From the Diary of a 29-Year-Old Millennial Mess

Twenty-nine is my weirdest birthday to date. It’s the age I used to daydream about when I thought about the future. It’s the age you expect to have it all together. It’s an age that you feel old, and can finally see it in your face, but are also still young enough to claim being in your twenties. It’s an age you never expect to come, and when it does it blindsides you.

Society’s expectations of a 29-year-old woman are hard to cope with. It is expected that you’re already settled down. Have children. Have a significant other bound by marriage. Own a house. Have a career. Ultimately, it’s expected to have your “life together.” Aren’t we supposed to be living the dream that would make our childhood-selves proud by now? For me, this isn’t the case.

I am still a student working on my undergraduate degree, a feat I started at the ripe age of 18. I failed and dropped out 2 times until this time stuck. Third times the charm, right? I’m in classes with 19 to 21-year-olds and I feel envious about how well they have their lives together. Generation Z seems to have it all figured out. They have approached the world with a steadfast passion. They don’t seem to deter off the beaten path despite their cringe-worthy Tik Tok and influencer obsession. Many graduated high school with associate degrees. And when they meet me, they assume I’m one of them until the dreaded conversation of disclosing my age occurs, and when it does, I typically get the questions, “How many kids do you have?” and “Are you married?” I know they only ask these questions out of naivety and innocence. They’ve followed the societal path of excellence their entire lives, so to meet someone who didn’t, means they must have put a familial life first. But the irony is, I did not. I don’t have any notable “accomplishments” that fit into society’s expectations of me.

All I have are stories of abuse, free-spiritedness, depression, tragedy, fun adventures, and rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret my twenties being a steadfast learning process. I personally had to fail over and over to learn how to get back up. My twenties have not been a story of notable accomplishments and successes that led to a life of pure success and happiness, on the contrary, they have been years that taught me who I was and who I want to be someday.

Art by Haviland Cardinal

Another downside of this age when one is a single woman is the biological clock. Many women my age have chosen that they do not want children, that they’re happy with a life sans family, and although I do resonate with that a lot, I haven’t come to terms with it. I still want a family, a husband, AND a successful career. It seems impossible with the amount of time I have before my biological clock is up. I will not be finished with my law degree until I am 33, and the idea of dating and choosing the future father of my children during a time of learning seems daunting and quite simply impossible. Should I freeze my eggs? How much does that cost? Should I adopt when I’m 45? Or do I just accept a life dedicated to the law alone? Who do I think I am to assume I can have it all?  These are questions that bog down my mind every day of my life, and simply, I don’t have the answers because the expectation of familial bliss isn’t something you can accomplish, it is just something that happens to you, if you get lucky. The biological clock is nature’s ultimate cruel joke that holds up and supports the patriarchy.

Turning 29 is hard for me because of these expectations. I’m not where I expected to be by this age, but I certainly am on the path to be there someday, maybe. I’m so thankful for my formative years of being a twenty something, but I’m also at a cross-roads of wondering if I messed up. Only the future holds the answers, and I’m sure when I am 39 I will still be saying the same thing because we can never have the answers, and we can never actually be where we are “supposed” to be. The expectations that society puts on us are an impossible golden standard that only jaded boomers think exist. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that our twenties are the greatest time of our lives. To think you must hit certain mile markers at certain times. That settling down and having a family while also having a successful career are 100% attainable during this time period. We have been told that success can be measured by money, how many children you have, and where on the map you choose to reside. But honestly, success cannot be measured by these fake idyllic standards. Success comes from within. It comes from understanding who you are, how you face adversity, what you choose to dedicate your time to, and who you surround yourself with.

Is twenty-nine a terrifying age? Yes. But it only is for all of the wrong reasons. Once we can shed the expectations that we put onto ourselves then we can finally sit with our age and accept that trials and tribulations are normal. That walking on the road less traveled gives us character; it makes us unique and creates a perspective that can ultimately make the world better. Vivre les vingt-neufs! Bring it on.

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Haviland Cardinal

Core Values: Justice, Compassion, Tolerance, & Ambition A 29 year old Political Scientist and Journalist with a future in Public Interest Law.

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