Thursday, April 14, 2016

it's not easy: life as an adult millennial.

It’s not easy…
So many conversations happen through email, text, or Facebook that making an actual phone call has become borderline terrifying for some millennials. While I wouldn’t consider myself terrified, calling strangers is certainly not one of my favorite things. For example, when we have a question about adult things like our mortgage or taxes or insurance or whatever, I far and above prefer James (who enjoys phone calls with strangers) to do it. When I was attempting to plan a wedding, the number of phone calls I had to make was intimidating... to me, anyway. Work is different – it’s part of my job to talk to strangers all day long, and that is no big deal. Calling friends and family does not fall into my millennial phone call fear zone, either – just calling strangers about things involving my life. It’s weird and stupid, I know, but so is millennials’ irrational fear of phone calls. Seriously, it’s a THING: on the whole, my generation HATES making/answering phone calls. Real life example: I have a friend who will text me questions. No big deal, except when these questions involve multi-part answers, or perhaps asking another question before actually being able to answer. I don’t want to text all that, so I will then call. Said friend will NOT answer the call, even though they sent me a text mere minutes before. Instead, they will listen to my voicemail and then text me a response. Sure, I might do the same thing if I’m in a spot where I can text but not call (ie, the dentist’s waiting room), but I know for a FACT that this friend was just sitting at home, completely able to answer a phone call. I know I’m bad about phone calls, but I’m not THAT bad.

It’s not easy…
“Wanderlust” has become a favorite descriptor of millennials everywhere. They put the word on swirly watercolor art, hand-stamped jewelry, and forearm tattoos like it’s going out of style. While I kind of hate the word because of all of these things (when you can buy “wanderlust” embroidered pillows at Walmart, you know it’s gone too far), I do appreciate the sentiment – because that’s exactly how I feel ALL THE TIME. There’s so much of the world to see and experience, so many great foods to eat and lakes to swim and places to explore, and here I am… in Luverne, Minnesota. James and I do our best to see what the Midwest has to offer, but with a limited amount of free time and funding, we can only get so far. I want to see something new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Luverne is not the place for that, nor do I think it ever will be. But then again, where is this mythical place I seek? I have a list of places a mile long that I’d like to live, but would any of them live up to my lofty expectations? And let’s not forget that moving isn’t easy, either – especially when you’re a.) a homeowner, and b.) married. Renting made it so much easier to move – I simply waited for my lease to run out, and then I found a new and fresh place to go. As a homeowner, you can’t really do that. You would have to sell your house, pack up your legions of things, and find a new place to put them. Marriage means that you have this whole other person to consider, and catering to your every “I am going to move to a different time zone RIGHT NOW” whim is not plausible. Marriage is great, don’t get me wrong: but it means that you can’t be as selfish as you once were (which millennials tend to be great at).

It’s not easy…
This is directly related to settling down (see above). While I would like to move, I mentioned all sorts of things to accomplish before getting there. Realistically, it would be a lot of work. James and I both love our jobs, and moving somewhere interesting would mean finding not one, but two fulfilling jobs where we would be starting from scratch. Even if we simply moved to Sioux Falls and could keep our jobs, we would somehow have to sell our house in Luverne… and NO ONE wants to move to Luverne. There are so many things that I would love to do… but the pressure of real life makes them so much harder to accomplish.
WISH: a dog!
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: James and I both commute and are gone a minimum of eleven hours each day, which would be pretty awful if you were a dog trapped inside that entire time.
WISH: to fix my two poorly done ten-year-old tattoos.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: To get a good tattoo to cover up the two shitty ones would be expensive, and we have a million other financial priorities. Boring adult stuff like new tires and dental bills.
WISH: to join the military and make a difference in the world.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: If I could do it all over again, I would join the military right out of college. I could have done something good instead of dicking around at unpaid internships and shitty part-time jobs. But I didn’t, and here we are. (Caveat: I got a lot of good experience and met a lot of great people while doing those internships and working eight million part-time jobs, so it wasn't all for naught.) Joining the military now would mean being stationed somewhere away from James, and even if he did come with me, we would be right back to the moving dilemma. Even if I joined the Guards part-time, I would most likely have to quit my current job to do so, and then where would we be? Bills don’t pay themselves, after all. And let’s not ignore the fact that I will be 29 in just DAYS… more than a decade older than most of the people with which I would go through basic training. Everything about this is scary.
WISH: to get my master's degree.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: When I was an undergrad, student loans were these mythical things you just magically got, and POOF! You could worry about paying for college later (which was quite abstract to my teenage self). Speaking as someone who is now paying off said magic loans, they don't seem as magic any more. And what's LESS magic is imagining adding even more loans on top of these loans. 

Don’t get me wrong: I do believe that it’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. I’m just saying that it’s gotten a lot harder.

It’s not easy…
THEN: You could just take an adventure at the drop of the hat. No matter if you had no money and no plan – you just did it.
NOW: There are a million things stopping me from doing anything like that. No money is a much bigger deal now than it was then, and I rarely go places any more without a maximum efficiency plan.
THEN: You call up your friend in the afternoon and get together that same night.
NOW: You have to make plans weeks, if not months, in advance. Free time is a scarce and precious commodity, and you must allocate it wisely.
THEN: You would drink pretty much anything that was handed to you, as long as it was free.
NOW: If a bar doesn’t have my preferred brand of gin, I’d rather go without.
THEN: Your most exciting purchases were treasures from Goodwill.
NOW: You love buying throw pillows and succulents.
THEN: You could gorge yourself on greasy state fair food all day and never feel a thing.
NOW: Half a serving of cheese curds is enough to make you regret everything you’ve ever done. Now, you're supposed to eat shit like quinoa.
THEN: Constant broke-ness was an accepted state of being. All of your friends were broke. It was not a big deal.
NOW: Being broke is a HUGE deal. Your friends are no longer broke, so you'd damn well better not be either.
THEN: You could stay up until 3 in the morning talking to your friends about life’s greatest questions, or maybe nothing important at all, and it was absolutely thrilling

NOW: You talk to your friends about home improvement and your jobs (which, contrary to what your younger self would believe, you actually find fascinating), and you’re in bed by 10.

It’s not easy…
Adults are supposed to know and understand SO MANY THINGS, and I feel like I’m not even close. As an adult, you’re supposed to know how to choose the right insurance, and how to properly invest your money. I barely even know the proper way to cook eggs. I feel like I should have my adult card revoked. Or do you suddenly learn these things when you turn 30? Maybe I have not actually graduated into adulthood yet, and I’ll be struck with all this great adulty knowledge on the day I turn 30. Like a lightning bolt, except with IRAs and deductions.

It’s not easy…
There are so many things that real adults do that I do not WANT to do. Adults exercise every day – which I try to do, but the real adults get up super early to exercise and claim they enjoy it. Meanwhile, I curse every second and don’t do it until late at night when I realize I should go to bed. Real adults eat kale salads for the entirety of their lunch, which would only tide me over until mid-afternoon. I am one of very few people in the staff lounge who drinks soda with lunch and sometimes eats Cheetos, which real adults do not do. Real adults probably don’t buy swimming suits with dinosaurs printed all over them, which I recently did. Real adults are good at small talk, while I am certifiably terrible. Real adults blow dry their hair, know how to buy the right watermelon, never forget to get an oil change, and don’t play Plants v Zombies on their smartphones. Real adults don’t go home after work and binge-watch Bob’s Burgers when they should be cleaning or doing yoga or crafting or anything productive. I am not a real adult.

It’s not easy…
When you are a teenager, you feel like you have the whole world in front of you. You’re young, and you have a clean slate: you can do ANYTHING. Nothing is holding you back, so go out there and CHASE YOUR F-ING DREAMS! The older you get, the faster this idea fades. I am in my late 20s, and the burden of realism is so very real. My time to be young and worry-free is behind me – I’m pretty sure that ended the day I signed the mortgage. Not only that, but as a married woman of a certain age, the pressure to have children is very real. It’s what society expects of you, and to a certain extent, it's what you expect of yourself. I am reminded by my doctor on a yearly basis that I'm not getting any younger ("don't let your eggs rot" is a direct quote), so if I want to provide the world with teeny James/Calla hybrids, I'd better get on it lest I die of old age before they reach high school. And that means that my freedom has an expiration date. (I realize this is not the best way to envision potential motherhood, but that's where I am right now.) That would mean the end of road-trip filled summers and nights out with friends. That would mean I would really have to be an adult. 

It's not easy...
This is an adult problem not limited to millennials, but I'm including it because of the incredible impact Facebook has had on the formative years of my generation. Like many of my friends, I signed up for Facebook when I was 18 and a freshman in college... and I've been on it ever since. Ten years of ups and downs... but on Facebook, you only see the ups. There have been legitimate studies that say the more time you spend on Facebook, the more depressed you are likely to be. That's because Facebook users don't post the realities of their lives - they need a new refrigerator, or their kid has just been suspended. They post the highlights: vacations, new cars, happy times. All of the bad is filtered out, and the rest of us see nothing but 100% sunshine and roses and wonder why our lives aren't like that. Facebook is responsible for inferiority complexes all over the world. I experience said complex, and yet am driven to perpetuate it. You won't know from Facebook about my not-so-great days, but a cursory glance will show you my recent trip to Kansas City or that I was a guest speaker at UMM. The very minute something good happens, we are quick to post a photo. For most of us, only the wonderful stuff makes it to social media - and it would do us all good to remember that next time we see a picture of one of our friends on a white sandy beach drinking out of a coconut. 

It's not easy...
When I was at UMM for my aforementioned talk, I strolled on campus fully (and delusionally) expecting nothing to have changed. A lot of it hadn't, true, but the student population sure as shit had. They are all BABIES. Most of them were born in the mid-90s, and they all had smartphones. I didn't have a smartphone when I was in college, and neither did ANYONE I KNEW. I graduated seven years ago, but it might as well have been a lifetime. With the self-centeredness typical of millennials, I found it extraordinary that Morris could be there before me and remain after I was gone. To me, Morris existed only during my four years there - to hear stories from people who came to UMM before I did or graduated after I did is almost baffling. But how could UMM function without me? Easily, that's how. It seemed so odd that things I once claimed as mine - a certain spot in my oft-attended art history classroom, a section of the university newspaper - have since been adopted by others. LONG AGO adopted by others. And no one on campus (save for a few professors, who are awesome) knows your name any more. (I feel as though this paragraph has morphed from "it's not easy being old" to "it's not easy coming to the realization that you are irrelevant in a place where you once were at least moderately relevant." Sigh.)

It’s not easy…
I'll let you know when I get around to it.

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