What Do You Do When You Actually ‘Achieve Your Dreams’ But You’re Still Unhappy?


Am I a real person now?

As a proud member of the millennial generation, I feel like it’s my duty to admit one thing: yes, we do have a complex about growing up. We don’t like to do it, don’t really understand what it means, and like to make light of struggling our way through it. We also like to write about it—a lot.

Hating, and especially fearing, adulthood isn’t entirely the fault of the millennials. After all, we’re living at home because of the economy the baby boomers destroyed and paying exorbitant student loans because of the broken education system. Living rent-free is becoming essential for millennials to get a head start in the world, so don’t blame us for cutting costs.

But we’re also postponing “adulthood” to the max for other reasons, too: to travel the world and make sure we see things our parents didn’t; to sacrifice starting a family in favor of having strong careers; or to make sure the lives we’re building will be the ones we’ll still want to be living twenty years from now. Taking our time seems to be the best way for millennials to settle into adulthood. One step at a time.

In my definition, those steps were always: 1) get experience, 2) get a decent job, 3) get a better job, 4) get the best job, and 5) have a loving partner. I think that’s the basic equation for a lot of us. And since I’m a millennial, I’ve struggled with all of those steps. Until I broke through.

I graduated college in 2013, then worked full time as a waitress and part time as a tutor, as a freelance writer, as a blogger, as an editor, and as a temp. For over three years, my resume has choked with random employment, including, but not limited to, a brief stint as a hair salon assistant, washing hair and sweeping floors. Then, all of a sudden, after dozens (and I mean dozens) of interviews, I landed what may well be my dream job.

My first reaction was disbelief, as if it were all a joke. My second reaction was a glorious relief. I didn’t have to rely on side hustles anymore, didn’t have to stare at my resume for hours wondering what I could tweak, didn’t have to take another temp job—or wait another table. Finally, it seemed like my life was coming together.

And it was sort of unsettling. We’re used to the struggle. We’re used to wanting things, working for things, waiting for things that we think we’ll probably never have.

I’m used to making lists, working 12-hour days at three different jobs, coming home exhausted and still wondering what I’m doing wrong. But doing something right? That feeling took a while to get used to.

It also made me think. Am I real adult now? Because truly, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.

I’ve been waiting—and working—my whole life to have achieved some small portion of my dreams. I’ve been waiting my whole life to have something to show for my work, my passion, my energy, and my dreams. I’ve been waiting my whole life to show people that I wasn’t wrong for choosing English as my major, wasn’t wrong for thinking I could be a writer, wasn’t wrong for rejecting a safe career as a teacher, a professor, or even a literary editor. I’ve been waiting my whole life to be a real adult, not hustling, not struggling, not waiting. Not anymore.

As a millennial, I’ve learned to be in touch with my emotions, to be aware of what I’m feeling, how to process, how to be (dare I say it?) my best self. Right now, on the cusp of a new year beginning with a new job and a very different life, I feel satisfied. Is this what they meant when they talked about a “real life?”