We’ve all acquired a fair amount of bad advice throughout the years: “Wait three days to return his text,” “Don’t wear white after Labor Day:” the usual culprits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with bad outfits. Recently I’ve been pondering some widely accepted life rules and clichés which seriously need to be debunked. The funny thing is, I fell for every single one of these – until I hit my twenties. So if you need a reminder that you are growing up (despite your giant collection of teddy bears), here are nine “rules” you don’t realize are stupid until you’re a twenty-something:
They say: “You can’t do anything your friends don’t approve of.”
I answer that: The year was 2002. I had received Avril Lavigne’s debut album, Let Go, as a birthday gift from a friend. I was thrilled that I could blast “Sk8er Boi” 50 times a day, but my best friend wasn’t. In fact, she made a point of professing her absolute contempt for everything Avril whenever she saw me. Eventually it got to the point that I would hide Let Go whenever my BFF visited me. That was twelve years ago. By the time I was making new friends in college (incidentally, I haven’t seen the anti-Avril friend in years) I wasn’t too worried about what others might think of my music. Mature adults are capable of having heated conversations about whether Rihanna deserves a Grammy or a mute button and not taking it personally.
They say: “It matters what brand of clothing you wear.”
I answer that: Who remembers Limited Too? How about that “adorable” Aero monkey? Yea, me too. Because back in middle school and high school your social status was defined by the words emblazoned across your chest. Name brand fashion will probably never die, but thanks to the hipsters we’ve gotten to the age where it’s more impressive to own a thrift-shop item than an overpriced camisole. I guess it helps that adult’s clothes typically don’t show the brand on the outside of the garment, am I right?
They say: “Unconventional life choices will lead to ruin.”
I answer that: I don’t know why adults of all ages continue to perpetuate this myth. I mean, they went through their twenties too, right? Well, even if they refuse to live in reality, we can. I can speak for myself here: I made all the “right” choices and I find myself still living with my parents and working a job for which I entertain no passion. Right about now is when I’m starting to question whether taking risks and doing what my heart calls me to (So Disney Channel, I know!) would be the right choice.
They say: “If you don’t make the ‘right’ choices to begin with, you’re screwed, ’cause you can’t go back and change them.”
I answer that: OK, so admittedly we haven’t yet worked out time travel, but that doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the results of poor choices. By the time you’ve lived for a quarter of a century you’ve discovered that all the clichés about learning from your mistakes aren’t just cliché – they’re actually true. We’re still young, but we’re learning.
They say: “Keep your faith to yourself.”
I answer that: Look, you don’t have to stand on a street corner waving a sign, but if you hold a belief (or don’t hold one), why should you be shy about it? Religion and spirituality are intriguing topics for conversation and both inspire and answer burning questions. There’s a time and a place (i.e., don’t ask your Catholic co-worker her opinions on birth control during a staff lunch), but as twenty-somethings we should not be restrained by narrow-minded societal “rules.” Explore the unseen.
They say: “You’d better graduate with honors from frickin’ Harvard because your worth is the sum of your degree and GPA.”
I answer that: We’ve been there and done that: Graduated, struggled to pay bills, moved back in with our parents, and worked mindless, exhausting jobs. By now I think we have a right to make a judgment call on our society’s rules on what gives a human being worth, and let me tell you, it ain’t a piece of paper from the University of Snob and Prestige. If life becomes a contest over who can climb the corporate ladder faster, then you will live the rest of your years in a survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere being judged by your salary. Um, no thanks. Go to school for what you love. Or don’t go to college at all! It’s your life, not six decades of CEO orientation.
They say: “Asking for help or allowing people to see that you’re not perfect means you’re weak.”
I answer that: When you were a teen it was uncool to ask your parents for anything but money, and you quickly learned that society doesn’t have a high tolerance for anything but a “grin and bear it” attitude. Eventually, however, the blinds fell from your eyes: Perhaps your sense of shame disappeared after allowing your best friend to hold back your hair as you threw up the night’s worth of hard lemonades. Or maybe you realized what REALLY matters after you fell into a post-graduation depression. Whatever it was that shook you out of the “paste a happy face” mentality, it’s important to remember that needing others is never a sign of weakness — just a sign of humanity.
They say: “When it comes to people there are no gray areas. Ever.”
I answer that: It makes sense to divide humanity into “good guys” and “bad guys” when you’re five, but 15 plus years down the road it’s time to re-vamp your worldview. Do you disagree with a certain politician? Fine, but don’t demonize him. Your friend’s boyfriend can’t navigate a single sentence without employing a four-letter word? He may need to grow up, but he isn’t a villain. Choices can be good or bad, but people are simply people.
They say: “The way ‘we’ do things is the best way.”
I answer that: Ever feel like you’ll be shunned if you openly question (or even just instigate discussion of) a group’s practices? It could be your family, workplace, or church, but inquisitiveness is typically squelched with “That’s just not how we do things” or “Because I said so.” For some reason this narrow-minded approach to life seems to thrive even through adulthood. As the “next generation” we have the ability to abolish the “ours is the best way” rule.
What have your experiences been, twenty-somethings? Have you disproved these rules in your own lives? Have you found them to be true after all?
Clare holds a B.A. in History from Christendom College. She enjoys philosophy, personal style, Oscar Wilde, and ancient history. Her long-term career goal is to be an editor for a meaningful publication. Along the way, she would also love to creatively use her love of drawing for a good cause.