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I live in Madison, the stereotypical college town: full of youthful energy, busting at the seams with a mixture of stress, lust, college pride and drunken adventures. I’ve lived here for five years and have generally considered myself a part of the young vibe Madison so vibrantly exudes.

But lately, I’ve started to feel a little old and disconnected. The students look younger and younger, and now I’m older than most of them. They worry about fake IDs, homework, and where they’re going to go out that night. I worry about paying school loans and getting enough sleep so I can work 50+ hours a week.  It’s like one morning I woke up, and I wasn’t the same person. Blink and you’ll miss it, but you become someone else

People my age don’t really fit in…..we’re too old for the college crowd and too young for mortgages and garage sales. They call it a “quarter life crisis.” It’s a time when we’re supposed to reconcile the past with the future; who you were in college morphs into “adult” you. But really, it just feels stagnant. We’re just waiting to become an adult. It’s an awkward time because we don’t really fit in.

Objectively, I’m still young. I may have a little less hair than I did when I was in college and I may wear more “adult” clothes, but other people still group me in with the Badger crowd. And that’s fine, because I’m not quite ready to give that persona up.

Then again, I don’t feel like an adult either. I’m not ready to host dinner parties and settle down. The most responsibility I want is taking care of a dog and holding onto a steady job. I definitely don’t want to have kids yet, and I’m not trying to get married. It’s too early for that.

I’m lucky enough to have a great job, but much of Gen Y is underemployed or not employed at all. The average age of marriage is climbing up next to the big 3-0. Having kids comes soon after that. This means there are 5 or 6 years post-college where you just don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, or what’s expected of you. It’s a confusing time. In pop culture, this is the cornerstone of the Apatow-ian comedies like “Knocked Up.” We all have a little bit of Seth Rogen in us.

When I think about this period in life, I think about How I Met Your Mother. I love that show. At times, it’s flat-out hilarious. Other times, it’s emotionally devastating. This season, a main character’s dad died unexpectedly and the characters are all coming to terms with leaving their twenties behind and embracing that new side of themselves they never knew they had. It’s sold as a love story, but it’s really about growing up and dealing with all of the good and bad things that come with being an adult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a great time. At our age, we’re full of disposable income and the “real world” hasn’t made us jaded and cynical (yet). We’re still wide-eyed dreamers who believe in love, life, and the pursuit of happiness without too much stress or too many setbacks. Pure hope.  We have an amazing amount of unbounded excitement for this new world we’re supposed to be entering. We are rookie adults.

So here we are, straddling the line between keggers and wine tastings. The sun is setting on the person  I was in college, but the promise of a fulfilling “adult” life is still there. We’re at the crossroads between the reckless, exuberant youthfulness in our early twenties and the life we’re supposed to be leading at the end our third decade on this planet. I guess these years are about becoming the person you’ll be for the rest of your life. As long as I remember that to hold onto a lot of the person I was and the person I am now, I’m not even remotely worried about becoming Future Tom. I’m excited to meet that man.

Categories: Gen Y
  1. Nicole Ward
    May 1, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Well said Tom, I love this!

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