9 Ways Twentysomethings Actually Aren’t Screwing Up Their Lives

I’m a big fan of The Huffington Post. When I need to know what is going on in any of the world’s myriad fields of interest, it rarely (if ever) lets me down. Plus, it’s usually witty, to-the-point, and more or less well-written.

So when I came upon this article, “9 Ways Twentysomethings Screw Up Their Lives,” I was intrigued.

And after I read it, I was just offended.

I’m sure there are plenty of my fellow comrades-in-age who commit the “sins” the author accuses us all of. And I doubt even less that many of the things she described doesn’t reflect how some members of older generations view us. But the 9 things Dr. Jay listed in no way applied to me or any of my friends – and I have the Facebook comments to back that up.

It got me fired up enough to decide it deserved a post. So let’s take her points one by one, shall we?

1. “Spending all your time with your urban tribe–you’re not at Burning Man!”

Twentysomethings are in almost constant communication with the same few people, but those who huddle together with like-minded peers limit themselves…Twentysomethings who won’t ask outsiders for advice and favors and invitations fall behind those who will.

Apparently, we wake up, check our iPhones, and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the exact same four people who share our exact same views on everything from politics to shoes.

First of all, we are NOT the only ones living in a blur of “constant communication.” The number of job descriptions alone I’ve read that require the applicant to be “on” at all times is proof of that. The constant connectivity is how our society functions right now – and we can go into a long, philosophical discussion of the effect that has on society if you want, but don’t try to tell me it’s all the fault of those twenty-nine and under. And SECOND of all, my friends and I do NOT share the same opinions. Perhaps we share a few political views, and I like getting their opinion on my new dress. But in college I lived with an anti-war, almost-vegetarian music therapist, a violent-movie-loving chemistry major whose diet mainly consists of ham, tuna, and most other forms of meat, and a political science major who wore makeup almost every day and had more shoes than the other three of us combined. These are my best friends. We don’t talk every day now that we are in different parts of the world, but we’re in touch. I love them – especially because we’re all so different.

I don’t disagree with her – I know from experience that new opportunities come from reaching out to your entire network. What I disagree with is the accusation that I don’t do that. That’s just a DUH.

2. “Hoping that Powerball ticket will make your dreams come true.”

“What would I do with my life if I won the lottery?” is about what you would do with your life if money and talent didn’t matter. They do. The question twentysomethings really need to ask themselves is…What do you do well enough to support the life you want and what do you enjoy enough that you won’t mind working at it, in some form or another, for decades to come? 

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Most of the twentysomethings I know are college grads. College is generally a time spent figuring out where your talents and interests meet, and how to make them matter. For four years, we focus on our talents and how we can make money with them. And my generation graduated into an economy that was all but jobless. The ONLY THING we heard our senior years was how to turn path X into career Y. I don’t know anyone who was pinning their life on a lucky number. That’s really just offensive.

3. Stalking on Facebook (and then sulking at home)

Facebook’s most frequent visitors often use it for social surveillance, as a way of checking up on people rather than as a way of catching up. Social spying bombards us with upward social comparisons, ones where our nights sitting on the couch with a Lean Cuisine watching TV–and surfing Facebook–feel low compared to the high life it seems everyone else is leading (at least in the photos). See Facebook pages for what they are, as one of my clients calls them: “self-advertisements.” You have to be aware of what you’re seeing–and what you’re not seeing–or else you’ll never get off the couch and face the real world.

We all use Facebook for, ahem, research. It’s true – it’s more conducive to this than actually “catching up.” And I totally agree that Facebook is the best place to go to feel jealous of others and crappy about your own life, if you really want to. But I generally don’t want to. I do, in fact, use the Book to keep up with my friends: with one in Texas, two in South Carolina, and one in South Africa, Facebook makes keeping in touch easy and interactive. I’ll also throw in the fact that Facebook is pretty important if you’re in any kind of communications work – and that’s no small percentage of the work force.

And sure, I get jealous when I see whatsherfacefromthatclass just took a trip to Tuscany. But I’m fully aware of the choices I’ve made, why I made them, and what I am doing in my life at this very moment – and I like them. My generation was really the first to use Facebook; honestly, we know better than you that all it is is self-advertising. That’s what we ALL use it for. I don’t know anyone who lives through their Facebook feed in lieu of going out into the “real world.”

And don’t get down on people who spend nights with a Lean Cuisine and tv, for that matter – for us introverts at least, those nights are what keep us going.

4. Dating losers

Too many twentysomethings have low-criteria or no-criteria relationships because they don’t think who they date in their 20s matters. But dating down is dangerous when a series of bad relationships leaves us damaged and depressed–or when suddenly that person we never had any intention of staying with starts to look better than starting over.

I realize I might be a minority here – I’m 22, and I’ve been on one date. One. But you know what? Most of my friends didn’t date much in college, either. I realize I have high standards. This is not something that bothers me. Of course I have plenty of “why don’t I have a boyfriend” moments – I have a lot of them, actually. But I also have an answer: 1. I need to live somewhere for longer than six months to have any kind of relationship, and that hasn’t been the case in the past five years, and 2. I don’t just want a “boyfriend,” I want a mature and engaging relationship that develops from a lot more than a free drink. Don’t just assume we hit 20 and our romantic standards go out the window. And by the way, I went to a women’s college – where our noses twitch the minute any male between the ages of 19 and 25 walks onto campus. Just sayin’.

5. Being “too cool” for a desk job

That part-time bartending job and/or pet grooming gig isn’t a longterm economic plan. Twentysomething unemployment and underemployment isn’t cool. Maybe you imagine you’ll get it together one day but salaries peak–and plateau–in our 40s, so people who start careers in their 30s never catch up with those who started earlier.

Who are you talking to that is saying they are “too cool” for ANY job right now? Seriously. I don’t know ANYONE not focused on working towards a rewarding career right now, even though this economy makes it difficult to turn down any opportunity – even bartending or pet grooming. To this, I believe my fellow twentysomethings will agree when I say: STFU.

And also, long-term is not one word. It’s hyphenated. But maybe twentysomethings also don’t know anything about grammar?

6. Spending too much time with your Playstation

The brain caps off its last growth spurt during our 20s, but that doesn’t mean twentysomethings ought to wait around for their brains to grow up. Our 20s are wiring us to be the adults we will be. So step away from the videogames and pick up a book. These are use-it-or-lose years when neurons that fire together wire together. Whatever you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it.

Well, now you’re just being redundant. We get it. Facebook = evil. Technology will suck us in and never let go.

OH WAIT – we’re NOT 12 year-old boys who just discovered  World of Warcraft. We’re twenty-year-old young adults trying to figure out who we are, and I’m pretty sure ALL of us are aware that answer is not hidden in a game console. Life is not a game, but it’s also not an alarm clock. We’re not going to wake up on our thirtieth birthday and realize, “oh, I meant to fix that character flaw in my personality…guess it’s too late for that!” People are not static. We change all the time. Spending too much time on anything is probably a bad idea – moderation and all. But I really, really, really don’t think video games are the major problem of my generation. You were a lot closer with the Facebook issue.

Oh, and P.S.: most of my friends read more than I do—and I was the English major.

7. Shacking up too early

I know, I know. You don’t want to hear this one. It’s just so convenient and fun–and cheap–to live together. But the numbers don’t lie. Couples who cohabitate before becoming engaged are less satisfied and committed in their marriages–and are more likely to divorce–than couples who don’t. Standards for a live-in partner are lower than for a spouse but, once couples split the rent and the dog, staying together seems easier than hitting the bars (or the internet) again, especially when friends start walking down the aisle.

Give me a minute. I think my brain just tried to implode.

*deep breath*

First of all, this is just plain wrong. If I decide to enter into a committed relationship, I think living together before marriage is just plain smart. I have no intention of deciding to spend the rest of my life with one person when I don’t even know if we can spend three months in each others’ constant presence. Now, of course, there are cultural and religious beliefs to consider, but all the more reason to disagree with this point – this is an incredibly personal issue, and different for all couples, so making any kind of blanket statement is simply narrow-minded and inconsiderate.

I also think it is stupid to quote a study (I am assuming that what she means by “numbers”) that says standards for alive-in partner are lower. I’m preeeeetty certain that if I’m going to live with someone – meaning seeing them when I wake and go to bed, sharing small space with them, and most importantly sharing a kitchen with them – you can bet your ass my standards are gonna be high.

And you might have numbers, but I have experience – of three sisters on one side of my family, the only one to marry once with no divorce was also the only one to live with her partner before marriage. I really doubt that’s a coincidence. And I’d rather rely upon real life than two-dimensional numbers and undisclosed studies when making life-changing decisions, thankyouverymuch.

8. Acting like you’re on a reality tv show

Cool it on the dramatics. The twentysomething brain finds negative information–such as reprimands from bosses and rejections from lovers–more memorable and exciting than positive information. Don’t stoke the drama via Gchat and text messages. Teach your still-forming brain to calm itself down with what is going right. Twentysomethings who can control their emotions keep their jobs and relationships. Take up yoga. Or get a therapist. Or read a book on mindfulness. You’re getting too old to freak out all the time. Tantrums are for teenagers.

I’m sorry, but isn’t learning how to deal with your first firing, hiring, major break-up or serious commitment a rather important part of becoming an adult? OF COURSE we’re more dramatic – everything is a first when you’re in your twenties, so everything IS a big deal. That doesn’t mean we’re taking notes on how to create drama while watching “Jersey Shore.” Nor does it mean we all need therapy. Of course controlling one’s emotions is important, but I find the implication that all twentysomethings do this poorer than any other age group downright offensive. And for that matter, it is the extra youthful energy of us twentysomethings that give us the creativity, innovation, and passion we bring to all aspects of our life – including our jobs.

But just take this blog post, for example. When I read this article, I didn’t throw my computer out the window and bang on the walls. I reacted calmly, collected my thoughts, and decided to express my disdain through words. If that doesn’t keep me apart from Snooki, well, nothing will.

And last but most certainly not least…

9. Ignoring your ovaries

Everyone in Hollywood may be doing it but you don’t live in Hollywood or have three nannies or earn enough money to pay for fertility treatments in Beverly Hills. Did you know female fertility peaks at 28? That ≤ of your fertility is gone by age 35? That the average cost of fertility treatments at age 40 is $100,000? That half of childless couples wish they weren’t childless? Planning to deal with kids at 40 is no plan. Empower yourself. Learn about your fertility in your 20s. Do the math.

Well, of course. Because with all the Facebook stalking, Playstation gaming, shacking up, and lottery-playing, how can we fit “deal with ovaries” into our busy schedules?

Empowering oneself with knowledge is never a bad thing, in my personal opinion. And if getting pregnant is in your top three life goals, then this is probably good advice – but if it’s that important to you, you’re probably already taking steps and “doing the math.”

If you’re like me, you’re a little more focused on finding a job and a home that rewards you intellectually and monetarily so that if you get so lucky as to get pregnant, you’re emotionally and financially ready for it. I understand I’m young and I have a lot more to see and feel and do. But I still have two decades worth of life experience under my belt, and if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that no matter how much you plan out your life, that “plan” has little to no effect on the ensuing reality. Besides this being [yet another] intensely personal point, it is also difficult to plan when life all too often has plans of its own for you.

This article seemed to me to be more of a “I really fucked up when I was in my twenties” act of catharsis on behalf of the author than the insightful, tellin’-it-like-it-is piece the author clearly intended it to be.

After reading it, I posted it on my Facebook and asked if I was the only one who disagreed with it – much to my relief, I received plenty of similar “hell NO”s. From people I know and like and respect, mind you – not people I stalk to make sure my life is somehow better than theirs for an artificial technology-induced ego boost.

I’m not saying these don’t ring true for plenty of people – in a world of 7 billion, it’s safe to say there is a large handful of people doing similar things at any given time. But they are in no way applicable to me or any twentysomething I know. I hope the author does a little more reality-based research the next time she writes on this topic.

I believe I speak for my people when I say: WTF. FAIL.

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