Why Twentysomethings Can’t Have It All

Everyone has different ambitions. Different things they want to accomplish in life. Some of us want to climb the career ladder at work and not think about settling down until after we turn thirty. Some of us get married in our early twenties and then prepare to have a child. Some of us move to new, exciting places and some of us stay in the place we grew up in. Some of us live at home for a few years… some in apartments with friends… and some in condos with significant others. Some of us make a lot of money and some most of us don’t. Some of us grow up. But the majority of us delay it.

We’re all different. However, the progression of our twentysomething lives is supposed to remain semi-similar. We attend college. We drink heavily. We graduate. We job search. We work. We’re poor. We live at home. We live with roommates. We go out, but not as much as we did in college. We grow at work or change companies. We make more money. We get more responsibilities. We live with significant others. We get engaged. We get married. We start having kids. The list goes on.

AHH. Too real.

Life in your twenties is supposed to be all about change. However, in a span of 10 years how are you supposed to go through ALL of the above changes and, in addition, become successful and achieve all you’ve ever wanted before the age of thirty?

I recently realized that it is NOT going to be possible for me to accomplish all I want to do in my twenties before I’m thirty. In fact, I want two completely different lives for myself in my later twenties. One where I’m slowly becoming a real person with a safe, steady job and growing salary, a fiance turned husband, a home in the suburbs, and a kid so I don’t become an ‘old mom.’ The other where I’m working as a fun-loving freelancer and/or producer in New York City with a busy social life, trendy apartment, and absolutely no plans to relocate myself to the suburbs and no plans to ‘settle down’ in the near future.

I now realize that all of the above can’t happen. I mean, it can all happen – just not at the ages I’d like it to happen. I can still have fun and eventually settle down. I just can’t do it all before I’m thirty. I can’t be in two places at once.

What this really comes down to is the problem that I don’t know what I want. Like most twentysomethings out there, I want too much. I want everything good to happen to me at once. If I want to work on really advancing my career, I can’t focus on developing a family. And if I want the family before I’m thirty, I can’t make major life changes based on work. However, I’m not ready to decide which one is more important for me to focus on. I want both. I want the career and the (beginning of a) family before I’m thirty. And part of me still thinks I can have it all… But can I?

I have six years and three months left in my twenties. That means I have six years and three months to continue living in Boston, move to NYC, become a socialite there, possibly switch career paths, work my way from the bottom to the ‘successful middle,’ get married, have a kid, and move to the suburbs. Six years and three months. That’s it. The good part is that I’m only 23. I should be able to accomplish most of these things before I enter my thirties. I mean, thirty seems so far away. It seems so old. But is it?

Six years ago from today I was already a high school graduate enjoying the summer before college. Since then a lot has changed. I went to college. I met a ton of new people. I discovered new interests. I lived in new places. I grew up. But I didn’t grow up to the point where I went from being single and poor to married with a kid. That’s, like, a lot to accomplish. In the past six years, I’ve definitely accomplished a lot – from paying rent to living on my own to not going out as much to working a full-time job. However, I still have a lot of growing up to do… a lot more to accomplish. And in the next six years and three months I will do that – and more. I just don’t know if I can do it all and that’s fine.

I don’t have to get it all done in my twenties. I don’t need to have my life figured out at age thirty. I won’t necessarily be ‘old.’ I just won’t necessarily be young. People are living much longer these days. Just because our parents got married when they were our age (gasp) doesn’t mean we have to. We all saw how much ourselves and our friends changed in just four years of college. Break ups came out no where… as did bodily transformations (weight loss/weight gain)… and friendships (sure you might be friends with the same ten people you were friends with in high school, but what about all those ‘extras?’). Who knows what is to come in the next couple of years?

You can’t plan your life out. You can lose your job at any second. You can suddenly decide you want to take a different career path. You can move across the country for an amazing opportunity. You can get broken up with out of no where by that guy/girl you thought you were going to get married to. You can develop a brand new best-friendship with someone you just met. You can meet the guy/girl of your dreams and decide to stop partying and settle down out of no where. You never know what’s going to happen. And that’s the beauty of life.

So no – twentysomethings can’t have it all. But we can have whatever is thrown our way. We can’t plan to get engaged. We can’t plan to get married without a fiance. We can’t plan a pregnancy (well – you know what I mean). We can’t plan our career paths. But we can try. And that’s all we can do. So we’ll work towards getting it ‘all’ – and whatever happens, happens.

This is what we’ll do for now.
Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

2 Comments
  1. Sam this article blew my mind. I have been thinking about this for a long time. To the decision of whether to settle or ride the storm? People say don’t expect to have a big break, just be comfortable. I say, how do you ever get to your big break unless you make things a little uncomfortable? Some of the more unpleasant people in my life would say this is naive and that I just don’t get it. But I’m building up a freelance career, I am working at a company with people who are wizards of this industry, and I’ve got a whole network of creative people around me. So if someone says my career goals are just a longwinded pipe dream, I’d say I have solid evidence already that these dreams are slowly but surely coming true. My goal in life is to do everything, basically. Why set some arbitrary socially-accepted restriction that I have to have it all done before I’m 30? If there comes a time where I feel like settling, I will, but it will be at a point where I’m a lot further to what I really want than I would be if I just settled now. We live in the social media age, this is the time to be in this industry when it’s so easy to stay in touch with creative people. If the world’s ending in 6 months there’s no better way to live than doing it all.

  2. I love you for this article. I thought I was going crazy, everyone else I know either seems contented with going alone and pushing their career, or having no career and settling down. (There are the few jammy individuals who have manged to attain both, grr) But I really couldn’t understand why I had to choose and how I was going to. Hence how I ended up at your article. I feel stuck in a post-grad twentysomething limbo who wants everything but has no idea how to get any of it. Reading this has helped me come to decision on my future, that I have been struggling with for almost 9 months now. So thank you!

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