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on (not) “making it”

January 9, 2013


At 21, definitely not making it.

Maybe it’s the new year, or maybe it’s because I just celebrated a birthday in my mid twenties, but I’m seeing a lot of articles about those of us in our fabulous, difficult, troubling, struggling, twenties. Lena Dunham writes a struggling and lost (albeit funny), “finding yourself” picture of this decade in the show GIRLS. Thought Catalog is constantly telling us what to say or not say to those of us in our third decade of life and how dating and love is so difficult for my generation. Time Magazine, The New Yorker and The New York Times are talking about us as well. (There are so many more examples… just google “in your twenties” if you don’t believe me).

The consensus seems to be that these years between 20 and 30 are crazy, stupid, fun, sad and that we’re all in the pursuit of self realization and getting past the craziness.

But I’ve come to realize (while in my twenties) that while a lot of this may be true, it’s not that significant to us… it’s just more acceptable to highlight the twenty somethings as having these experiences. Do we ever “find ourselves?” Does dating get easier in our 30’s? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. Our problems probably change as we get older (and hopefully we’ve gained some knowledge) but I think it just becomes less culturally acceptable be in the “finding yourself,” “experiencing your life” stage that’s so funny and entertaining to portray on tv… so the media seems to focus on my current age group as having these experiences. Once one crosses over some imaginary line, the general thought turns to, shoot, I can’t believe she doesn’t own a house, have a husband, have a child or have a “real” job. It’s less lighthearted and sexy to write about a single, 38 year old… All of these thoughts about our twenties though… the finding ourselves and learning and being dumb… sure we are! Because we haven’t been alive that long and we don’t know that much. Would we really have it any other way? Apparently though, during this twenties time, we’re supposed to learn all the “stuff” and prepare appropriately because we all have this goal of “making it” right?

“You’ll know you’ve “made it” when, ____________ .”

I can be quoted as having said, “I’ll know I’ve made it when I have a washer and dryer and matching dishes.” Well you know what, I live in a house with a washer and dryer and I don’t even like matching dishes. But as long as I’m happy and healthy and being a good citizen (contributing somehow) and supporting myself, you know what, this is it. I can’t picture a time or define a lifestyle where I’ll think, yep, I’ve “made it”… because what does that mean?! They tell us we’re supposed to suffer through this tumultuous decade of poorness and bad dates and lousy jobs to get to…..”it?!”

I’ve got lots of friends who own homes and are having babies and getting dogs (I have a cat!) and doing all those responsible adult things that we often define as success or “making it” in the real world. They’re making the smooth and shiny transition from twenty something to adulthood. And while I can celebrate, appreciate and be happy for and with them, those are their own journey’s… and that’s not the ultimate definition of “making it.” I’m not diminishing the hard work it takes for someone to buy a house or care for a dog, I’m just saying that we don’t necessarily have to hold that as the standard to reach.

Unless I win the lottery and become independently wealthy overnight there will never be an “I’ve made it” moment. There will always be, “this is it.” And I hope there will always be, “I’m enjoying it.” Because what is there, if we’re not enjoying it, ya know?

I don’t think we should categorize our twenties as the time when we’re supposed to figure things out and get all the answers and make all our stupid decisions so we can be ready for after this… because everyone’s twenties are different and everyone’s “this” is different. You need to learn from everything you do all the time and make sure not to make the same mistakes twice. Do that at whatever pace you like. You’ve got to grab hold of your “this” and make it the best it can be and totally own it. Don’t apologize for not having it “together” (I realize the amount of quotations is getting out of hand) or owning a house or having matching stemware… Unless that’s your vision and your plan there’s no reason not to embrace the lifestyle that makes you happy (and self sustainable) and be in it.

Someone just told me that the best advice he ever got was to “not let your house be your biggest asset.” Make sure your largest asset is the people in your life that make you happy and fulfilled.

So here I sit, eating cookie butter from a spoon and drinking wine out of a mug (not because I don’t have wine glasses but because I prefer mugs) and you know what, I’m not making it.

But I have one and a half jobs, two degrees and a lot of experiences and plans. I can pay my rent and donate my time and I make an excellent quiche. Is this all in the pursuit of whatever will qualify me as a real person that owns property and has a husband? Nah, this, this is it. I’m just doing it (damn it, Nike). I don’t mean to say that I will never achieve more or own a house or have matching cups… but when I do I’ll still be enjoying it as the journey and not as the end goal. I’ll be honest, I might own a house and fill it with furniture that doesn’t even match. And maybe it seems like I’m justifying my lifestyle against those other, more culturally accepted forms of adulthood…. and to that I say, fair enough.

I live with enough people that we need two refrigerators and I don’t have a 401k. A lot of people would say I have a ways to go until… adulthood and “making it” and all that. But I’m learning and moving forward and enjoying all of it.

So really, this is just a lot of words and lot of quotation marks to say, that despite what everyone tells us and writes about us, our twenties are for learning and living, as is any other decade… and for definitely not “making it.” Because maybe there no “making it…” and maybe that’s OK. Twenties are weird and struggl-ey and full of stories that should never be retold because we don’t know better. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily be different than that in fifteen years and it doesn’t mean that the weird and struggl-ey is bad…

Do your thing and seriously, enjoy it.

[But also seriously, I would not be my father’s daughter if I did not at least tell you to go get yourself a Roth IRA. Because if you can’t support yourself in old age, not only will there be no, “making it,” there will be no “it” at all.] 

[ Also, I reserve the right to totally rewrite this once I have the realization that there is an “it” and I have “made it.”]

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 8:09 pm

    LOOOOVVVE LOVE LOVE. Especially that you are your father’s daughter (i.e. responsible and wise!)

  2. January 9, 2013 8:16 pm

    In graduate school a professor in my counseling class started the semester off by asking the class about their biggest fears. Everyone rattled off things like “sharks” or “spiders.” decided to be a little more “real” and stated that my biggest fear was “not making it.” I admitted that I had no idea what “making it” really mentor how I would ever know that I was there… But the idea of never taking a step back and being able to say, “I’ve made it,” scared me. Today, I can say that I feel a little different and I am more open to your fantastic idea that maybe there is no “making it.” However, I’ll still hope that one day I look around, smile, and say, “Yeah… Made it.” :)

    • January 10, 2013 12:52 am

      Very cool! Good for you for taking a minute to actually think about your fears. And honestly, if it so happens – it would be lovely to one day realize that, “yeah, I’ve made it.”

  3. Lyndsey permalink
    January 9, 2013 11:40 pm

    Love this. I think everyone’s “it” is different, and I truly believe you can “make it” more than once! One “it” I had was to find a job that had something to do with my college degree so I could stop crying when I made my student loan payments, haha. So, as for that “it”… Yay! Finally! I “made it”!

    Oh, and the day I fully pay off those student loans?.. Then I’ve extremely “made it”… See ya in 1,000 years! Lol

    • January 10, 2013 12:53 am

      Oh gosh – yes to that. We will have MADE IT out of debt for sure! haha.

      • January 12, 2013 12:17 am

        I want in on this- I’ll have made it when I’m free of student loan debt. Thanks, Lyndsey! :)

  4. Lauren J permalink
    January 12, 2013 8:54 am

    I feel you on still feeling like full adulthood is still a leap a way but it might comfort you to know so many other people treat “making it” and adulthood differently. To some people, having a somewhat stable lifestyle in a major city is the goal. I’ve watched people come to DC without a plan & hopes to make it the same way people head to NYC.

    So way to go, we’ve “made it” in that sense! And I hope adulthood doesn’t mean giving up sofa bed Sunday activities.

    • January 13, 2013 11:34 pm

      That’s an excellent point. And gosh no! Sofa Bed Sunday’s forever!

  5. January 12, 2013 6:15 pm

    I need more information on a Roth IRA. Help, Steve Brooks?

  6. Mike Brown permalink
    January 25, 2013 10:44 pm

    I completely agree with your statements.

    I was told once: “Live while you are living”. Live for today don’t worry about tomorrow.

    Good job, I am proud of you.



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