The timeline of your twenties . . . ?

There has been a trend going around on TikTok for the last few weeks, which has been taking up more space in my mind than I should probably admit. The poster will share context on what their parents were doing at their age and then contrast it with how their own life is currently going in their mid-to-late 20’s. Typically the parental generation (Gen X) posts show marriage, financial security, a house and several kids by their late 20’s. This is swiftly followed by the bang-on-brand TikTok humour from millennials and the early Gen Z users that we all love to see…the reality. 

This trend showcases many twenty-somethings in 2024, still unsure of what career path to take, struggling to get onto the property ladder, finding dating a struggle, not feeling anywhere near ready for kids, and of course, being incredibly aware of the social media comparison at any given time. The comments are filled with #relatablecontent quips, but amongst these are thousands of comments from the 25+ age category saying it’s funny, but uncomfortable because many are feeling like they are falling behind.

My view on this is the timeline needs thrown out of the window. Yes, it was more common in generations gone by to reach certain milestones by certain ages, studies prove this. But studies also prove that in 2024, inflation has risen, the metrics of climbing the career ladder have changed and people are choosing to settle down (or not) at a more varied range of ages now than ever before. 

If thousands of millennials and early generation Gen Z’ers are all feeling the same way based on these video comments, are we really behind or are we simply chasing a reality that doesn’t exist? 

Based on TikTok’s invisible metrics of what are the correct ages to do certain things, I seem be right on track at 27 with a husband-to-be and career that I love. However, most of my early 20’s were the opposite. My dad died unexpectedly when I was 21 and in the years following, I focused mainly on working through the anxiety and panic attacks that developed as a result of this. The typical hedonistic and blasé attitude that we tend to associate with people in their early twenties felt like another planet to my reality at the time. 

In a few months I’m getting married to my partner of nine years and I know the timeline will be skewed once again when I will have to explain to well meaning people that, ‘No, we are not ready for children any time soon.’ 

To summarise, being in your twenties during a cost of living crisis is not fun. Having unvetted access to other people’s highlight reels on social media is not fun. Feeling behind in life is not fun. There are some things we can change and some that we unfortunately can’t. What we can do though is try to understand that comparison is the thief of joy, rarely in our twenties will anyone have all of the boxes ticked. What are the boxes anyway? And who decided them? It is up to ourselves to throw the timeline out of the window and hopefully realise somewhere along the way that life on your own terms, could be the first step towards creating more enjoyment whilst on the journey. 

To finish this month’s column I want to share some of my personal favourite timelines below, to highlight that there is never any one size fits all solution.

  • – JK Rowling was 32 when her first Harry Potter book was published after being rejected by 12 publishers. 
  • – Mariah Carey gave birth to her first children when she was 41.
  • – Vera Wang at the age of 19 failed to qualify for the Olympics after 13 years of intense figure skating training. She then spent almost 20 years working in fashion journalism before launching her own label aged 40.

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