7 Nov

Tomorrow I’ll be turning 27 years old. Yes sill a 20-something, but certainly on the latter end of this life stage. When I was a younger I thought by now I’d have it all figured out. I’d be completely through school, at a job that paid well within my chosen career path, possibly married and on the way to owning a home. Boy are things different than I had imagined!

This is the American Dream we millennials were taught growing up:

If you worked hard and pursued something you were passionate about, everything else would fall into place.

Am I right? But then college graduation comes around and you have to get a real job. You can’t just spend all day writing poetry [for example] and expect someone will pay you for it just because “it’s your passion.” Unfortunately the so-called “American Dream” of a successful career, a long and loving marriage and a house with a white picket fence doesn’t just fall into place anymore.

But is that the dream anymore?

Each year around my birthday I like to reflect back on the things I’ve accomplished in the past year. For instance this year the highlights were getting accepted into grad school, riding the STP (Seattle to Portland bike race) and competing in my first triathlon. But year after year I’ve found myself getting more discouraged because I believe I haven’t accomplished “everything that I ought to” for my age. This could be because I’m one to constantly compare myself to others my age to judge where I should be and what I should be doing. I’ve also always held myself to high expectations across all facets of life, which often is a recipe for self-imposed failure.

As I approach the final few years of being a 20-something, I’ve felt a mad rush to complete a million things before I’m 30. And I’m not alone. Several of my friends have actually created “30 before 30 lists” – a set of 30 goals they want to complete before that pinnacle age. I’ve thought about creating one myself but realized it would be too hard to narrow the list down to only 30 items. So instead I’ve set a broader single goal to reach before I’m 30: to feel like a true adult. Of course that lofty goal is often not realized by many adults ever in their lifetimes. And the definition of adulthood is different for everyone. So I must define what being an adult means to me.

As I mentioned earlier I used to think adulthood meant the realization of those key pieces of the American Dream: career, marriage, home ownership. However now I’m not so sure. I think being an adult actually has a lot more to do with a mindset and how you handle yourself in various settings [with professional colleagues, family, friends etc.] rather than checking off “adult-y” things. According to my old definition I would be at 0% adulthood since I still have a long way to go in my career, am not married and recently moved home with my family. But if I think about adulthood according to my new outlook – the mindset – I feel like I’m about 75% there.

So readers, what does adulthood mean to you?

I came across this blog post and this CBS news report poking around the internet doing research for this post and encourage you to read them as you think about this question. This is obviously a personal opinion for all so I’m very interested to read what others think about this subject.

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.



  1. Elizabeth W November 7, 2011 at 10:18 PM #

    I’ve struggled with the concept of adulthood as well. There are days when I check things off my to-do list, work efficiently, and pay the bills when I feel like a complete adult. Other days, I feel like a kid playing dress up. I think for me, being an adult will seem real when I figure out and obtain a job that is my passion, not just something I’ll have for a year or two. I wouldn’t mind a settled feeling either. But I think that would go along with a permanent-feeling job.

    • Jordan November 7, 2011 at 10:30 PM #

      So for you it’s all about the job you’re passionate about and settled-ness. Love it! So very different for everyone.


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