I’m not going to turn this into a think-piece about why hating millennials is unfair and the judgment slung at so many of us is unwarranted. All that has been done before, with stats and such up the wazoo to prove that we actually just have a really rough go of things and so many of us are over-educated and under-employed, drowning in college debt.
But I am going to tell you about my own experience, and how unbelievably difficult it is to get out of that debt pit once you fall down it.
I grew up in a conservative family, homeschooled from second grade all the way through high school. (The well runs deep if you wish to read more about this subject…) and then attended a private Christian college for undergrad.
So, it’s not at all surprising that I tell you that a great many/the majority of my friends from that period of my life are married, have a house and 2-4 kids by now.
But I chose to work in theatre, where things tend to work out a little differently.
But still, at age 26, I ended up getting engaged, and married at 28. Surprise of all surprises, it was to the only woman I ever dated. Perhaps it wasn’t the most traditional route, but I had reached some level of “normal settling down” and felt relieved to have hit that milestone in my life. When our friends would complain about online dating or talk about their loneliness, my wife and I would look at each other and sigh, “Whew! At least we don’t have to ever go through that bullshit again.”
We lived in the city of Chicago and neither had particularly good paying jobs, so we rented a technically decent apartment in a neighborhood where kids literally got shot on our block. It wasn’t a house with a white picket fence, and it sure as hell had its issues, but it was ours and we made it up as cute as we could.
Because we were a same-sex couple of limited means, even if we were interested in having kids together, it was financially impossible. But that wasn’t a thing we had in mind for our future together, anyway.
So, we had begun living our own little version of the American Dream together. I had finally arrived at some semblance of the place so many of my friends had reached 5-10 years earlier.
This wasn’t supposed to be my life. It’s like I was playing a game and I was sent back to the start again, left in the dust.
Yeah, I know that life isn’t a game and there are no set rules, but sometimes it’s nice to have some stability and sometimes it’s fine to want the stereotypical house and partner and 2.5 children and half a cat or whatever they say.
But when have I ever been traditional?
After my divorce, I got a new job and moved across the country to a place where I knew absolutely no one. I gave myself the freshest start possible. This next chapter of my life could be whatever I wanted it to be.
But now I had to figure out what exactly it was that I wanted.
I had to figure out who I really was now that I was all grown up and on my own, left to my own devices.
The first bitter pill I had to swallow was realizing that I was either going to have to live with strangers for housemates or live in a shoebox studio apartment. And I did both of those things in rapid succession, ultimately deciding that a 230 square foot apartment with a mini fridge and hot plate for a kitchen was far superior to sharing a house.
But it was a huge blow for me to acknowledge that I no longer had a real home. Most of my stuff is still in storage at my parents’ house, halfway across the country until I land somewhere more permanently, whatever that means. It’s like I’m in college again, like I’ve regressed 10 years. I feel like less of an adult than I did 5 years ago when I was living with my ex, now sleeping on my glorified cot.
As I watch my friends have their second child, sell their starter house and move into their next one, I feel twinges of envy. These things are now further away from my reality than they had ever been.
I decided to give the Netflix original show “Love” a try the other day and, while I’m not entirely sure I’ll keep watching, there was one part at the end of the first episode that was TOO REAL.
One of the lead characters is a woman named Mickey, and she’s probably around my age and had just gone through a breakup. She finds herself at some strange cult meetup and stands up and gives this speech:
“You said earlier that if you ask for love, the world will send you love back. But I’ve been asking and asking, and I haven’t gotten fucking anything. Hoping and waiting and wishing and wanting love. Hoping for love has fucking ruined my life. But I refuse to believe that all those dipshits I went to high school with, who are married now and putting pictures on Facebook every day of their kids in little headbands have it all figured out, right? That’s gotta be bullshit. That can’t be the deal, that can’t be it.”
After my divorce, I’ve marveled at how anyone can get marriage right, let alone the majority of my friends. (This is not me telling my high school friends that they are dipshits, by the way.) I identify so strongly with Mickey’s words, though.
And, after my divorce, I’ve realized that I really do still want some version of the American Dream.
After some deliberation over the past year and a half, I’ve decided I really would like to eventually get married again. With the right partner, I would like to have kids (ideally whole ones, and before my eggs start to desiccate, which is its own fun timeline issue…) I would like to have a healthy work/life balance and a cute home-type apparatus in which to live. With a full sized fridge.
So here I am, at age 31, setting out once again to do the damn thing, if the American Dream happens to smile upon me again.