To me, as a young child, and possibly even as a teenager, I perceived adulthood to commence at 21. This notion offered a vision complete with all the key components. Like a Barbie doll, we’d reach that magic age and start collecting accessory packs: stable job, rented apartment, car, lover, chic brunches and so on, until we reached twenty-five. Next step: buy a house, get married, have kids, and ride off into the ‘mums who lunch’ sunset. That idea seems laughable now, as I sit in a foreign hotel room, typing on time off from my ‘adult job’. While at this very moment I appear to be doing adulthood ‘right’, by the end of the week I will return to my mouldy house share, and my student friends, and my drastically empty bank account. The notion of owning a house in the next five years, or even being allowed a cute pet to call my own seems so out of reach that I can’t begin to wrap my head around it.
Some of my social circle have recently gotten engaged and are planning on ticking off the standard milestones to ‘adulthood’. The key difference between them, and my parents’ generation though, is that they are being given donations towards a wedding and a house. Without these kind of handouts it seems unfeasible for anyone in their late teens and early twenties to get their ‘shit together. If, even in ‘provincial’ Britain. 9-5ers doing it for themselves cannot afford a place to live then what are our new markers of making it?
We are all being told to hustle, side-hustle, and work on further side projects. Surely though, it is madness to spend every hour of the seven day week going hard just to make ends meet. I find that the more money I earn, the more money I spend, and this lifestyle inflation has me at a loss. Regardless, it seems like busyness is the new marker of success. How many things have you got going on, what are you juggling, how good are you at multitasking? While I agree to a certain extent that we need to work hard for what we want, I do wonder whether we will ever be allowed space just to be happy.
They say that millennials value experiences over things, and that makes sense, because who the hell can afford a down payment? The accumulation of travel, trips, and life stories then, seem to be valued higher than the costly things kept out of reach. We’d rather fill our insta-story with scenes from our latest holiday than a two-bed starter-home in a grey commuter belt, I guess. With the delay of home ownership comes the delayed onset of parenthood. If we can’t afford to have kids, then we stay in this perpetual flatmate filled post-adolescence limbo, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
If the mid-20th century invented the teenager, and the generation after that were the ones who ‘had it all’, what do we have in our future besides uncertainty and no footsteps to follow? In a world drastically different from the one our parents have experienced, it will be up to us to define what adulthood means, or whether the term has lost its meaning all together.
Words by India Alicia