Monday, February 6, 2012

Dreams change

When we look at our parents' generation, most people, by the time they were thirty, had been married for almost a decade already, had two or three children and by then, also started their career in a stable company -- in passing, most probably in that order as well. In this regard, we can honestly say that our parents accomplished quite a lot of life achievements at such a young age. In present day though, despite the fact that a number of people have followed the same path as their parents, it is still more likely for twenty-somethings to postpone or even skip... a few (or all) of those major stepping stones.

We still aspire to acquire these achievements of course. However, attaining them in that order and that fast is no longer our number one priority. In fact, these days, it is really more frequent -- and crucially important -- for people to (want to) establish themselves first before they even consider settling down. Getting married and having children before turning twenty-five has almost become an impossible thought. Reality is that those who do are now the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, men and women now reserve their twenties to get their dream career -- not just any career, but their dream career -- started and fulfill other significant plans like traveling the world and getting into crazy adventures before finally choosing a partner for a lifetime. Our bunch focuses on the individual a lot more than before, our bunch is more hungry, our bunch is more ambitious, our bunch dreams... BIG. 

In truth, compared to the time of our parents, we can see how our options have increased in many respects. Traveling, for instance, is no longer regarded as a rare privilege. Thanks to cheaper, faster and a greater number of traveling facilities, discovering new places -- and on a quite regular basis nonetheless --  has definitely turned into a commodity in the 21st Century. Furthermore, what was once out of reach for the majority of mere mortals at our age is now something that is standard and expected to have - such as a lot of our belongings: expensive cars, flats, laptops, HDMI TVs, etc. On a more serious note, another example of extreme development is that career opportunites arose i.e. a lot of new jobs were created in this fast moving world. Web designers, app inventors, life coaches or interior designers entered the dictionary  -- and job market -- in the space of only a few years. Finally, twenty-somethings these days are more keen on dating a lot more than in the past. In a way, people now have the opportunity to find and decide on their future husband/wife from, dare I say, a bigger lot. So by the time we are thirty, a majority of us have traveled so many places already, took a year off to learn a new language, maybe jumped off a plane and swam with sharks, studied and worked hard to get our goal i.e. dream job... but settled down, got married and had children? Not necessarily, right?    

Times have changed, and so have our dreams. It seems that a lot of us want to have lived to our full potential before living for two (and eventually, more). We give our best to make every second of our youth worth it. We put more importance on creating ourselves before giving ourselves entirely to another person. We wish to gain as much experience as possible and explore most of our possibilities before being tied down.  And truth is, we are indeed spoiled with options -- and we got more eager, we got more competititve. Of course, it does not mean that we do not fall in love and have serious relationships before reaching the age of thirty, but we are now more conscious about selfhood -- much more than people have been in the past. Meryl Streep's Francesca Johnson said in the film Bridges of Madison County that "when a woman [or man] makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her[/his] life begins but in another way it stops." In this day and age, many twenty-somethings fear exactly that statement. Therefore, for many of us, marriage and children are the last thing on our mind -- and this is the case for both men and women.

But all of a sudden, I couldn't help but ask myself whether these times of bigger dreams, bigger opportunities have made our generation become slaves to perhaps, too many options? too focused on the individual? Have we become too hungry? too self-absorbed? And finally, is it  right to (want to) postpone or skip the major stepping stone of marriage and children until further in life? Truth be told, we secure other life achievements than what our parents did at our age... but do we lose something in return?

In my personal opinion, delaying those kind of dreams i.e. major stepping stones in life has made the jump for marriage, as a consequence, a little more scary One might say that all those doubts fly out the window once we meet the right person, but the thing is, we also face this difficult question more than ever before: is there really just one right person? In a weird way, the older we get i.e. the more experiences we have and especially, the more we know who we are as one, single individual -- the more we have become picky when it comes to finding someone to spend the rest of our life with. Since our options -- in all aspects of life -- have multiplied, it is most probable that we also doubt a lot more when it comes to reducing the choice to just one. Simultaneously, because we live in a world today in which the possibilites have become somewhat limitless, we demand more, we need that very special icing on the cake and in the end, it can sometimes feel like we are uncapable of choosing anymore -- and are left with no option at all. Greatest irony of all, but it is the case nonetheless. So flying solo has never been this fun -- and has never been this hard to change.

Consequently, it is no surprise that the number of unmarried thirty year olds, in particular in urban areas, is so high. Living together has also replaced marriage for many couples. Both men and women are willing to put career first; so we become parents much later in life, therefore, perhaps have less children as well. Reality strikes as we notice just how different things are compared to the days of our parents. Whether we think of  this change as progress or on the contrary, a way downhill is subject to personal taste. Actually, we must all be a little ambivalent and can feel both happiness and disdain. We are lucky to live in a time when no option is really restrained and the feeling of "having the world at our feet" is truly at our fingertips. It is crucially important to create ourselves, to find ourselves, to know exactly who we are. But the idea of settling down should not be something that frighten us any less because like Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw said in an early episode of Sex and The City, in a world of "infinite options, sometimes there's no better feeling than knowing you only have one."