The steps of life (aren’t always steps)

Steps one through seven: graduate high school; go to college and make lifelong friends; move out from your parents’ house and never go back; graduate from college in four years and get a career in your field; if you didn’t find your forever person in college, find them and get engaged, plan a spectacular wedding and get married within a year; have kids and inadvertently teach them the same steps.

I’m 22 and a fifth-year senior. I have mastered steps one and two listed above. I graduated high school, attended college and definitely made some (hopefully) lifelong friends. I’ve at least made friends I’ll remember for a lifetime. Steps three through seven are currently pipe dreams for me, and I’m starting to learn that’s completely OK.

Any time I end up in a conversation with someone about my current life path and my future goals, I always find myself justifying my journey. I constantly find myself saying, “Oh, I’m living at home because I blew through my savings for a once in a lifetime month-long trip to Europe” to throw them off the “failure” of living with my parents at 22 with the spectacular trip I took, which is a half-truth. The new one I’ve developed is “Oh, I’m living at home because I decided to save money to put a down payment on a house and own where I live,” which is also a half-truth.

When discussing my reasoning for still obtaining my undergraduate degree, I’m so quick to cite that I changed my major three times to three completely different subjects (history to athletic training to psychology) and I’m lucky I only have four credit hours left to complete. I never stop to realize that the four-year college plan only applies to a fraction of undergraduate students. Just because the majority of my friends graduate in the expected four years doesn’t mean I’m “falling behind” or “failing.”

Yes, I came back from a four-week stay in Europe with a miniscule amount of money to my name. Yes, I plan to buy my own home within the next two years if possible. Yes, I am still attending school because I chose to leave my summers free or had to drop a class for various reasons during my initial four years. But I throw out my excuses before a person even has time to react to me saying I live at home or am still attending Xavier for my undergrad degree. I have those excuses so ready at the tip of my tongue and perfectly rehearsed to the point people automatically nod in approval, as if to say, “Wow, I’m so jealous of your trip and ability to save to purchase your own home. You definitely have your shit together.”

I am 22 years old and have never been in a serious, committed and (most importantly) healthy romantic relationship which makes steps five through seven absolutely impossible to accomplish.

Some days I think — no, I’m certain — I care more than other people. The only time I ever truly feel judged is when I talk to people from an older generation: the people who have seen me grow and mature and have created an expectation in their mind for how my life is supposed to play out. I’m not sure why I’m so caught up on fitting into this hypothetical life plan. A large percentage of my friends and acquaintances have not completed these steps in this exact order.

These “Seven Steps of Life” I’ve offered up are nearly impossible for the current generation of college graduates to complete. These steps made sense decades ago, but college has become a luxury instead of a next step for all. Out of high school, or even college for that matter, working people do not receive a livable wage that allows them to afford to buy their own home. It’s harder to find a job now than ever before with people retiring later in life compared to past generations. There is no longer such a heavy focus on marriage. Ideas of commitment and what a family looks like have changed drastically throughout the past couple decades.

There’s nothing wrong with the path I’ve decided to take/was forced on. And I’m slowly starting to accept the fact that what I thought my life would look like is completely different from how it actually is now.

Abrena Rowe is a senior psychology major from Cincinnati. She is the former Opinions & Editorials Editor for the Newswire.