Being in your twenties is a lot like Billy Joel’s “Summer, Highland Falls.”
“We are always what our situations hand us; it’s either sadness or euphoria.”
I know I’ve talked a lot about how life isn’t so bad after graduation, and things can be pretty damn fun when you get out of college, but let’s face facts. This is a time of uncertainty for a lot of us. It’s a period of student debt, job hunting, appallingly low salaries, and Tinder-related mishaps and loneliness. It’s no wonder a study highlighted in a 2013 USA Today article shows that 11 percent of adults between 18 and 24 suffer from some form of depression.
And those are just reported cases. You think all of us can afford therapy? Pfft.
Here are a few downer things you have (or will) experience in your early twenties, and a couple of suggestions on how to handle them.
You Can’t Afford Food
People our age don’t make a ton of money at their first job. Why? Because you need the work more than your company needs you, and you both know it. Between rent or mortgage payments, credit card bills, cable, Internet, and other utilities, and not to mention a bar tab the size of Tahiti, your weekly paycheck is going to be stretched pretty darn thin.
The first time you notice your bank account balance has four digits in it, and two of those are represented in cents separated by a decimal point, it’s a pretty scary, harrowing sight. And frankly, it’s just as scary the second through twentieth time it happens, too.
What can you do? The obvious suggestion would be to make a budget and, for the love of God, stick to it. Make necessary cuts to your lifestyle. Do you really need HBO, or can you just steal HBO Go from someone you know? Can you try and stick to drinking at happy hour rather than chugging $12 LITs at a “cool” bar? Can you steal food from your parents on the pretense of visiting them, or beg them to buy you groceries? Guilting your parents, the gift that keeps on giving.
Not Getting Invited To Happy Hour With Your Coworkers
Bottom line, you’re not going to get along with everyone you work with all the time. Technically, you’re at work to do a job the best that you can, friendships be damned in some cases.
That attitude holds up until the exact instant that you hear everyone’s going out after work and the invite somehow didn’t get down to your desk, or you’re working late and you see a bunch of your coworkers outside the window heading to a bar around the corner. There are very few feelings as shitty as that. I’ve heard childbirth is one, but I’ll never experience that myself. Shoutout to all the moms who have the hardest job of all, literally from day one.
In order to combat this, the best thing to do is push yourself and go out of your way to get to know the people you work with. I learned the hard way that people often construe shyness for being rude, so it can be as easy as striking up a conversation or buying someone a cup of coffee. You could end up making a lifelong professional connection. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up meeting the love of your life.
Spending Weekends By Yourself
To be clear, I’m not talking about those perfect, idyllic weekends where it’s gorgeous outside and you’ve got plans, but choose to abandon them in pursuit of a perfect weekend where you don’t leave your apartment. Instead, you opt for a two day mini-vacation free from pants, watch a “House Hunters” marathon while eating takeout sushi for every meal, and wash it down with a box of Franzia. By yourself.
I’m talking about those dark, cold weekends where everyone you know is either away, unavailable, or doing something that you’re just plain not invited to. You spend your entire weekend in your apartment in the dark, constantly refreshing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which basically act like the three evil fates from “Hercules.” They show you “visions” of your friends all out partying while you’re alone, and your only other contact with the outside world is Netflix and Chet the pizza delivery guy, who refuses to come in and have a beer with you, no matter how many times you ask.
There is no easy answer to this one, really. This will happen from time to time; sometimes it can be dank and depressing, and other times it can be the perfect, pantsless weekend I described above. The only solution to having this issue is to have a lexicon of friends you can text in order to just hang out when no one else is around, or activities you can do by yourself: the gym, video games, reading, writing, masturbation, carpentry, falconry, botany…the list is endless.
“Late Night, Come Home; Work Sucks, I Know”
Blink-182 really hit the nail on the head with this twenty-something shit. Really, nobody likes you when you’re 23. You’re a worthless piece of shit in pretty much everyone’s eyes, except for the 21 and 22-year-olds who are about to graduate from your alma mater and become worthless pieces of shit themselves, and are emailing you from the alumni database, pretending to care about you in order to get some kind of entry-level job at your company, or a referral for another entry-level job. And considering YOU’RE most likely entry-level as well, there’s really not much you can do for them. But the emails keep coming and they never stop. Ever.
When you’re in your early to mid twenties, you probably don’t get a lot of respect, if any at all. Adults still treat you like you’re a kid–unless you owe them money. In that case, you’re a proper adult, and you better make it rain like T-Pain or else we’re serving you with a three-day eviction notice. It’s like being Rodney Dangerfield for the better part of a decade: “No respect, no respect at all.”
Much like what Mr. Tom DeLonge was trying to get at in his instant-classic “All The Small Things,” work can absolutely suck for someone in his or her twenties. Odds are, you’re on one of the rungs of the ladder, if not the lowest. You work all day and all night for a pretty small sum of money, you’re on call on weekends and holidays and vacations, and very few people seem to understand just what it is you do or how hard you work. Especially your parents, who pretty much waltzed straight from college into at LEAST a middle to upper-management position. They can’t understand why it took you so long to get a job, why you’re working at a company that does something they don’t understand, and why you’re not making as much as their friends’ kids. “You know, Jordan just got a job at The Google, and Rajesh from next door pulls down 90K with benefits and a bonus as a trader. Why can’t you do that?”
The advice here is the simplest tip I can give: ignore them. Ignore everyone. Your parents won’t complain when you make enough to send them to Boca, God willing, and if you work hard, do extra work, and volunteer to do everything (with a smile on your face), you won’t be entry-level for too long. Just put on your blinders, put your head down for a year or so, and grind until someone notices just how much of a superstar you really are. Hopefully.
Here’s the bottom line. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Honestly, I’m in my early twenties, too. I don’t know any better than anyone else because NOBODY knows any better than anyone else. We’re all just trying to blindly walk around in the dark, feel our way through the pitch black darkness and uncertainty of our twenties trying not to freak out or panic too soon. Maybe, just maybe, we can make it through the first decade of our professional lives somewhat unscathed so we can enjoy the years when shit actually might start to get good.
I’m being a downer. It’s not all bad. I don’t want to rush through my twenties just so I can “get on” with the rest of my life, and neither should you. Your twenties has a ton of good in it as well–or so I hear. In a tip to my twelfth grade AP English literature teacher, who loved the shit out of parallelism, let’s end the way we started, because nobody can say anything better than Mr. Billy Joel:
“Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.
It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two,
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?”