template they’ve been told to follow. So why at 25, are young adults anxious, unhappy, depressed, and unfulfilled? Instead of telling you my opinion, I asked 10 Millennials of various ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities about where they were at at 25 and what they did not know. Here are the takeaways:
No one prepared us for this reality. We arrive blindly to our mid-twenties with the expectation that it’s going to be a smooth ride if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. So when we have the thoughts and beliefs like the Millennials did above, it’s hard to know what to do. We often turn inward toward blaming ourselves or turn outward and blame others or society.
There’s no one template no matter what age you are. Your life’s course is going to be different from mine, from your peers, from your loved ones. That’s okay.
1. Identify what expectations you have for your life or your age. Are they realistic? Are they based out of fear? What are more realistics expectations that you can begin holding?
2. Are your behaviors and daily habits in alignment with your values? Are the actions or intentions you are taking helping you reach the overarching goals of how you want to live your life?
3. What self-limiting beliefs are you holding? These beliefs make it hard to make positive changes in our lives. If we believe we are just this type of person, then why would we make an effort to change that?Examples include:
This seemingly quarter-life crisis where you’re comparing yourself to peers, struggling to adult, difficulty finding where you belong and waiting for you life to “start” are normal reactions to adjustment and new phases of life. No one told us this when we needed it, so take this information into the next phase. Remember that each phase of life will present new challenges and expectations that we have to identify and really look at. It’s scary and difficult because it’s new. The odds, however, of you overcoming them are pretty high.
Trust that you will figure it out. Reach out to support systems or community members to build support systems. You’re not alone.
Robin Helget, LSCSW, CPT,