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As you get older, life seems to move a hell of a lot faster. Not only that, but the decisions you make now impact your life on a grander scale. Once you enter the ‘real’ world, the choices you have to make transition to having major consequences.
What seemed like important internal debates about whether or not to blow off studying for a fraternity party are now long forgotten. They’ve been replaced with choices about buying a house, dating, marriage, kids, debt, and your career.
These stages in life are what I’ve started to call “The Post Grad Rat Race.” These parts of growing up have morphed into a competition on who can appear to have their life together the most. The race goes something like this:
1. Get engaged.
2. Get Married.
3. Buy house.
4. Have kids.
Obviously, there are other major stepping stones in adulthood but these are the high points.
This list is a standard step-by-step process of getting older, and all of us typically accomplish these items over time. However, the issue now is the majority of people rush into this because they feel “It’s just time.” They see their friends starting to check off these milestones and feel like they’re lagging behind in the rat race of life.
Their Facebook and Instagram feeds are loaded with engagement and marriage photos, paired with some cheesy paragraph confessing how their love is unmatched by all others. It’s easy to get wrapped up in these picture perfect moments and start feeling like you don’t have your shit together. It’s the social media version of keeping up with the Joneses.
So what do you do when you feel behind in the race? You do stupid shit, like try to catch up when you should still be wearing training wheels.
I’m a child of divorce, which is relatively common with my generation. When I ask my mom and step-father why their first marriages didn’t work, both answers mirror each other, “My friends were all getting married and I just thought it was time.” There’s little in life that can get nastier than a divorce. Deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone, and more than likely having children, isn’t a decision you should rush because you “Feel like it’s time”.
It‘s incredibly idiotic to take such a monumental step that can have such an extreme impact on so many other lives, including your own, because of something so trivial. You need to be 100% sure this is someone you’re willing to spend the rest of your life with, and parent children with before you take that step. If it doesn’t work out, the consequences get pretty serious for everyone involved.
If a child of divorce is telling you they’re over it, they’re lying to you. My parents being divorced is something I’ll probably never get over, and while I can accept it happened, that doesn’t mean it’s something that doesn’t still impact me to this day.
Yes, I called my mom idiotic in one of those paragraphs, but keep it on the low cause she will beat my ass.
I know a lot of people who have waited until their late 20s and early 30s to get married and those people seem to be a whole hell of lot more sure of themselves, as well as happier in their decision. You have so much more figured out at that age. You know more of what you want out of life, and who you want to be with. Not to mention you’ve actually got some money saved up so you and your spouse don’t have to suck down Vienna sausages for dinner on that recent entry-level budget.
Then there’s buying a house. I’ve seen plenty of people, married or not, rush into this to portray an “I have my shit together” appearance to everyone. Yeah, because getting locked down in a 30-year mortgage and a shit ton of debt is definitely a great way to prove that point. Watch The Big Short and it will confirm you’re a moron.
Buyers look down on renters all the time. All I hear is, “Well, I pay less than you and I actually own my house.” You’re right. You do own it. You own it when the A/C goes out, you own it when the roof leaks, you own it when the property value depreciates, you own it when you get termites, and you own it when the plumbing backs up into the house. Yes, I probably pay more for rent per month than a mortgage, however, I have zero debt and zero liability on the aforementioned issues.
If you buy a house and don’t have a good chunk of change in what I call an “Oh, Shit” fund, you’re asking for trouble.
To be clear, I’m not against people getting married, having kids, and buying houses. If you’ve found the one you love at a young age and want to take the leap, then go for it. Found a city you love and can afford to buy a house there without emptying your savings? Buy that thing, homie.
What you don’t need to do is rush into making a decision with huge consequences because “It’s just time” and everyone else your age is doing it. I find those who are willing to stay patient with their life are often rewarded down the road.
We have to stop looking at the majority of life as a competition. Life is not a race to see who can check things off their list the fastest. You need to be moving through life at your own pace, and not worried about what Sally from Freshman year English 101 is doing right now.
You know what? Fuck Sally and the horse she rode in on, tbh.
You want to know what the checklist for having your life together really looks like?
1. You can afford to put a roof over your head.
2. You can afford to put food on the table.
3. You pay your bills on time in full.
4. You have a job that has some type of career path.
If you’re doing all of those things, you’re doing great, IMO. Stop freaking out and forcing things to happen in your life you’re not ready for.
Take a deep breath, keep truckin’, and life will come to you. .
Image via Shutterstock