Here is an open letter to all the parents, aunts and uncles who write to me asking for advice about the twentysomething in their life who is an incorrigible underachiever:

Lighten up! No one should be labeled an underachiever in their twenties! The first thing you should ask yourself is whose standards are you using? This is not the same workplace that existed ten years ago. There are new rules, and you need to stop applying the old rules to someone who has no need for them.

The people who know exactly what they want to do when they are 22 are called, in the land of sociology, “fast starters.” And today that is only 12% of the workforce. In general, these people are conservative, taking paths their parents took, and do not ask a lot of questions. The majority of twentysomethings today move back home with their parents , job hop every 18 months, and refuse to pay their dues.

And you know what? These are all good decisions. To you, these decisions might look like decisions that losers make, but the world is different. Do you know what a loser is today? A loser is someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know herself. A loser is someone who saw his parents earn a lot of money and not get happiness from it and still deludes himself that money will make him happy. A loser is someone who looks for fame or prestige. A loser is someone who lets someone else tell them what success looks like.

Today success is personal. It’s about using the years of emerging adulthood to figure out what works for you. This is time to experiment – try things and quit them and try other things. This is a time to have gaps in resumes, red in bank accounts, and a suitcase packed, ready to go at a moment’s notice. These are symptoms of someone who is learning a lot and growing a lot.

Personal growth looks a lot like being lost. Lost is okay. Who wouldn’t be with twenty years of schooling and no preparation for adult life? People grow more when they are lost then when they are on a straight path with a clear view of where they are going.

Don’t tell me that your kid is a bartender and will never grow up. Bar tenders have some of the best social skills in the workforce, and social skills are what matters. Bar tenders are not underachievers. Also, did you ever stop to ask your bar-tender kid what he does during the day when he’s not pouring drinks? He’s probably doing something fun and cool and a little risky that you didn’t have the guts to try til you had a midlife crisis.

And don’t tell me about your kid who isn’t finishing college. No one said college has to happen right away. No one has research to show that if you do college right after high school you will be a happier person. But people do have research to show that if you take time to find yourself during your twenties then you will avoid a quarterlife crisis. So maybe it’s okay that your niece is taking a year off of college to travel in Thailand. Or knit sweaters.

Stop judging the twentysomethings. Instead, look at yourself. Why is it so important for your twentysomething to make choices that you like? In fact, the most successful people in today’s workplace are making choices that would have seemed absurd ten years ago. And things that are true today were not true ten years ago.

And have a heart. It’s not easy to be a twentysomething today. These young people grew up with tons of structure, tons of adults watching over them, tons of accolades. It’s a hard adjustment to go into the adult world where there is none of this. The most successful transitions happen when the person making the change receives time to adjust, space to grow, and support for tough decisions.

Have some patience. Most people find what they want to do with their life by the time they are 30. Really. And they are already putting so much pressure on themselves to find a good life. They don’t need more pressure from you.

151 replies
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  1. Charlene Jaszewski
    Charlene Jaszewski says:

    I wish i’d have been lucky enough to have had parents who could have supported (both emotionally and financially) my being “lost” for a while during/after college. My parents had zero money to send me to college, so I was saddled with a huge amount of student loan debt. I felt huge pressure to get out into the workforce and get a job after college. What I was schooled to do (journalism) would have barely paid for meals, let alone rent and loans, so I had to get into other jobs. Luckily it tumbled me into computers (where I am today) so that helped. But I would have loved to have been able to pursue journalism as a career to see where it would have led without the spectre of debt.

  2. Allen
    Allen says:

    Penelope, you’re listening to Rebecca way too much.

    Ten years ago, it wasn’t normal for a twenty-something to know exactly what they wanted to do with their life. Most people don’t even understand what it means to work until reality replaces total idealism between 25-28. The only 25-28 year olds that are in total control are the ones that start their own business. While that’s great, it doesn’t really define today’s workforce. I quote an old saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same”. Ben and Jerry tried to buck the system by only paying the CEO a small salary and soon realized their ideal’s weren’t going to fly.

  3. Jen L
    Jen L says:

    I think it’s important to point out that a lot of the “finding yourself” that happens in our twenties is a direct result of our adult responsibilities. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated from college. Instead of moving back in with my parents and bartending, I took a professional job with benefits and a decent paycheck. I wasn’t overly thrilled about it, but I needed to pay the bills. It was the best decision that I ever made.

    That job taught me so much about what the “real world” is all about – good and bad. It exposed me to a variety of career opportunities that I didn’t know about in college, and it taught me really valuable lessons about myself. I stayed at that job for two years. Since then I’ve changed jobs three more times after a couple of years at each. All have been different, and I’ve moved up the ladder in each case.

    And even though I was working full time in professional jobs, I still had time to find myself outside of work. I traveled, I went back to school, I moved to a different city, I tried new hobbies, I made new friends, I started volunteering, etc.

    My point is that you don’t know unless you try. You’re not going to learn anything about yourself by being paralyzed with fear about the real world while living in your comfort zone. Does the real world suck sometimes? You bet. Can you get through it? Of course. And you’ll be a stronger and happier person for it.

    I don’t understand the mentality of needing to find yourself before “becoming” an adult. Being an adult means learning from your mistakes and making wiser decisions because of them. There aren’t many things in life that can’t be changed. Fish or cut bait.

    P.S. I was a recruiter in one of those three jobs. And contrary to the advice Penelope gives in this blog, gaps on your resume are never a good thing.

  4. Mary W
    Mary W says:

    I dunno, I have mixed feelings on this.

    OTOH I agree that career paths have changed, and that it’s a good thing when you’re younger to take the time to explore your options, rather than locking into a specific career/life plan too soon.

    But there is something to be said for the skills and mindset that comes from standing on your own two feet, which includes having to figure out how to deal with tough life stuff (like a crummy job) without the easy safety net of Mom’s and Dad’s $$.

    Aside from opinions pro/con — it’d be interesting to look at some of the research on this. Here’s a couple of points that came to me — would love to see others:

    The “Millionaire Next Door” authors said that their research showed that adult kids who received ongoing financial support from their parents were less likely over time to achieve independence. It seemed to be easy psychologically for some adult children to develop a “temporary” financial dependency that became permanent.

    There’s also a regular study (I can’t find a link though) where high school kids are asked to estimate how much money they’ll earn as adults, and the kids’ numbers are out of sync with market reality — lots of kids think they’ll be making $100K+ when the US median household income in 2006 was $48k. It’s fine for kids to be ambitious — the question is whether they’ve being totally unrealistic, and then when adult life hits them, they maintain unrealistic expectations by continuing to tap their parents for $$$.

    Now when we talk income, it’s just money, and the quality of life is about more than money. But I can see how all these issues — high expectations, willingness to rely on parents $$, etc — could, for some young adults, turn into an ongoing problem rather than being “just a phase”.

    (And it’s true that there are people in every generation who “fail to launch” — so that isn’t just a Gen Y specific issue.)

  5. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I’m 25, with a bachelor’s degree, a full-time job (going on 3 years), a 401(k), benefits, loans, and bills.

    And I feel lost.

    What’s worse, because of that job, I don’t even have time to look around and explore. I can’t find myself because I feel so drained at the end of each day. I’m not even finding time to take care of my health. Lost? Maybe a better word is “trapped.”

    Two weeks of vacation per year is nowhere near enough. I want to travel. I want to read all the books I’ve bought over the past few years that I haven’t gotten around to yet because I haven’t had the time. I want to learn new things, meet new people, and really challenge myself. And I don’t want to wait until retirement to do any of that.

    It seems like the corporate workforce offers none of the challenges I’m looking for. (The biggest challenge so far seems to be brown-nosing and networking.) I don’t really see marketable skills as a means to anything except more money. And yet it seems like the majority of people need to play by “the rules.” I don’t want to have a gap in my resume. I don’t want to do anything that would make me less likely to find gainful employment. I’ve considered taking some time off and trying to figure things out, even just to travel across the country, but it’s this “common wisdom” that is holding me back.

    So… I’m not sure what to do. With events from this past decade (like 9/11 and Iraq), I wonder if there is a renewed sense of wanting to enjoy life now while you can, since there’s no guarantee we’ll even live to see retirement. At the same time, I still want to support myself both now and in the future, especially if I live to see retirement.

    Seems like quite a balancing act for a twentysomething.

  6. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    I think the question to ask is whether this journey of “self discovery” will continue, if parents stopped objecting and also in the same breath, withdrew the privileges of rent-free boarding and free dinner, and sub-let the 20-something’s room to somebody else, thus removing any possibility of reneging on these decisions.

    It may be endlessly fascinating to self-discover in privilege, less so when you have to cosy up to the homeless sleeping under the bridge (after all, couch surfing will also end some time; why should friends let you do this, on their dime and time?)

    Those inspired by the Buddha may do well to remember that he was born a prince and was sole heir to a prosperous kingdom. If his experiments had failed, he had ‘back-up’. Every 20-something needs to consider his or her back-up.

    Oh and by the way, a 40-something friend, whose widowed father was remarrying, selling up and moving states, said to me: “He is selling my inheritance”. I had to remind her that calling his house her inheritance presumed many things and expressed a repressed hope of his death.

    So there are people who are their own persons, respectful of parents and their own duty to parents, but not content to mooch. And there are some who will expect their entitlement way late in life. I would not advise any 20-something or their parents to encourage the latter. Parents hopefully have the ability to distinguish between the two.

  7. mark
    mark says:

    Penelope Trunk has found that recycling about 5 different ideas she created years ago and trolling for pagehits is a winning formula. I guess good for her, bad for the sheep that follow her “advice”. India, China and the rest of the emerging world are going to eat this generation’s lunch (unless Mommy and Daddy continue to provide it, of course).

    Pure “unincorrigible” (sic) dreck…

  8. Antoine Clarke
    Antoine Clarke says:

    I sent this to a close friend who has turned 30 and is feeling very down. I think she wishes her dad read it.

    As a 42 year old, I can vouch for the fact that I was pretty lost in my 20s and that I am having a bad time right now.

    But it’s important to realise that people ultimately cannot be made to succeed on a sustainable level. It comes from within and luck. The latter tends to happen when you’re ready for it, it seems to me.

    Penelope, you’ve been candid about some problems in your life lately. But the effect of posts like this on some readers will be profoundly positive. I hope this helps.

  9. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    @ Mark:

    “India, China and the rest of the emerging world are going to eat this generation's lunch..”

    And guess who is providing the lunch-in-a-box and dinner, not to mention doing laundry and keeping their room clean for them? Yes, their moms!

    Indians and Chinese progeny stay at home as long as they can – and if you believe Murakami, so do the Japanese youth (ref: Underground) – and if they are male, they get to bring their brides home too… :-)

  10. David Fallarme
    David Fallarme says:

    @ Jeff
    (Nov 16 2007)

    I’ve held a few less-than-ideal full-time jobs where I was working for the weekend (and mainly, the money). To a large extent, I see where you’re coming from.

    Three words that will save your sanity:
    Get a hobby.

    Your post makes it sound like you have very little to look forward to — you’re living to work, not working to live. Do something creative, train for a marathon, learn an instrument. Something to give you a mental escape while you work on unlocking those financial shackles.

  11. Norcross
    Norcross says:

    I started in the corporate cube world at 18 while I went to school at night. Made more money (for me at the time) than I knew what to do with…and was broke and burnt out by 21. Had I have done a little searching at 18, instead of trying to do it all at the same time, who knows. All I know is tht I had to bust my butt to repair the damage that I caused from 18-21, since I just wasn’t ready to be a ‘real’ adult yet.

    My parents aren’t rich by any means (minister and public school teacher), but they’ve been able to get along just fine, including raising 3 kids. They knew that family, emotional support, and overall encouragement meant a lot more than stroking a check.

    And while yes, I’ve spent a considerable amount of money on tattoos (over $3,000), I’ve also spent 5x that on my 401(k), Roth, and my son’s 529 plan. And at 27, I’m much happier than I’ve ever been and I have an idea of where I’m going. And the only money my parents pay out anymore is holiday gifts for my son.

  12. Pink
    Pink says:

    I do feel bad for Penelope. She is miserable in her real life, and seems to create this fantasy life of “new rules” that simply do not exist. I completely agree that she recycles the same half dozen or so ideas over and over again, without any real research or demographic proof that these “rules” exist.

    What really blows my mind is that she, and her commenters, frequently wax on about how this generation of 20-somethings is changing the world with their new ideas and ways of interacting in the business.

    In reality, if you really want to chop things into generations, “Generation X” has contributed to the biggest technological and workplace changes….ever. Who created Google? Blogger/Typepad/MovableType? Yahoo? MySpace? Flickr and most of the early social networking, Web 2.0 apps? Yes – Gen X’ers. And, for the most part, the people behind these were in their 20’s when they created them.

    My husband and I are in our mid 30’s and have been married for 15 years. He has been with the same company for over a decade, but has consistently “job hopped”….right up the corporate ladder. (I admit to some astonishment at the casual attitude taken toward job hopping from company to company, and then complaining about lack of vacation time, etc. There are many benefits that accrue over years of service – my husband was up to 4 weeks of vacation after only five years with the company, and now has nearly seven weeks paid vacation every year.)

    I really hope Penelope is a one-off anomaly when it comes to dispensing advice to the current generation of 20-somethings. I read Newsweek cover to cover every week, browse numerous blogs, and have had experience both in the corporate world and the volunteer world. I have never seen any of the “rules” she espouses in action.

    * * * * * *

    I like the part of this comment that intimates that Gen X are the real revolutionaries. I think this is probably true, and I’ve written about how I think Gen Y is inherently conservative. I like the list here of all the Gen X-er startups. Makes me proud since I’m an X-er.

    The reason you have not seen any new rules in Newsweek is maybe because of issues like last week’s: The fortieth cover story about how great 1968 was. What’s up with that? Why is this news? I don’t get it.

    Another thing I don’t get. Why did you use a porn site as the URL for your comment? I don’t recall anyone ever doing this on Brazen Careerist….

    -Penelope

  13. Dale
    Dale says:

    I wish I had the opportunity to search for my true calling before growing old at 19, and accepting my responsibilities like a man.
    I have seen the benefits of exploration first hand, in the lives of younger friends and their supportive parents. The outcome is usually a better prepared, mature, wizened or at least somewhat sane thirtysomething, with fewer regrets ahead of them.

  14. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    @ Jeff:

    I re-read your comment after seeing David Fallarme’s note for you.

    You say: “With events from this past decade (like 9/11 and Iraq), I wonder if there is a renewed sense of wanting to enjoy life now while you can, since there's no guarantee we'll even live to see retirement. At the same time, I still want to support myself both now and in the future, especially if I live to see retirement. Seems like quite a balancing act for a twentysomething.”

    Terrorism at home is new to Americans (this comes from someone who grew up in India – terror to the east of them, terror to the south of them etc – and learnt the word ‘assassination’ at the ripe age of 7) but the world over it has been a reality for decades. It is the ‘response’ that counts and that will carry you through. Oh, and I have worked since I was 23, and I left India to work abroad too not in the welcoming American context but in the not-so-welcoming European context. Life is as hard as we think it is.

    David has given you some good advice. But what the uncertainty of life means is that one lives everyday as if it were his last, and not to be dead before one really is.

    My suggestions would be:
    1. Try and reflect on the essential and the non-essential part of your work. Cut the latter out gradually; it is the thief of time.

    2. Brown-nosing is everywhere; but have you wondered how some people just do not do it but still are successful? Find somebody like that whom you admire – not necessarily within your company – and ask them if they will mentor you.

    3. Everyone has 24 hours so do you. Find time to read. Things are happening around you at a rapid rate. If you socialise outside work and read, you will see/ visualise yourself in other alternative contexts and settings. Recover your power to dream for yourself.

    4. If you feel trapped, ask yourself why? Do you like the security of money? Do you like to tell people you have a mega-corp job? Or are you just a creature of habit and it is simple as that?

    Knowing oneself is the first step in nearly all endeavours in life. I found as much fun in my corporate jobs (job-hopping in the most unusual way, being part of a senior management talent pool which took high risk/ high return assignments) as I do in my own work now. I always made time to read, and to reflect on the day before it ended.

    Good luck. But at 25, you really should not be so down.

  15. Ross
    Ross says:

    @ Jeff

    You wrote: “What's worse, because of that job, I don't even have time to look around and explore.”

    Then why are you wasting time posting a long post to Penelope’s blogette?

  16. Amy
    Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this post Ms. Trunk. I thought when I neared the end of my college experience I would know exactly where I was going. 17 days to go and I still don’t know where I’ll end up. I take comfort in knowing that not all people are “fast starters.”

  17. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Maybe you should be sending a post to the parents about not coddling their children and watching every move they make. There is responsibility that needs to be taken and I think that parents don’t let their children take responsibility. I see parents saying ohh that is okay and trying to get their kids out of messes. I know one young Y couple. They built this huge house and wanted all of the things they never had – they grew up on farms. Both had good jobs but the husband realized he did not have enough money and embezzled money from his company. Somehow his family got involved and paid off the money. He did not have to go to jail or repay his family. This is an everyday occurance in this world. I am not so sure I agree with the Y’s attitude, it is almost like the family or world owes them the ability to do things their way.

  18. Pink
    Pink says:

    The “1968” thing is because the Boomers who run these magazines tend toward self-absorbed navel gazing. It’s not every week, but several times each year they do focus on “Boomer” issues – I imagine it’s because they know their demographics and target stories toward them.

    Sorry about URL – I had no idea about “pink.com”. I do not use my real email address in blog comments – it seems like a silly way to open myself up to much unwanted spam. What is the purpose of requiring email for comments, if any random email address can be used? Unless some kind of verification process is used, it really does seem pointless to “require” an email address. Obviously, if a commenter wants to engage in private dialog, leaving email is necessary. Otherwise….???

  19. Matt
    Matt says:

    This article is extremely relevant to my life, and I think it is true. Many of my friends have ventured into the real world with no idea what they want to do in the future. I think it is rare to find someone who does know what they want to do directly out of college. A majority of my friends who are graduates have plans of saving money and traveling. No one wants to move directly into the work force and sit in an office for the rest of their lives. This is why many college graduates job hop and seem to be putting off their career because they are putting off their career. Twentysomethings are concerned with happiness more than they are concerned with money and I don't see anything wrong with that.

  20. Megan
    Megan says:

    I love this article, and feel better about my place in the career field after reading it. 60 minutes did a piece on the Millenials not long ago, and made us sound like leaches. I know I have made more than a few mistakes when it comes to what I’m doing with my life. But, I’m trying to fix them, and I’m trying to get to a better fit, and a more stimulating environment. I sure wish more people understood that.

  21. Sifi M
    Sifi M says:

    @Jeff

    I think your post has elicted so many replies because of how well you described your situation. You seem to be a talented writer. Take Shefaly’s good advice and hang in there.

  22. Ross
    Ross says:

    Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. You can’t create yourself living with your parents.

    • Giulia
      Giulia says:

      hmmm I can’t agree with you. I do live with my parents for 3 years now and I’m 23 yrs old, but in many many many cultures, the whole family lives together until the ‘children’ get married and start forming their own families. These are not “tribe cultures’ but are cultures of most of latin america, asia, and africa. These people do create themselves and have their own personalities. Being alone, independent (in a money wise way) doesn’t recreate yourself, they do for some people. I loved (and love) living with my family and just moved out bc I moved cities and countries. I think it depends on the family and the relationship you have with them.

  23. Diane Gaines
    Diane Gaines says:

    Interesting post, but more interesting are the comments. Are twenty-somethings lost or free? Taking their time or wasting time? The idea of not taking ourselves too seriously in our twenties is a good one, but it can also be an excuse used to postone growing up. I definitely think the path to adulthood is less linear than ever, but we should also be careful not to legitmize my generation’s reluctance to put forth some old-fashioned effort.

  24. Karen
    Karen says:

    Let me guess…….your not the parent of a twentysomething. Only someone who doesn’t have a twentysomething child would write…”The majority of twentysomethings today move back home with their parents , job hop every 18 months, and refuse to pay their dues.

    And you know what? These are all good decisions. To you, these decisions might look like decisions that losers make, but the world is different. Do you know what a loser is today? A loser is someone who doesn't take the time to get to know herself.”

    Good decisions? Certainly you jest! Moving home is a good decision? For whom? The world doesn’t give a rats farthing if you find yourself and neither do your parents. If you want to find yourself, might I suggest you do so on your own dime, not your parents. A loser is someone who at twentysomething still believes that his/her parents whould be financing a journey of self-discovery. If you want to find yourself, and can not imagine yourself doing so while paying your dues, than do it on a minimum wage burger fippers wagers……..because, the wonderful comfortable home your eyeing, was paid for by the folks who delayed their own journeys of self-discovery to pay their dues, and are now fruits of their labors.

    * * * * * * *

    Hi, Karen. In the text you quote above, there are three links. Each of the links contains interviews with sociologists who are doing reserach in how the twentysomethings are doing. And the sociologists report that those are positive actions for people facing the unique challenges of today. Maybe you should click the links.

    Penelope

  25. Karen
    Karen says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh there is the rub Penelope. The sociologists report that these are positive actions for PEOPLE FACING THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES of today. Does that seem to you to be a bit narcisistic on the part of the twentysomethings? In none of the links does it address how these are really great moves for their baby boomer parents. Contrary to what they might believe, the belly buttons of the current twentysomethings is not the very center of the universe, and just because something works out best for them, does not make it the very best decision for everyone. Isn’t that the argument the twentysomethings are haning their parents with when it comes to damage to our environment? Isn’t the fact that it worked for the boomers didn’t make it the best choice for our children, the argument sociologists used to convict boomers when the divorce rate soared? While the comforts of the home your parents supplied is certainly more comfortable, there is a great deal to be said for the motivation that comes with having to pay your own bills. Sorry Penelope, but if my children want to spend time getting to know themselves they have four years of parental supported college time in which to do it, after that kiddos, you have your parents unconditional love and your own dime and time on which to explore your inner being. It is not kind to do for our children what they can and should do for themselves.

  26. Stevie
    Stevie says:

    Karen.

    Did you just realize that you said that it is not kind to do for our children what they can and should do for themselves yet just before that said that you were supporting your kids through college? Hello, they can and should do that for themselves. You are fooling yourself.

  27. disturbed
    disturbed says:

    your claim that “social skills are what matters” is worrisome.

    There comes a point where all the social skills in the world are effectively meaningless unless there is some significant substance beneath these skills which makes its way to the top.

    Image is NOT everything, despite the rhetoric you have adopted as your own.

  28. sandy
    sandy says:

    thanks for that article. i’m a twentysomething who underwent a big lifestyle change last year. my parents are very understanding and supportive of how i’m just bumbling around at the moment. i think this article does me more good than it would them. it’s like a gentle map of the territory, and feels good to read. :) thanks again.

  29. smilez05
    smilez05 says:

    Hey, everyone. It was great reading this article. I personally do not feel as though this article was written to encourage young adults to live at home and leech. I think it was meant to ease our worries and our feelings of ” what am I doing with my life”. There is so much pressure out there, and this article is a way to say” loosen up a bit”. I enjoyed the humor of it and I enjoyed the Optimism. I am 22 years old. I graduated highschool, dinked around in community college before deciding to go to trade school. I graduated and started working in a field in which.. I had my heart set on since Highschool. I Started at the bottom of the Dental Field as an Assistant. I had a bad first job experience and then job hopped to a few more jobs in that same field; all within a year or so. Each office I landed seemed to remind me of highschool all over again. I am talking about adults( co-workers) tattling on one another, sabbataging and gossiping. I personally do not like playing ” office politics”. Soon, I realized I didn’t like being a Dental Assistant anymore.(due to: under appreciation,being the office work horse and, no professional growth ) All my negative work experience made me resent the field I planned on being in ( since highschool). Now, I too am lost.

  30. Scott
    Scott says:

    While I agree that your 20’s should be a time of exploration of both the world and yourself, I have to disagree with the irresponsible way that the author painted it. As several posers already stated, you can travel, do something you love, take time off, pursue your passions but in a responsible way. I have worked with and personally know many of these so called “lost twenty something's”, many of them hitch hike around the country sleeping on strangers sofa’s if they are lucky, under a bridge if they are not. They can be seen begging for money on the downtown streets or maybe just a cigarette. They have a way of rationalizing just about anything, much the same way you did in your post.
    Flash forward 10 yrs and take a look at what you have, a 30yr old with bad teeth, a few tats that are a bit embarrassing now, an earlobe that will need surgery to repair, several unpaid parking tickets, a drunk and disorderly, drunk in public or possession charge, an estranged relationship with every family member that has bailed them out, lent them money, or had something stolen from them, or had not heard from them in years. Sure some of these young adults do find their way eventually, but many more seem to slip thru the cracks. Please stop making this passage in life sound so romantic, and give a balanced view. Thanks, and good luck to all

  31. Mike
    Mike says:

    “A loser is someone who lets someone else tell them what success looks like.”

    Did you just call all your readers losers and get away with it? Classic.

  32. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    My 20 something son has gone to community college twice – once 2 years ago and once this semester. Both times he stopped going to his classes and ended up either withdrawing or failing. This was after he received a 100% Pell Grant (which gave him several thousand dollars for living expenses, as well as paying for the classes and books). He has had 3 very good jobs since he graduated 2-1/2 years ago – but lost all 3 because he couldn’t seem to go more than 2 or 3 days a week.

    He doesn’t have an interest in anything, and when he does show some interest – it is short-lived. He has no motivation. I’ve tried everything to help him/get him help, with no success. I’m very wary of kicking him out of the house because he vegetates towards bad people/things. But, I’m at my wits end. To me – this is what ‘lost’ means.

    I’m 55 now. I never really knew what I wanted to do. But, I just kept doing – whatever – through the years. But, I made money, supported myself and my son. I find my son’s total lack of responsibility (even though, I DID teach him these things growing up)absolutely unexceptable. If he would only do SOMETHING – I would support him in his endeavors fully. But, unfortunately, and to my dismay, he is doing NOTHING!!!!!

  33. Scott
    Scott says:

    I am 25 right now. I graduated at 23 after 6 years at a Public University. The first 2 were spent pursuing a degree I thought I wanted, and instead of barely achieving, I took a hard look, got advice from counselors and left to pursue another, more creative degree that had me achieving as one of the best in my class. I started to wane in my interest by the end of my last year, and left to study abroad for a semester in a program that used creative problem solving skills in applying them towards business. I left school, tried an internship halfway across the country from home, and was completely dismayed by what my degree had me doing in the real world. Then it ended and I got a job in a liquor store, learning about wine in a very in depth fashion from people who are some of the most knowledgeable on the East Coast. I took my design degree and applied it towards bettering the store, and followed leads in creating and pursuing my whims outside of work. While working there, I’m meeting people from all over my large city in all walks of life and business, developing sales and public speaking skills, and learning what goes into management. I don’t want to be doing this job for the rest of my life, but I recognize how well it’s preparing me for my next choice when I leave. Not everyone in their 20s are on my path, but not everyone in their 20s are dropouts with no aspirations to move out of their homes. I was glad to read your article, because it’s helpful to know that taking risks and simply getting by isn’t something to be afraid of. Sure, I’ve only managed to save under $2k over the last year, but I’ve met hundreds of people from all walks of life and business who are all immeasurably talented and creative, and inspirational, and sometimes that’s more valuable than the interest I’ll earn on my savings. I would recommend to all parents who are frustrated with their kids who are living at home, to take some of that money and invest in sending them somewhere. Thank you.

  34. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Sigh. Can you write a post like this for an early forty-something who is lost?
    Loving the blog Penelope – you’re cooking with gas! (that’s a good thing :0))

  35. Pavel
    Pavel says:

    The most amazing post I’ve ever read! Gotta show it to my mum with google translator ;)

  36. Buckles
    Buckles says:

    I’m considering sending this to my parents as well, as a follow up to my mom’s panicked response to a hit and run that badly damaged my car:

    If you had a job everything would be okay, but you don’t, and it isn’t!

    Thanks for another wonderful article. Your blog is by far the best non-food one out there :)

  37. David Lawlor
    David Lawlor says:

    As long as they can pay their own way and not sponge off their parents while following their dream, then good for them. I skipped college because I knew it wanst the right time in my life and it turned out fine, but I didnt go out all night with my friends and then sleep till noon in my parents house. I moved out on my own at 17 and never went back. There is a huge difference in growing and living and just being a bum, but they look similar if the ones growing and living cant pay their bills.

  38. James
    James says:

    This was a really nice blog, posted on a friend’s facebook. Til you click around the site a bit and find stuff like this: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/08/16/blueprint-for-a-womans-life/#more-8369

    How could this even be the same person? It’s completely and irrevocably offensive and completely contradicts this article. There are people praising it as “straight talk”. Straight talk to who? To women who don’t want to be anything in life that isn’t directly defined by a man? It’s not even worth the time to draw out and compare the two for their glaring incongruity. It’s just deeply upsetting. While this will likely strike up a debate among the followers of this misogynistic moron, I don’t care to debate with idiots. I hope this gets posted so women with sense don’t find themselves offering praise to this kind of duplicity.

  39. Laura
    Laura says:

    You know what? I agree with you, but to a point. When my kids are in their 20’s, they can do whatever they want – explore, create, dream, change majors 10 times, “take a year off” – without getting hassled by me. But I will not be funding it. There’s nothing “brave” about trying new and exciting things if you know Mama’s waiting at home with a piping hot dinner and fresh towels. That’s just avoiding life.

  40. D
    D says:

    I just left my job. not too sure how things would plan out… but your article hit the nail right on the head…!!

    I love it! thank you!

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