Category: life advice

In Praise of Non-traditional Adulthood

photo by fayebatka


Lately, a lot of my favorite online haunts have been rife with talk of quarter-life crises and the reality of adulthood versus the rose-tinted nostalgia of our childhoods. Heavy stuff, surely! But it got my little brain a’workin on the topic of adulthood and how we all choose to use ours.I think we can all acknowledge that the American formula for a adulthood goes something like this:
1) attend four-year university
2) meet your special someone while attending said university
3) graduate and move in with special someone
4) get your starter job
5) marry special someone
6) advance in your job
7) baby #1
8) buy a house
9) baby #2
10) move the the suburbs, eat out exclusively at Olive Garden, spend your weekends engaging in lawn care and taking kids to soccer practice, slowly die inside.

I kid, I kid.

Kind of.

But what happens to those of us who don’t find the special someone? Or discover that we can’t get a job with that Anthropology degree? Or feel claustrophobic at the thought of being tied down by a career/spouse/child?You know what? I think it’s the pretty rare individual what actually follows this formula … though that doesn’t keep a lot of us from measuring ourselves against it. How silly! In my entire extended group of friends, I know exactly one person who has followed this formula (at least thus far, she’s on step six at this point … there’s no telling where she’ll go from there!) the rest of us have switched universities, ended long term relationships, had babies before we finished school or bought the house before the wedding. We have taken the scenic route, or a road less traveled or even a series of (interesting) dead ends.

None of this is to say that following the formula is bad. Babies are lovely! Weddings are grand! And lord but I would love to live in something bigger than a breadbox! But I think there’s a lot to be said for this non-traditional approach to adulthood and living life on our own terms, really thinking about the life and future we want for ourselves rather than swallowing this college+wedding+baby notion.

We need to stop punishing ourselves for deviating from what society has taught us is The Correct Way to navigate our 20s and 30s. I will not be ashamed of the holes in my resume resulting from world travel. I won’t be embarrassed to admit that I’m not a home-owner. I won’t blush and stammer when my nosy aunt asks me when I’m going to start making babies.

How closely have you followed the formula?

Adventure: Hip hop dance classes

I like to fancy myself a dancer. Rather, in North America, I’m good enough to hold my own in non-choreographed situations. In South America, I’m not so bad that I stand out.It has long been my fantasy to attend a hip hop dance class. I think I need to add some thing to my menu other than a) shaking it like a Polaroid picture or b) shaking it like a salt shaker. So after nearly three months of talking about it, my lovely friend Jill and I finally braved the wall to wall mirrors and popping of Essence of Prodigy dance studios.

Like all good Virgos, I knew that any adventure is best undertaken in the appropriate outfit. In a perfect world, I would have worn this:

In reality, I went to the Salvation Army and bought a pair of sweat pants without trying them on. If that’s not going a situation that spells success, I don’t know what is! When I got home, I assembled my not-particularly-awesome outfit of cut-off sweatpants, unflatteringly cut tank top and shell toe Adidas … the Adidas being my only real hope at street cred here.

On the way to the studio, Jill and I discussed what exactly we wanted from this class.
1) hot instructor who’s helpful, but not skeezy, and doesn’t do that thing where they stop class and stand next to you, teaching you the jazz square while everyone rolls their eyes
2) awesome moves we could use on our next ladies’ night, preferably something slightly slutty
3) no intimidating, professionally trained dancers masquerading as students.The latter point is particularly important, because when it comes to trying new things, I have the emotional maturity of a seven year old. I’m not immediately good at it? It’s kind of challenging? I have to talk to strangers? I’ll probably just sit at the back of the class and sneak out during the break.

But you know what? We rocked it! Or rather, I didn’t totally embarrass myself and stayed through the whole class. I persevered despite nearly falling on my face several times, the instructor spending three minutes trying to teach me (and me exclusively) some serpentine crouching move and having to watch myself crotch thrust in high-waisted pink sweat pants in an entire wall of mirrors.

I did, however, learn this awesome move, get a great work out and reconnect with my 18-year-old, danceline self. I bet she’d be really disappointed by my high-waisted sweatpants.