It’s my birthday this Friday (shout out to my fellow Virgos!) and I’ll be turning 23, which I means I am that much closer to my mid-twenties, and honestly guys, this leads to all sorts of existential questions I am not ready for.
The other day, I was having dinner with a friend and, as most conversations between people in their early twenties go, we talked about the future. This friend of mine, Sarah, remained in law school, and is every baby boomer’s dream daughter. She wants to work in corporate law, save up enough money to buy a house and car, get married, and have two kids. I, on the other hand, am a much more typical millennial (well, my blog is subtitled ‘the diary of a self-confessed millennial’). I’m working a 9-to-5 (which I love, don’t get me wrong!) and getting a master’s degree, and spending what I don’t deposit in my savings account on traveling (and the occasional book).
We didn’t argue or anything juvenile, but that conversation did make me think of what I’ve decided to call the Eternal Millennial Question. What, you may ask, is the Eternal Millennial Question? It all boils down to this: invest in material things, or once-in-a-lifetime experiences?
I’m at a point in my life where everyone and their grandmother feels the need to tell me what to do with my money. My mom, the hordes of titas and titos every Filipino kid has, and even my friends’ parents all harp on about buying a house and lot, insurance, and investing in stocks. Those closer to my age, on the other hand, are all about seeing the world, learning languages, and trying new things. And unlike my more decisive peers, I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet on which horse to back.
I’m very lucky that I graduated from college without outstanding student debt, I found a well-paying non-minimum-wage job pretty quickly, and that working for the government entitles me to a hella ton of financial aid for my master’s degree. I’m aware that I’m in a pretty privileged position now to even be pondering this question, so I’d like to get that out of the way right now by acknowledging it.
The thing is, I’m no nomad. I love my job, and I love what I’m learning from here. I like the feeling of depositing 20% of my bi-monthly paycheck in a savings account, which I have made as difficult as possible to withdraw from. I like power dressing, immaculate makeup, and shopping. I like coming home to one place, I like the familiarity of my bed and the view outside my window.
But I also like climbing mountains and pitching tents, sunning myself on a beach and getting sprayed by saltwater as the speedboat I’m riding jets through the waves towards an isolated island. I like people exclaiming “umitim ka” (“You got darker!”) upon my return to Manila. I like learning new things about new places, meeting new people from all walks of life, and discovering things I would never have otherwise known. I like trying death-defying activities, eating food I can’t get anywhere else but that place, and stumbling my way through a few basic phrases in a local dialect.
How do I reconcile these two points of view?
Looking back on my life post-graduation (which has been three years in the making, goddamn I’m old), I’d like to say that I think I’ve found my happy medium. I say ‘think’ because I haven’t been at this long, but so far I find myself liking where I am. Like I said, I’m no nomad. I’m never gonna be able to buy a one-way ticket anywhere because I enjoy my job, and I like having nice, expensive things. And honestly, that’s okay.
I can still travel. Enjoying my job and where I am now in life doesn’t preclude that. And really, taking a few weeks to a whole month off, or even just a weekend or two, is the perfect way to be reminded that my problems are paltry compared to the sheer vastness of the world. (Existential crisis, right there, but the comforting kind. The universe doesn’t give a shit that I fucked up that one time.)
Having a life back home also means that I have something comfortable and constant to come back to when I’m done wandering. I’ll still have some measure of stability in my life. A job, and all the accoutrements that come with it, may be seen by some as unnecessary leashes; but I find fulfillment in my work, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Certainly, my job is what makes it possible for me to travel in the first place.
I recognize that not everyone agrees with how I live my life.
There are people, like my friend Sarah, who think I’m being frivolous with my money (although Sarah would never say so, bless her soul). There are people who will tell me I can travel any time when I’m older, and it’s better to save what money I can to buy a house. There are people who will tell me I should be saving for my future children (which, ew, no thanks – unless they’re of the four-legged variety).
Conversely, there are also people who will tell me I shouldn’t be tying myself to a career at such a young age. There are those who will tell me – people in travel groups on Facebook, mostly – that my twenties are meant for trying and learning new things, experiences, living life to the fullest and all of that YOLO Mark Twain crap.
Neither of these opinions are wrong. I mean, the question of what to do with your life is something subjective, isn’t it? For some people, the right answer would be to work and invest and save and buy a house. For others, it’d be to not put down roots, travel, learn and try new things. Both ways are okay, and honestly, I think it’s high time we stop castigating millennials for choosing one or the other.
As for me, I’m perfectly contented with the happy medium life I have. I like having a job and putting down roots, but I also like getting away from it all to be reminded that, at the end of the day, my troubles are so small compared to the magnificence of the world.
Maybe being this close to my mid-twenties isn’t so bad, if I can realize that.
Here’s to my last four days of being 22!