Lifestyle

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Never mind a mortgage and a pension, I can't even get a car loan

Looking up: Vicki Notaro says she and her friends are maintaining their high expectations despite the downturn
Twentysomething: Lena Dunham's character Hannah Horvath in 'Girls' struggles to hold down a job and find her place in the modern world

It's no secret that twentysomethings in 2013 are a fearful bunch. Apparently we're the first generation who will be poorer than our parents, yet raised with a sense of entitlement our 1980s counterparts lacked.

However, it's not just global financial crises, the lack of prospects or the looming spectre of forced emigration we're worrying about. Judging by the Twitter machine, an unmatched platform for moaning and #firstworldproblems in the 21st Century, it seems twentysomethings globally are on the verge of a breakdown largely brought on by other people's success stories.

We are observing our peers and losing our collective sh*t because we're not keeping up with the Kardashians (or even Jennifer down the road).

People like Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton (28), chart-topping singer Lorde (16) and the collective wealth and fame of One Direction (19-22) are high-flying examples of people who send the Twittersphere into a frenzy.

It seems these young upstarts don't just make older generations feel both ancient and useless; they also make their own bright-eyed and bushy-tailed counterparts feel lacking. Time and time again, I hear cries of "Look at Kylie Jenner. She's 16 years old and she has a Birkin bag. What have I done with my life?! Arghhh!!!" etc.

I find it both amusing and encouraging that despite our Government's complete lack of interest in even keeping us here, Irish twentysomethings are retaining high expectations, comparing ourselves to the young and fabulous.

We are the generation who have been taught that shooting for the stars means we might just get there, which goes some way to explaining why every second fashion blogger assumes they'll be the next Anna Wintour, and why cocky X Factor contestants feel so righteous about their pop-star abilities.

I'm not saying we should be less ambitious, because I am ferociously so. I'm not saying we shouldn't follow our dreams. I'm saying we should stop expecting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to be so easily accessible, or even full when we eventually get there.

At not quite 28, I am, quote unquote, living the dream. I have a brilliant job as a magazine editor. I earn a decent enough crust. I go to nice parties, have a lovely roof over my head and can afford to buy the fancy crisps in my local Centra instead of the own brand.

I'm not in endless pseudo-student limbo as many my age are, struggling to find a real career path, on seemingly endless JobBridge placements and longing to forge a path in life worth following. I'm no Niall Horan, but in the grand schemes of things, I'm something of an anomaly.

But be under no illusions about me and my ilk. I may be relatively successful, but I can't get a car loan because of dodgy credit-card spending when I was a 20-year-old Celtic Tiger cub (read: eejit). Sometimes a bag naggin is still the only way. Owning property is a completely foreign concept to me. I have no desire to get a mortgage, a) because it doesn't seem feasible that I'll ever be trusted with one and b), because I am part of the temporary generation who live lease to lease and pay cheque to pay cheque. I have no pension, no savings.

On the face of it, I am indeed a high flyer, lucky and blessed. But I don't "have it all". Neither, I suspect, does Eleanor Catton. Lorde's lyrics speak of how she can't afford the things everyone else seems to be singing about. One Direction though, well I'm sure they're laughing, the little feckers. I'm the very definition of a yuppie – young, urban, professional, upwardly mobile, dependent free – but I'm the 2013 version, one without any assets worth speaking of.

I hire a cleaner and a doggy babysitter from time to time (scoff away), but my credit union account is cleared out on a monthly basis. I work hard, play hard and have my eye on the prize, but I very much live in the here and now, with no sense of permanency. The concept of settling down is foreign to me. Marriage and children? Not even on my radar.

Yet in previous generations, I'd be veering on spinster territory and worrying about my eggs shrivelling.

I am part of the generation who won't settle down in the traditional sense, because we simply don't have the security to do so. We're the young people whose development has been well and truly curtailed by the financial crisis.

There are, of course, those railing against this, saving for weddings and buying houses, eschewing all else to reach this goal. Perhaps they're very wise, perhaps they're striving for assurance. But I'm just not in that position, and neither are most of my friends.

We are not living in purple Manhattan lofts nor are we collecting Manolos, as we were led to believe was the norm by 1990s sitcoms. When I envisioned being a writer, it was Carrie fecking Bradshaw I saw myself emulating. I blame her and her friends for my generation's high expectations – the desire, nay, the right to live a Manhattan lifestyle on a paltry pay cheque. Carrie, you are the reason that I pay extortionate rent just to live near where the magic happens. You are the reason I believe it is my right to own red-soled footwear, and why I get inexplicable fits of rage that my shoes say Penneys instead.

Although I'm not part of the Sex and the City or the Friends generation (generations are a lot shorter in pop culture than in real life), I grew up on these shows, aspiring to be like the characters and believing it was possible. What I should've been doing was watching Fair City and developing realistic aspirations.

But do you know what? I like that my aspirations are short-term and far-reaching. I like not having a plan, that my future isn't mapped out, and I can go anywhere, do anything. I'm happy that I don't feel the pressure to out-earn my parents, get a foot on the property ladder or get hitched. This all gives me a delicious freedom that maybe previous generations missed out on.

We need to stop worrying about where we're supposed to be in life by now. There's no blueprint anymore. Those who seemingly have it made early in life are also at risk of peaking early. Example numero uno? Miley Cyrus. Let the queen of Twerk be a lesson to us all.

Irish Independent

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