“I don’t know what that means,” I used to say, back at my first real job, whenever one of my seniors made an out-of-date reference. “I was born in the ’90s.” I’d twirl my ends and smirk as they baulked at the swiftness of time’s unrelenting march. My little joke, small payback for being the butt of theirs whenever a salacious headline came out about millennial debauchery or entitlement. Now I have a colleague who was born in a year that starts with two, and I don’t know how that’s possible.
Despite markings of adulthood, including a bathroom cabinet filled with retinoids, I am not a grown-up. I am a child with contents insurance, an infant with reading glasses.
I keep waiting to navigate the world with confidence, but every new question (what is an offset account? Will my car explode if I have half a tank of premium unleaded and top it up with regular?) still makes me panic. As Gen Z prepares to take on the world, and Gen X starts resembling our parents, why does it feel like millennials are stuck in permanent adolescence?
My theory is the missing milestones. Marriage, children, home ownership, promotions, security: indicators of progress are nowhere to be found.
Spending thousands on a puff of organza and promising to love someone forever and ever is unfathomable. Dating apps have fundamentally warped our ability to connect. Why settle for what you can get when there are thousands of prospects a swipe away? Tinder, Bumble, Hinge — they have turned the world into a candy store, and I am a pre-diabetic Goldilocks, trying everything until I find someone just right.
We’re all hitting snooze on our trilling biological clocks, not out of disinterest, but necessity. With stagnant wages, shrinking floor plans, the eye-watering cost of childcare and waitlists far longer than my attention span, who has the resources to accommodate a family?
Sometimes someone will manage it — barely, placating themselves into believing they’ll make it work — and I will hold the resulting newborn, marvelling at both their tiny fingernails and the fact that no one stopped my idiot best friend from walking out of hospital with a baby, unsupervised.
I have done the impossible and purchased property, not through hard work, inheritance, or frugality, but luck: without the lump sum of my uncomfortably generous book advance, I’d be gritting my teeth through a 30 per cent rent increase right now. I don’t know how anyone else does it — not on their own, not without intervention.
Some days I even wonder if our commitment to mental health is a blocker. Therapy — now so common that I reference my psychologist as casually as my best friend — keeps us in a state of reflection. The repression our boomer parents favoured is forbidden. There is no moving forward until I work through my trauma, from my earliest memory through to the present moment. I am not one person, but two: inner child, damaged adult. Am I growing, or am I using healing as an avoidance tactic? I’d better book another session to find out.