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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

It’s your life: Make your own milestones


A graduating student holds her child. Illustration by Eva Lycette (She/Her) / Mass Media Staff.

As an older student, I’ve been recently hit with a double whammy of existential life crises. Seriously, I have. I’m not joking. I talked about one last week—graduating. Oh, and there was that thing about struggling to regain my passion for music… so make that triple whammy, I guess.
Anyway, the third whammy is that a lot of my friends are starting to reach those stereotypical adult milestones without me. I’ve got two friends who’ve had “big boy jobs”—you know, corporate stuff—for years now. One of them is already going back to school for a master’s degree. The other is playing around with artificial intelligence development in his spare time at work.
Another one of my friends is getting married and just bought a house—well, the bank owns it actually… you know the deal. His younger brother is already married, and already has a condo. And my cousin, who’s only a year older than me, just had a freaking kid! It’s scary, man.
But what’s scarier than having a baby is not having reached a lot of these milestones. Well, not truly, but I’ll get to that in a second. I haven’t gotten my bachelor’s yet, I haven’t had a full-time career job, I only just moved into my own place a couple years ago and I definitely have not had a kid…not that I want to anytime soon, though.
Now, I like to joke about my age with other students, but I’m only 26. I joke because I’m one of those “non-traditional” students—older than the average—and my bachelor’s has been in the making for almost a decade. I graduated high school in 2014 for God’s sake.
So, I’m not old, I’ve just been doing this crap for too long.
The point is, though, that all of you students reading this are either my age, or not much younger. While you’ll still see a hell of a lot of growth in that span of time, it will be over before you know it. And you are going to be facing this same crisis.
But I’m here to tell you what might be totally obvious to you, yet is really true—it’s not actually a crisis. It’s totally fine. Everybody goes at their own pace, and that is absolutely not an admonishment or meant to infantilize you. I mean it sincerely.
The whole concept of “milestones” is just not good at representing all possible life courses. A lot of people have this idea that milestones are, well, set in stone. But stones can be moved, removed, re-carved or replaced. And who’s to say how many miles even need a marker anyway?
But let me get away from this confusing metaphor for a second. The bottom line is that everyone has different milestones that are spaced at different intervals. One person may have a bunch of traditional steps—graduation, marriage, full-time job, house, kids—early on in life. Others might have the same list, only shifted forward in time. Still more may have a similar list but spread out to a greater degree. Many have different milestones all together, or have the traditional order switched around.
The truth is most people fall into a few of these categories. One super common idiosyncrasy is going back to school later in life. Another common one is to never have children or never get married. And honestly, these aren’t that unusual anymore.
Yet, there is still a lot of societal pressure to meet these traditional milestones. The “old people” in our lives often love to cajole us about any number of them. Kids and marriage are big ones.
But look, nobody should feel pressured to get married or have kids. This isn’t the 50’s anymore; starting a family while in college, or even just after college, is simply not financially viable for most of us. And even if it was, it’s perfectly normal and okay to just not want to do it. We have like eight billion people on this planet [1]; do we really need more?
And as for marriage, what’s wrong with domestic partnership without the legal document? Or even just staying single? There are a lot of benefits to both, especially if you don’t have kids. Kids are expensive, and so are weddings, and the absence of either frees up a lot of time and money. Think about what you can do with all that extra dough and extra time! No kids means more time for travel, hobbies and more.
There are so many more examples of this. Finishing a bachelor’s degree before your mid-20’s is another common one, and so is moving out of your family’s house during college—depending on your culture, that is. Again, neither of these things need to happen at a set point in time, or even at all. Plenty of successful, happy people finish college later in life or never even go to college. Plenty of successful, happy people never leave their family’s home for good reason.
So, don’t sweat it when your mee-maw and pee-paw keep asking, “When are we going to be grandparents?” Don’t freak out when your workaholic friend graduates college at 22 and buys a house two years later. And don’t lose your lunch when suddenly, you’re the “uncle” or “auntie” to nine different babies. That’s their life, not yours. You do you.
I will receive my bachelor’s degree at 27 years old. I have no plans to have a kid in the near future, and I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life—and that’s okay. Life is an often unexpected journey, and we should all embrace our unique path.
So, make your own milestones. Or just go with the flow; that works too.

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor