Photo: Nottingham Trent University / Flickr
Photo: Nottingham Trent University / Flickr

Your twenties are supposed to be the magical decade that all the movies show, right? Graduate college. Meet up with huge groups of friends. Fall in love. Have a summer to remember. Find a crazy party to crash. Fall out of love. Make memories you don’t remember the next morning. Fall in love again. Everything Hollywood promises and more, right?

Wrong. Here are three reasons why your twenties aren’t as fun as you thought they would be:

  1. You don’t know whether you’re a kid or an adult.

    At age 18, teens in the United States are recognized as adults. They have voting rights, are eligible to be drafted, can be tried as an adult, and contracts they sign are considered legally binding. In the past, this would be the time that people would enter adult roles such as marriage, parenthood and getting a full-time job.

    But, as Oliver Robinson of the Department of Psychology and Counseling at the University of Greenwich writes in The Holistic Phase Model of Early Adult Crisis, there is now a gap between the “attainment of legal adulthood at 18 anentering ‘social adulthood by way of commencing parenting and entering the workforce.”

    The result of this lag, Robinson writes, is that many young adults feel unsure of their status as adults. During this period, there can be rapid changes in living space and relationships, which can lead to or contribute to risk-taking behavior, such as substance abuse.

    Depending on the economy and the individual, they may still be financially dependent on their parents, which conflicts with adult maturity and creates a “sense of adolescent dependence.”

  2. You are pressured to reach milestones that mark adulthood.

    The “Big Five” (leaving home, finishing school, getting a job, getting married, and having children) are used by young people to evaluate their progress toward adulthood, writes Richard A Settersten Jr. in Becoming Adult.

    The average young person’s twenties includes leaving home, finishing school, and getting a job if they’re lucky. Marriage has migrated to the late twentiesaccording to a PEW Research Center poll about marriage, the average first marriage age is 29 for grooms, 26.5 for brides.

    “Although many young people think there is at least an ideal order for experiencing these traditional markers, many also acknowledge that their own lives have not gone or will not go in these ways,” writes Settersten.

  3. You don’t become an adult overnight.

    Even if all the milestones are reached, it can be difficult to feel like an adult. Generally, those in their 20s view these traditional markers as ultimately being connected to being mature, responsible or in control of their life, but that they aren’t the end-all-be-all of adulthood.

    “What many young people do not seem to recognize,” writes Settersten, is that feeling in control is “a challenge they will wrestle with throughout life, not one that will somehow be resolved in early adulthood. What is unique about early adulthood is that individuals are encountering this struggle in a significant way for the first time.”

    For those in their 20s, unsure of their place in society, it’s okay to admit that you don’t feel like an adult yet. Of those that Settersten interviewed, many adults in their 30s still didn’t feel like adults. So relax. The most important thing to do in your 20s is to try to enjoy it.