Help me, I’m 20

Growing up, I was always very excited about the idea of my “twenties.” Network television had led me to believe that this would be the prime of my adulthood, when I would have the freedom I so desperately desired, be strangely attractive, and get up to all sorts of shenanigans with my friends, all while obtaining some sort of glamorous job that would fall under broad categories like “publishing,” “journalism,” or maybe even “law.”

The twenties are a messy time — we’re trying to fit ourselves into the role of young adult that hasbeen assigned to us, without any definitive understanding of what that means.

The difference between where we’ve been and where we find ourselves now comes down to our newfound ability to shape the direction our lives are going to take. Often, small hurdles get in the way of seeing the bigger picture — university can seem like a blur of malnutrition and sleep deprivation, small moments of camaraderie mixed in equal part with isolation and indecision. We may not have the answers or be prepared to admit them honestly, but less awkward than our teenage years, we are equipped, at the very least, with perspective.

It is no easy feat to navigate, and it’s different for everyone — but what follows are a series of observations, questions, and rants from my experience of the enigma of young adulthood.

What’s for dinner?

Or, the sometimes more accurate, what is dinner? I think most people would agree that food is pretty great. In an ideal world food can provide elements of nutrition, happiness, and that sometimes evasive thing called social interaction. Yet with the often draining existence that is student life, food can become a chore — something that takes up time and money that no one seems to have to spare. Eating in a nutritionally sound way is often forgotten in the flurry of busy schedules and, as it turns out, it is impossible to survive on nothing but coffee for a startling amount of time.

“What’s for dinner?”

Can I afford to go out tonight?

A wise friend once said, “The irony that between the money I spent on coffee and the money I spend on alcohol I am literally pissing my savings away is not lost on me.” It’s hard to budget in a way that takes into account future savings when we’re so caught up in either the world of library cramming sessions or stress relieving nights out — not to mention cost of living in a city as expensive as Toronto.

Although budgeting is a hard skill to master, it is one that needs to be developed, and fast. The “work hard, play hard” philosophy brings all kinds of results —and one of them is a decidedly lighter wallet.

“Can I afford to go out tonight?”

We should grab coffee sometime!

At any given time, it is only possible to maintain so many close friendships. It often feels impossible to make time for your current friends, without even taking into consideration keeping up with your old ones.

Friends start to grow apart. The tricky thing is that often the friendships we lose are the ones we told ourselves we wanted to keep. As we get older, we gravitate to those people who we spend the most time with — either because of a shared area of study or simple proximity. We make endless coffee dates, but sooner or later accept that the friends that are meant to stay just will.

“We should grab coffee sometime!”

What are you planning on doing after finishing your degree?

Most of us get better at providing an answer to this dreaded, ominous question the longer we stay in school. You either tell them something that sounds good to avoid judgement or explain your actual dreams only to be told that there’s little chance you’ll achieve them “in today’s market.” Another good option is to say, “Oh, I’m just considering my options right now.” Perhaps you, like me, entertain an option that includes dropping out of school and maintaining a small but peaceful sheep farm in New Zealand.

Few of us leave this school with the degrees we initially envisioned we’d have, and even fewer enter the workforce in careers related to their studies. At the end of the day, we’d all like to be happy, and know that we’ll be steadily employed in a few years — if only this was an acceptable response.

“What are you planning on doing after finishing your degree?”

How’s your love life?

This question can be dangerous for two reasons — either you’re still navigating being single, or are in an established relationship.

In the first case, there really is no great way to answer the question — you’re left with trying to find a middle ground between “I’m just having fun and not worrying about it right now” and “I’m going to be alone forever.” In the second case, you’re put in a position of evaluating how serious your relationship is, where it’s going, and how this person is going to fit into that whole adulthood thing you’re working on. Is what you’re doing matching up with what everyone else is? Are you meeting the standards set by your friends, family, and nosey acquaintances? And like, have you tried that whole Tinder thing yet?

“How’s your love life?”