Monday, 21 January 2013

The day I turned two dozen years old, or why 20-somethings keep talking about what it's like to be 20-somethings.

I have failed at consistently blogging. So sue me.

Anyway, this past weekend, I turned 24 years old. I debated about whether or not to actually write about this--I mean, how many more privileged 20-somethings do we need to hear from on the subject of being a privileged 20-something? I think every other article on Thought Catalog is about being 25 and broke, or 28 and single, or 26 and living with a roommate, or 23 and still not sure about how to cook. We complain about living with our parents, we complain about living alone, we complain about not being able to afford to live alone, we complain about dating--in person and online--and we complain about being in long-term relationships, we complain about the pressure to get married and procreate, we complain about not having enough money to get married and procreate, we complain about the pressure to keep up with traveling and "culture," and we mock those who aren't "adventurous" enough or up-to-date on world news and Girls. We complain about school, and then we complain about our jobs, and then we complain about not having jobs. We clog your Facebook news feed with articles about how Facebook is ruining our self-esteem and our ability to communicate. We whine in 140 characters about the impersonal nature of Twitter. We create GIFs to mock our reliance on Tumblr. We write fairy tales for ourselves with titles like "Chicken Little's Insecurities about Facebook."


No wonder Margaret Wente hates us. And enjoys mocking us so much.

And I'm right in the middle of all of this right now. I am officially, 100% in my mid-twenties. No more early twenties for me. I have nothing profound to say about the difference between being a privileged white girl in her early twenties and being a privileged white girl in her mid-twenties, although I can say that I do not relate completely to the privileged mid-twenties white girls on Girls, but like...I get it. Lena Dunham speaks to me, I'll admit it. (If you're a privileged 20-something, watch that video I just linked to. Hilarious!) But, no, I'm not particularly panicked about aging, about my twenties slipping away from me before I complete my bucket list--I'm one of the youngest people in my program, which, sure, makes me feel sometimes like I'm woefully lacking in terms of "real life" experience ('cause, guys, everyone knows no "real lives" are lived in universities), but it definitely doesn't make me feel old. Plus, I'm planning on living past 29, so if I haven't traveled the world or read every book or seen every episode of Mad Men by then, I think I'll be all right.

At the same time, I get why we're whining and complaining and panicking all the time.  I'm not convinced we're the first generation to do this, mind you--we just happen to be the first generation with immediate access to about 900 different ways to putting our voices out there. I'm sure we'll regret some of it. But at least we said it. The thing is, most of us privileged 20-somethings had a fairly similar upbringing. Our parents were educated-ish (at least high school, maybe a bachelor's degree, some had completed a bit of grad school), they had decent jobs, they owned a house, they traveled a bit, they had a couple of kids, maybe a dog. We got used to this. We were told that if we worked hard we could have this. And so, many of us expected to lead a similar life, and who can blame us? We were told this was normal. But the thing is, these lives started for our parents in their mid-twenties. And now we're in our twenties and nowhere close. They got married at 23 or 24, maybe, bought a house in their late twenties, had kids. Many of us resisted against this model--it's a pretty restrictive, heteronormative, family-centred model, to be sure--but I think some of us at least wanted the option.

A few days ago I read an article on the Macleans web site about youth unemployment. It's the same stuff we've been hearing for the past few years now, so I won't bore you with the details. You can read it if you want more depressing news about the future. But 42% of Canadian 20-somethings are living with their parents. Not only can we not afford to buy houses, but almost half of us can't afford to rent. My panic is not about aging per se, not about losing my "youth" or not looking hot anymore, not about not being "cool" anymore and not having ads and movies consistently directed at me, not about needing to try harder to stay in shape (although, sure, who doesn't think about these things sometimes?), but about whether or not Jimmifer and I will ever have the life we've been talking about for years, the one where we have a house with a yard big enough for at least one big dog (if not two...or three...) and the shed/garage space where Jimmifer can build furniture or suits of armour or whatever suits his fancy, and about whether or not I can have a kid (not even multiple kids! just a singular kid!) and have a job in my field, and about whether or not I can ever get a job without having to move to a new country because goddammit I like my family and my home and is so much to ask to be able to stay in Canada and see my parents and my friends every once in a while?!?! Some people complain that this generation has lost the ability to maintain personal relationships and don't have any family values and can only communicate online. Well, for fuck's sake, if we had the option to live where we wanted instead of wherever we can get a job, maybe we would choose to, you know, be happy and be with the ones that we love. I think most of us prefer not being lonely over being lonely. Plus, maybe we'd have better "family values" and would like to visit our families more often if we didn't have to live with our parents into our 30s. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Living with one's parents, however...makes the strangling more likely. (I'm hypothesizing. I don't live with my parents. And I like my parents. But I really don't want to live with them anymore. Relatively nearby is good, though.)

I don't like speaking on behalf of others, usually, and I don't want to position myself as the voice of privileged 20-somethings everywhere. But in honour of my 24th birthday and the wisdom and authority that comes with being one year older, I though I'd share my thoughts. In sum, we're goddamn whiny but at least we've kind of earned the right to be. But, I mean, we're still young and privileged and have access to about 900 different ways to get our voices heard. So I guess we'll be all right. Happy birthday to me!