"20 Things" Lists are Sabotaging Twenty-somethings

I know I’m cranky. I know that I have an abnormal amount of angst for a seemingly alright-adjusted twenty-something. I also know that I’m sitting in bed, broke as hell with pizza grease slathered around my mouth. All of those things aside, the one I have the most problem with out of the previously mentioned facts is the whole “twenty-something” term. What the fuck does that even mean? And why does everyone all of the sudden need to write a list about it? I have seen so many “20 things every 20 something should or shouldn’t…” in the last couple of days that it has gotten to the point where I feel the need to peck away with my greasy fingers at a keyboard and put my two cents in. I also know that I see most of these lists posted by my peers on social media pages, which is in and of itself “asking for it”, but come on.

I don’t think we should be told what to do. I don’t think we should be told what to do in numerical order, either. The whole feeling behind these things, to me, is that if I hit thirty without completing these wanderlust tasks then I have somehow struck out on this magical decade where fucking up, fucking around and finding myself are paramount. Who’s to say that when I’m thirty-two I won’t still have a sense of adventure? Or will I still be allowed to have it? With lists there is a beginning and inherently an end (which is usually number 20 because these lists love to be cute like that) and that just feels so limiting. I know many of the commands in these lists are pretty whimsical so one would think “this is a list about liberation, about finding ourselves.”

I have news: You are yourself, so you don’t need to go to a fucking beach with a stranger and take a picture through your toaster filter to know what you’re all about.

It sounds like these lists were made by kids who had disposable income for spontaneous beach trips and brunch with long lost friends, which I am eager to report is a reality that very few of us “twenty-somethings” are familiar with. Finding yourself is about getting up with a blinding hangover, working your third double shift in a row and somehow carving out time to pursue your passions.  Finding yourself is not getting lost in your city and relying on a map to get back home, or painting the walls an odd color because any sensible “twenty-something” would use their fucking GPS and worry about their deposit when they painted their walls orange.This brings me back to my problem with “twenty-something”.

Are we just some ambiguous streak with black-out drunk sexual escapades at one end and on the other the brimming transition into welcoming babies and marriages into our lives?

We are people, and I guarantee the last night of your twenty-ninth year of existence and the first morning of your thirtieth aren’t going to feel that different; except you might be freaking out because you didn’t complete all the objectives on some fucking list. I know that many of us are transitioning through similar phases at similar paces, but that doesn’t mean that you can hand out some guidebook to us. It’s demeaning. It also trivializes our personal trajectories by assimilating them with silly milestones charged with some feigned sense of essentialness that if missed, invalidate the entire course. Bullshit.

Tumblr doesn’t know me, and I don’t know you. Maybe that brunch with your long lost friend and dressing the way you feel because you’ve tossed the fear of judgment to the wind is the stuff of your life. If it were the stuff of mine, and sometimes it is, I sure as hell don’t want to see it on a list and exhale because I can put a check mark next to one of the objectives.

My point is, we should all have our own lists with our personal goals and milestones to check off. These “20 things every 20 something should…” lists are the moral equivalents of a stock photo. We can’t all be staggering to complete some contrived hierarchy of experiences because in the process we’ll miss the ones that really matter. So please, enough with the lists, because at this point, they pretty much all reinforce the cheapening of self-exploration. And so what if I drank too much last night, got lost in a cab and basically typified the “twenty-something” condition? It doesn’t mean that I won’t do it when I’m thirty, (because I’ve seen it happen). Besides, that conundrum might be frequent on my particular set of aspirations.

-Miles Jenson