If I want to have kids by the time I’m 30, I need to be married by age 25, which means I’ll find a partner when I’m 20…
I’m almost 20!
I am a college student just shy of 20 years old and have absolutely nothing about my life figured out.
Since kindergarten, we are taught to stand in line, hold the rope and stick together whenever we leave school. But, some of us never let that rope go, being led from one chapter to another and becoming comfortable with participating in our lives rather than leading them.
Societal pressures influence every aspect of our lives. When it comes to our choices, how we grow up, and the paths we take, our futures are written with “You should” statements.
“You should go to college, that’s what employers want.”
“You should study medicine, it’s what your father did.”
If you plan to save money for a house right after college and live independently, you’re not alone; this is parallel to many others at this stage in life. Marrying young, putting work on pause to have kids, then working to support and maintain the life you’ve created is a traditional route for adults nowadays.
Why has this lifestyle become the staple of success?
The U.S. Consensus says the average age to get married in the United States in 1980 was 22 years old, so it’s no surprise that young adults growing up now feel pressured to find a partner while they have yet to find themselves.
The CNBC says that the average homeowner in 1980 paid around 47,000 dollars for their first starter house. Since then, prices have well surpassed this with an average home costing somewhere in the ballpark of 340,000 dollars.
It would cost the same amount of money to purchase 1 home in 2022 as it would to purchase 7 homes in 1980. Consider the economic changes that have taken place over the last few decades.
A single dollar in 2022 has an inflation rate of 3.10%, causing prices today to become 3.6 times higher than prices in 1980. In layman’s terms, we need more money to cover the same costs, since a dollar then doesn’t equate to a dollar now.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says that inflation is the biggest cause for purchasing power decline. As resources become less accessible, prices increase and individual spending in the Unites States goes down as a result.
While minimum wage in the U.S has risen since then, the current cost of living does not grant young adults the same freedoms to plan and save for their futures that their parents and grandparents had.
“Societal pressures make me feel like if I don’t do what the world thinks I should do, that I will be considered less successful than my peers,” said Abbigail Lenk, a sophomore at the University of Evansville.
It feels comfortable to have a plan, to chart your path, and feel certain you know exactly how to get there. Graduate college, get a job, move out, support myself, and save money for my family. As quickly as you can draw a map, however, that map can just as quickly blow away, become lost, or you just read the directions wrong.
“For a long time I thought I had my life all planned out. It wasn’t until I enrolled at UE and started approaching life one day at a time that I realized my life was my own to write,” said Abbigail.
Personally, the path to college was pretty much set for me; as the daughter of two college graduates and the sister of two additional college graduates, the path of least resistance ultimately got me here. I do not regret my decision of higher education, however, I wish I could have seen my life in a different perspective, as I show you now.
Ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted kids, how many, and when I wanted to get married. I based a lot of my decisions on what I saw from influential people in my life who lived in a generation where things had to be planned out. I recognize that these figures in my life serve as an example, however they are not the only examples I can look to.
If your goals don’t follow the path of someone who came before you, lead the way yourself. After all, it takes one person to be the first.
Allowing yourself to coast through life doing what other people tell you is the right thing makes it harder down the line to make difficult decisions and live independently.
So, wherever you are in life, I implore you to consider why it is you’re here. Choose to advance in life based on your own interests rather than following in someone else’s footsteps. Enjoy where you are at this moment but recognize that change is inevitable, and the idea of starting over is no more frightening than becoming stuck in a place of discomfort.
You should go to college, that’s what employers want.
I want to work for a year after high school, save up to see somewhere new.
You should study medicine, it’s what your father did.
I want to study social work and have an impact on young lives.
When you block out the “you should” and listen to your own ideas, the “I want” becomes louder and your future becomes yours.
I turned 20 years old this month, and I still have absolutely nothing about my life figured out. My path is not paved, and I believe it will not be for quite some time. However, I have picked up the pen and begun writing my own story.
I encourage you to strive for an unconventional life, to push boundaries and ask, why? Let go of the kindergarten rope and let go of the path decided for you.