At 27 I feel…

August 30, 2010

Need a gut check on your life thus far?

August 30, 2010

The Results Episode: At 20 _______ you feel __________

August 30, 2010
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Your responses were outrageous. All 55 + of them. They were moving, thoughtful, honest, and incredibly well-written. They made me think things I’ve never thought before and validated thoughts/hopes/questions I’ve had for ages. But, most importantly, they made me realize that this whole thing is way bigger than a New York Times article (or rebuttal). Way bigger.
I’ve printed all your responses, clipped your awesome photos to them (if you supplied), and will be delivering them to the New York Times, but I think it would be a shame to stop there.

Keep them coming, PLEASE. E-mail me at or post them right in comments. I think we have something here, I just need to figure out exactly what shape it should take.

For starters – to keep those of you who haven’t yet submitted inspired and to help those of you who did submit realize just how “not alone” you are – below are snippets from the dozens of submissions. I’ve kept names out for now, but if you see your words, THANK YOU.

At 20 _______ you feel _________
At almost 25 I feel inspired now, but it has taken time and tears for me to reach that point. “Thank God I am professionally unsettled. Thank God I have taken my time to figure out my likes and dislikes so I don’t end up like the generation before me – working jobs they hate for their entire careers, making themselves hate the rest of their lives, leading to divorce, depression and many other problems. Thank God I and the rest of my 20 something generation refuses to take the beaten path anywhere.”
At 27 I feel 27 too “i’m turning 27 in 3 weeks and feel oddly calm, excited, and purposeful. it feels good. i dont know what i’m looking for, a simplicity of some sort, but i’m fine finding it here, on my own.”
At 27, I feel like I’m starting to understand what it means to appreciate. “Growing up, akin to being forced to say sorry, you are instructed to appreciate things regardless if you internalize that emotion on your own. Appreciate having food on the table, appreciate the clothes on your back – it’s the age-old American elementary school assignment of clunking out several sentences about what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving so you can hurry off to recess.”
“So two weeks ago, at the ripe young age of 24, and with the undying and encouraging support of my boyfriend and family, I quit my job to follow my passion in life and I don’t know where it will lead me. The truth is today at 24 I feel young and lost, but I realize that I am incredibly lucky and I am expecting to feel this way throughout the rest of my 20’s.”

At 28 I feel like I did when I was 18 “I don’t want all the answers by the time I’m 30. I just want to know they’re out there, waiting to be found. If it takes me my entire life, I’ll be okay with that.”
At age 28 I feel 19 in my career, 47 in my knowledge, 36 in my stress levels, and 65 in the life I’ve already lived.
At 24 I feel Guilty and Addicted to Higher Education! “I think one important facet that is missing in the NY Times article is that for many people my age, with parents who are aging (mine had me when they were 38), and for those of us living far from home, guilt is the dark cloud that just won’t go away. Many of my friends miss living back home, or at least close to their families, but are fueled by a weird ambition that also makes us want to stick out in London and try to get jobs in big name companies. For me, it really clouds my judgment when I am making decisions. Although one could say I’ve been geographically independent of my parents since the age of 18, I’ve been emotionally and financially dependent on them all this time, especially as a lonely child.”

At 29, I finally feel free. I stopped dreaming my life and starting living it.

“I could easily see myself regretting not going on this adventure, whereas I knew that I would never regret going. My parents hinted at their disapproval quite often. Example: I sent my dad an e-mail asking him to keep an eye out for SD memory cards on sale and his response was “Okay, I’ll look for it for you. How many GB do you want? On the other hand, why don’t you not go away, settle down, get married and have some kids. Love, Dad.””

At twenty-three I feel frustrated. I feel more frustrated than I did during my teenage years, when I saw the world in front of me as a place filled with opportunity and would give me as much as I put in to it. I am the first person out of both sides of my extended family ever to graduate from college. I thought if I just worked hard enough I would achieve whatever I wanted. Well, I’ve graduated and I both don’t know what I want anymore and see a lot of other people getting opportunities they didn’t work for and those who deserve them getting the short end of the stick.

At twenty-seven, I feel like a full-fledged adult who has simply chosen another path than those of my parents and the previous generations. “I saw a glimpse of that well travelled path, and I walked away.”

At 24 I feel frustrated, pissed off, and hopeful. “We have more choices and in some ways less career and economic opportunities because of the actions of prior generations, and I feel like we’re all just trying to deal with that. So if people could stop calling us entitled, spoiled, lazy, and self-obsessed I would love that. Let’s just stick to imaginative, creative, or perhaps just attractive and call it a day.”

At 26, I feel like I’m finally finding my path. “The beauty of being a 20something is that – no matter what anyone says; media, scholar, peer, or otherwise – we know that whatever we’re going through right now is something that is unlike any generation before. We get to be different, and we get to define what different is. My challenge to other 20somethings is to make the most of what this journey is so that those after us are inspired to break apart our standards and define their own.”

At 28, I feel frustrated by the assumption that I won’t be an adult until I get married and have babies. “Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for independence, and I find helicopter parenting and all that jazz a bit problematic. But at the same time, who are we to criticize the way of life of much of the world? Only in America are kids pushed out of the house at 18; traditionally, in most of the Arab world, and India, and much of Asia, you live with your parents even after you’re finished school and even once you’ve found a well-paying job.”

At 21 years old, I feel completely unprepared for Real Life, in the Real World. I graduated college in three years and am working two low-pay, low-glory jobs (restaurant and retail) completely unrelated to my major.” “I’ve been called insatiable. Right now I feel stagnant, trying to move through mud. At 21, I feel lost and desperate. I’d very much like to find the right path, but am unsure if I’m even on the right path to finding that right path. I’m scared I never will find it.

At age twenty-four and unemployed I feel hopeful and hopeless. “Simultaneously. There is so much that I want to do, but money and resources are a constant problem. It’s tough to be young, broke, and connectionless.””

At 24 I feel eager “People use the “me-generation” label against us – I challenge that. Use it in your favor. You’re the only one who thinks about yourself as much as you do. Determine what you want, figure out the steps, realize there will be few people who will help you unconditionally, and go get what you want and makes you the independent firepower you can be in this world.”

At twenty-three, I feel like time is running out but I only just realized it.

At 20 I feel stuck “Much like a tween, I’m pulled in many directions. I have focus and motivation encouraging me to work hard at my job everyday and lay the foundation for career and financial success. But I also have imagination and curiosity driving me to explore the world and take a chance on something that might not pan out.

At 27, I feel frustrated. “I’m frustrated because I’m afraid I will look back and think I missed out because I stuck to the “suppose to” path.”

At 28 I feel confused by what seems to make sense to me, and by what the ‘elders’ expect.

At 27, I feel everything. “I’ve felt, risked, succeeded, and found that it didn’t quite get me where I thought it would.”

At 25 I feel misrepresented. “I find the whole endeavor to label our generation to be insulting and silly. There are not three, ten, one hundred, or one million labels that will wrap our 20-something culture into a tidy little box so all the older generations can sleep better at night knowing that (Eureka!) these 20-somethings are “lazy,” they’re “optimistic,” they’re “spoiled.””


  1. At 25, I feel conflicted. I have a great job, nice salary, good apartment, and overall I am pretty stable. Is this the career path I want to take? I have no idea. Sometimes I feel so bogged down in my adultness that I want to run away. I want to live by the ocean and rent surfboards to tourists. But then, I realize that I have responsibilities and life won’t be any easier by the ocean. I don’t know where I’ll end up living or what I’ll end up doing, but for now, I’m trying to enjoy the journey to getting there.

  2. at 2 weeks from 24 I feel that there’s so much I still want to do with my life, but I have no idea where to start. I passed exams, studied hard, went to uni, graduated and the economy nose-dived and took my career options with it. Now I’m stuck, and there seems to be no way out. We were told we could achieve anything, but right now it feels like I’ve achieved nothing.

  3. At 24 I feel rushed to make it into life decisions. My friends all over are settling down- getting married having babies, buying houses. When ALL I want to do is find my place. I feel pushed into choosing a career when in this economic climate every path I follow or resume I send feels less like an opportunity and more like a hail Mary.

  4. At 22, I feel anxious. My parents were able to give me a gap year after college; they’ll provide for me while helping finance my exploration of my interests for one year. But the deadline looms and I worry about being “behind” at the end of my year off because I explored interests rather than career paths. I’m unsure whether to just grab a stable job and then reassess from my comfortable position of independence/money/momentum or actively explore interests regardless of their limited career application. I feel that there’s a path out there that’s for me and I’m worried about missing it in my haste to gain the traditional trappings of adulthood or because I become obsessed with tasting rather than experiencing life.

  5. At 2 weeks from 26, I feel stagnant. I have a loving husband, a good job, a decent salary and a crop of unfulfilled dreams and desires. I coasted through high school, I soared through college and now I’m putting through my young adult life. I pay my bills, I work hard, I’ve grown out of most of my “play hard” habits and I’m scared. I don’t want a stale life. I want some excitement, some adventure. I’ve gotten so use to this life I have been conformed to that I have forgotten to actually live.

  6. At 23, I feel overworked and underpaid. Unlike many in my university graduating class, I found a job that uses my degree. While working for a nonprofit has many pluses, there is one distinct negative: you’re not in it to make millions. So, in the meantime, while I pay my dues and bid my time living paycheck-to-paycheck, I’m also doing freelance work. I really don’t want to be workaholic. I prefer “work to live,” not “live to work.” But here I am, working 50-60, or more, hours a week. I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s the only form of payment they accept at the grocery store.

  7. At 27 I feel like I’m watching my life and someone else could do it better, even though I believe I made the correct choices for myself. Sometimes people our age are doing well and reaching their goals (work or family or . . . whatever), and then there is the group of us that are doing what we believe we should be doing (instead of what was orginally expected) and we still feel lost. It’s hard to not be part of the “successful” group, because we judge ourselves based on that. We forget that we’re not all on the same path. We are a generation of overachievers in a world that doesn’t think highly of us just yet.

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