By LUCY ORMONDE
Taylor Cotter is worried.
At the age of 22, she’s finished high school, graduated college and has recently landed her dream job. She owns a car, lives out of home and pays her own rent.
Some would call her successful. But Taylor? She’s not happy. In a recent article for The Huffington Post called ‘A struggle of not struggling’ Taylor worries that she ‘gave up on youth’ by choosing the path of a full-time job and an adult life so early on.
Two months after graduation, I seem to be one of just a handful of people that’s been able to get themselves on their feet, pay their own bills and actually put together some semblance of an adult life with minimal parental assistance.
I bought a car, found an apartment and set up a superannuation fund just six months after turning 22. I came down on the ‘right’ side of every statistic — I found a job in my field that actually pays well, I’m living on my own, and seem to have everything that these other college graduates are dying to have.
But what about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on the TV show Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren’t these the things that really make you 22…?
I suppose that I’m grateful that I can make all my car payments and start saving for retirement while most of my friends are living at home and working part-time jobs — but I often find myself lamenting the fact that I’m not living at home and not working a part-time job. From my perspective, these are just some of the life-changing, character-building experiences that I may never have.
Taylor is not the only person who thinks you need to have done it tough in order to appreciate the good times – it’s something I’ve seen my friends mull over whenever they’ve making big decisions about work or home life.
I’ve often wondered if I’ve somehow missed out because I’ve never eaten packet noodles to survive. I’ve had too many conversations with my girlfriends about “doing [insert life-changing, character-building cliche experience here] while we’re still young… you know, just because we can”.
And I’m laughing at myself right now. Because HOW ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS is that? To think that the only measure of life experience is whether or not you’ve lived on a backpacker budget.
But it happens all the time.
A few years ago when I wrote a piece about living at home until the age of 23, I was faced with comments from people who I assume to be the former residents of Struggle Town. The fact that I went through my four years of uni living in the house I grew up in and not paying rent didn’t sit well with the people who did it tougher when they were my age. Apparently, I didn’t know what I was missing out on. “There is a reason why so many successful people are a product of a cash-strapped upbringing or youth”, I was told huffily, more than once.
Wait…. Were they trying to say I’d never be successful because I didn’t pay rent? Or just that I’d never be able to appreciate success if it did come my way?
These days I do pay rent. And it sucks. But I’m not sure that having struggled financially has made me a bigger, better or more whole person. It just means I can’t afford expensive jeans.
There seems to be a mentality out there that if you’ve done it harder than other people, you’re somehow more deserving of success. That you don’t know the true value of money unless you’ve earned and scraped by on your own.
“I have always worked hard and saved,” protested one of my friends in a similar situation to me. “Does that mean I don’t appreciate what I have been able to do in life? Absolutely not… I am so thankful of the opportunities that have come my way. And I’ve worked bloody hard for them.”
Do you really have to fail in order to succeed? Is struggling the only way to build resilience and character? I don’t think so. Just like I believe you can still appreciate the taste of lobster even if you don’t know what it’s like to eat canned tuna everyday for lunch.
Do you think everyone needs to do it tough to appreciate good times and good fortune? Did you?