How do you measure your life?
You know what I mean. The successes, the failures, the wins, the losses; the things that we use to benchmark ourselves against our peers.
In the past, marriages, kids, buying houses, cars and material things were used as the true “benchmarks” in life. Just look at our parents – a mix of boomers and Gen-X’s – who measured things by getting married at a certain age, having kids at a certain time and making sure that they picked the right neighborhood and schools for their kids and did everything on the pre-defined “life” checklist at just the “right time”.
We can’t – and don’t – measure life that way anymore. There’s simply too much variety, choice and change.
Not only can’t we measure this way, but what’s the point of trying to do so, anyway?
I know I don’t want to be perceived as a “failure” because I’m 25, unmarried, living in bachelor apartment with student debt that prevents buying a house. I want to be recognized by my personal achievements – whatever they may be – and celebrate the life I’m creating for what it is: uniquely mine. And for those I know in my age bracket that have the aforementioned things, I don’t judge, but I do applaud. They’ve make choices based on their life, and I’ll continue to make choices based on my life.
But, I wouldn’t be a Type-A if I didn’t want some way to measure. Don’t you want to know what the new benchmarks are?
If I had to make a new list to replace the marriage, having kids, buying houses list, here’s what I think fits the current generation.
THE 20-SOMETHING LIFE LIST
Let’s make it a game! Score one point for each answer or sub-answer. There’s no trophy for a perfect score, but, as the recent SNL skit said, “you can do anything”! So we applaud you for simply trying. Score at your own will. For funsies (and personal embarrassment), I’ve included my answers.
1) Do you have an RRSP fund established?
Um… no. Not yet? Financial planners are intimidating.
2) Do you have: a) a financial emergency fund? b) savings for a home or other large and planned purchase? c) A Tax Free Savings Account?
a) Nope, not even close.
b) Ha ha ha ha ha. Nope, again.
c) No, but what if I plan on opening one soon? Does that count?
3) Have you experienced a quarter-life crisis? Symptoms include: panicking, loneliness, insecurity about the future, lack of fulfullment in life, and the sense that everyone else is doing better than you at life. (Take a 1/2 pt if you haven’t experienced this, but know 5 friends that have.)
I think I get 1.5 points here. Maybe 2.5 since I think I qualify for having two personally. It’s clearly becoming a coping mechanism.
4) Have you lived on your own (sans boyfriend, roommate or parents) for at least 1+ year?
Yes! I rock this question, hands down. I’ve lived in two different cities over the past four years, all on my own.
5) Have you travelled outside your home country?
Yes, on many an occasion. Always looking for the next opportunity. Answers to questions one and two prove it’ll be a while before I spread my wings again, though.
6) Have you found a way to live freely, free from financial stresses (e.g., living month to month) or free from work/life balance constraints? (Good examples include: Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Colin Wright. Those are only the popular ones though.)
Ugh, no. This is something I consider a major personal goal, but I’m so not. there. yet.
7) Have you have more than 3 professional jobs in less than 8-10 years?
Yes, and I’m damn proud of the variety. Three industries, three different roles and a huge breadth of experience.
8) Have you ever told anyone that you big “L” love them?
Not yet. I relish the opportunity yet to come. It’s not something I intend to squander.
9) Do you have more than a) 125 facebook friends? b) 250 twitter followers? c) 100 linkedin connections?
a) Yes. (People like me!)
b) Yes. (Legit and frequent user.)
c) Yes. (Proof of the aforementioned career “success”.)
10) Do you own 2+ apple products that were purchased within the last 3 years?
I so wish I could say yes to this, but all of my apple gadgets are hitting the 5-year old mark. Time for something new? Probably not allowed, considering my scoring on questions 1 and 2.
So, how’d you do?
0-4 points: You’ve probably not hit many of the milestones that your peers have. It’s okay, we all go at our own pace. You clearly need a few more pats on the back. Take it with baby steps, starting with moving out of mom and dad’s basement. You can do it!
5-9 points: You’ve accomplished some things! Congratulations! Better look around and see what your friends are doing, and see what you can do better (than them).
10-14 points: Anyone smell and overachiever? Clearly, you rock. You’ve been through the rough patches, survived and thrived. If you’ve got your finances in order, too, you’re probably ready for spouses and kids or a round-the-world adventure. Go on, you’ve earned it.
Looks like I scored a 7.5 / 14. Middle of the road. I can live with that.
Not much. It might mean something to me, but as much as my list represents personal goals things I have or haven’t experienced, I think this might tap into the general psyche of our generation. We want a lot of the things on this list (financial freedom, for example), but not everyone will ever live alone. It’s just that way for some of us.
I think we don’t base our comparative judgements on checking boxes the way we used to, but we do judge on experience. I can name a close personal friend who’s climbed Mount Kenya, another who’s logged more airmiles than George Clooney in Up in the Air, friends who are attending Ivy league schools in the states, people who have taken gap years to travel and experience extreme environments and everything in between. I even have some friends ready to have children and all that jazz.
We’re looking for ways to measure up to our own goals, and for what it’s worth, I know what I measure.