The 30-something life crisis
January 24, 2020 2:53 PM   Subscribe

The pressure to hit adult milestones is out of sync for many of today’s 30-somethings...Nearly every therapist I spoke with over email or phone talked about unmet expectations. “One of the main words I listen for in a session is ‘should,’” said Megan Bearce, who sees many 30-somethings. “I should have a child, I should be married by now, I should love my job.”

If people are “hoping to get married and start a family, or be at a particular place in their career, their 30s is usually when they imagine they will do so,” says Los Angeles marriage and family therapist Saba Harouni Lurie. “For those who achieved certain goals or benchmarks, they can be surprised if they are not as happy as they had anticipated.”

Lurie gently framed this gap between expectations and reality as coming as a surprise. But I and many of my friends were often struggling with something more akin to failure when it came to feeling like we weren’t living up to our potential.
posted by cynical pinnacle (92 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
The first half of my 20s was spent in a bad relationship with someone who was not attracted to me. The second half of my 20s, and first couple of years of my 30s was spent wondering whether I would ever meet anyone who was attracted to me. The remainder of my 30s spent wondering whether my partner who loved me and was attracted to me, loved me enough to move in with me and marry me. They did and we did. Circumstances and passivity (mine and others) played a big part in why all of this happened. Reading that article, I'm grateful that it was only in my relationships that I had a time-based 'should' that I wasn't meeting. Because it was a pervasive underlying malaise, even as I successfully met other goals(?) or delightedly opted out of them.
posted by plonkee at 3:17 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]

This is true no matter your age. Our culture has every age group covered with “shoulds”. And, once you get old enough, you start getting “should haves” mixed in with the “shoulds”
posted by Thorzdad at 3:20 PM on January 24 [59 favorites]

Surprise?! Your parents dissolved all the unions!
posted by eustatic at 3:25 PM on January 24 [48 favorites]

Was the generation before us any more fulfilled or were they just not invited to ruminate on it as often? Whose parents actually loved their jobs?
posted by Selena777 at 3:30 PM on January 24 [37 favorites]

Also, let's just get the whole "ok boomer" bullshit out of the way.

So for anyone who is older and from a different generation who accomplished more of these types of adult milestones at a younger age, well good for you, but this thread is talking about a very specific experience in 2020, so let's not even bother hashing that out. You can just favorite or not comment in this thread. Please and thanks.
posted by Fizz at 3:51 PM on January 24 [46 favorites]

People used to say, "You're shoulding all over yourself."
posted by serena15221 at 3:55 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]

Wait until you're in your 40's and are a total loser who never made any of the social milestones.

It continues to be annoying that other humans frequently won't line up with your attractions, being decent at relationships, and/or wanting to marry and/or procreate with you if you want them to, on the right timeline. What the hell are you supposed to do, club someone over the head and drag 'em home and lock them in the basement? Pardon me, I'm still annoyed at a relative of mine saying, "still can't catch a man yet?"

30's are "now or never"(ISH) time socially speaking for women, because we're told once you hit 40, you're fucking DONE, hopeless, out of luck--and a lot of people do consider you that way. I read one website that was all "all women over 40 are considered crazy," that was just peachy. So yeah, 30's are exactly when you hit panic mode. Maybe the IDGAF of the 40's is because once you get there, you already lost, so what else is there?

I never want(ed) kids, thank goodness, or I'd be a lot more upset on this topic, but I am not to most people's tastes. I never had a shot at making the milestones. And even if I am ambivalent on marriage and fine with being single, I still have to deal with the expectations and judgments on my failure as a woman to be a stereotypical woman. Whee!
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:11 PM on January 24 [66 favorites]

I think the real lesson that people should be taking comfort in is that those were always bullshit metrics of success, and giving up your connection to your family and community to be the best damn cog in the capitalist machine you can be, well, yeah, of course it's totally unfulfilling and of course you feel totally screwed, because as Carlin said, you have to be asleep to believe in the American dream. Let's be real, Carlin said that in 2005. 15 years ago. Carlin, while clever, was not some fucking genius saint who had it figured all the fuck out. Rather, anyone who had some critical thinking skills and was paying attention could see we had been sold a bill of goods.

I'm glad the system is finally waking people up to how much of a failure the system is. I wish they hadn't internalized years of propaganda aimed at making them believe all the failures of capitalism should be solved by the individual, and failing to live up to the success metric of capitalism while also failing to solve capitalism's problems as an individual is a recipe for abject depression.

The only way to not succumb to it is to first know it isn't and wasn't ever your fault or your responsibility. So much about how the world works was decided on before you were even born. How can we be responsible for Oil executives covering up their own scientists climate research as far back as the 1970's? I certainly can't be held responsible, I wasn't born until the 1980's. We have to stop sucking down the propaganda and thinking that we can't live up to this and instead realize the expectations were always beyond ridiculous.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:18 PM on January 24 [31 favorites]

As a today's 30-something one of the really great things I've been working on is exactly this. Like, it fueled a serious drinking problem for a while.

And the ability to let go and accept that my life wasn't going to look the way I thought it would brought me more professional and personal advancement then I'd ever got when I was checking the boxes I was supposed to. And the judgment I faced was minimal.

I absolutely realize that this isn't going to be the case for everybody, but there's a better than even chance that most of the people you actually care about want you to be happy even if that means you don't tick the "adult" (whatever the fuck that means) boxes.
posted by East14thTaco at 4:25 PM on January 24 [13 favorites]

The best advice I ever got when I was younger was to never have shoulds. There are things you want to do. And there are things you have to do. There are no shoulds.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:28 PM on January 24 [28 favorites]

I should love my job

My father's a boomer. He worked his arse off for 40-50 hours a week from the time he left school at 14 till he retired at 65 doing hard physical labour. Then he worked part time for another five years. cycled to work in all weather for the first thirty years of that. Multiple minor injuries. Accidentally branded at one point. Paid just enough to but a house and feed and clothe the family to basic standards. Did he love his job? I highly fucking doubt it.
posted by biffa at 4:31 PM on January 24 [28 favorites]

"shoulda, coulda, woulda "

-old folk proverb, 20th century.
posted by clavdivs at 4:32 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]

If I wanted another quixotic fight, I should consider reviving conditional tenses in English.
posted by clew at 4:33 PM on January 24 [9 favorites]

If you're lucky, you'll live long enough not to care about any of this stuff anymore. Nobody actually keeps score. There are no prizes or medals at the end. And nobody really cares anyway. To quote Elwood P. Dowd, "In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."
posted by jim in austin at 4:34 PM on January 24 [34 favorites]

It can hit you in odd ways. I never wanted kids, and found out early on that I just didn't want to put the sort of time and energy in that a permanent relationship requires... but I had an odd thought the other day. When we were kids, we used to jokingly argue about who should be left the Webster's Second International dictionary. It was a graduation present to my father from my grandfather, and sat in enormous splendor in my father's den, on a book display stand inherited from a great-aunt. It was used to look up many a word for school and flatten many a flower and leaf.

And I realized that -- I'm never going to have a house that I could keep it in. When I was a kid, I assumed that when I was my parent's age, I'd have a house like them, but instead I'm in a very tiny one-bedroom apartment, and not likely to ever be in a place much bigger.
posted by tavella at 4:50 PM on January 24 [53 favorites]

I still have to deal with the expectations and judgments on my failure as a woman to be a stereotypical woman

Despite everything, I feel that I must be living my life basically right that no one dares say this shit to my face, even if they're thinking it to themselves. Either I've picked only sensible people to be around or I've scared the doofuses into silence. (Or both!)
posted by praemunire at 4:52 PM on January 24 [17 favorites]

I let go of this when a close friend died out of the blue at 34. She should still be here, and I am lucky enough to be, so the rest feels like a bonus.
posted by sallybrown at 4:52 PM on January 24 [51 favorites]

deadaluspark, many of these missed milestones and metrics are actually about social connection, building a family and settling within a community.
posted by Selena777 at 4:52 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]

We went and made everything way too complicated and chaotic to even have things like predictable life events anymore. They probably happen for some people some of the time but before they happened for most people most of the time and the change is scary.
posted by bleep at 5:14 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]

My dad — who always gave the impression of being Dynamic Business Guy Who Loved His Job — on retirement admitted he hated work, always wondered what meetings were for, and struggled mightily with boredom at the office. I was in my 30s when he said that to me, and it's been a great comfort ever since. I only wish he'd told me earlier.
posted by scruss at 5:22 PM on January 24 [27 favorites]

I'm not sure I ever had any carefully crafted visions for my middle aged life to fall short of, but at 32 I feel like the thing I most struggle with is feeling like THE TIME IS NOW TO MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS.

Not sure whether I want kids? Well best figure it out soon.

Irritated with my boss and feeling stuck at work? If I'm going to make a big career change or go back to school I should do it now.

Like my city alright? Great, I should probably buy a house before the market shifts and I get priced out.

Not totally sold on my city? Well then stop wasting time, move somewhere new and start putting down roots, it will only get harder the older you are.

I've always been terrible at big decisions and basically floated with the wind through my 20s in a somewhat rewarding though often stressful way. But there's been a mental shift as I've entered my 30s-- more of a scarcity mindset around the time I have to set myself up for feeling fulfilled throughout the rest of my life. I think in some ways that feeling reflects reality and in some ways it doesn't.

In any case, the long shadow of climate change definitely makes the calculations on a lot of these issues a little more complicated and anxiety inducing.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:31 PM on January 24 [30 favorites]

I'm an old guy, a "boomer" I guess. For my part, I don't know how young folks manage these days. I am very aware of my privilege.
posted by SPrintF at 5:40 PM on January 24 [14 favorites]

30 years old here. No shoulds for me growing up either - my father always said that if you think you should do or have something you straight up should not.

I found the references to "career focused" 20's a little jarring. Everyone I know still works in bars, retail or for some company that they expect to have to leave within a few years for a multitude of reasons.

On preview: I relate a lot geegollygosh - I flipped out at the age of 29 and bought the cheapest apartment I could find in my city because I was terrified of getting pushed out or living with roommates forever. I'll never know if it was the right decision but at least now I can't daydream as much about living somewhere else.
posted by 250knots at 5:42 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

The world that we used to know
People tell me it don't turn no more
The places we used to go
Familiar faces that ain't smiling like before
The time of our time has come and gone
I fear we've been waiting too long...
----Steely Dan (Fagen/Becker), Midnite Cruiser, 1972
-----(written by a couple of guys in their mid-20s)
posted by Seaweed Shark at 5:49 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]

We had only one mandate for our child: That he not grow up to be a jerk. We told him the jerk market was totally saturated and there was no profit it it. Fortunately it seems to have worked...
posted by jim in austin at 5:56 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]

Too chaotic a life to worry about shoulds. And got bit real early by the Tao(ists) who have a *real* different take on "shoulds". Helped (I think).
posted by aleph at 6:11 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Having choices poses an enormous problem.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Our culture has every age group covered with “shoulds”.

You, too, live in a society.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:54 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

My 20s were a long, dark tunnel so in my 30s, I made made some relationship and financial choices based on catching up with where I thought I was supposed to be. I regret those choices thoroughly, deeply and unreservedly but then if I'd held back, I'd probably be idealizing and pining over some lost dreamworld right now. Hindsight is really unsatisfying.

The financial pressure young people are under these days must make this all a nightmare.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:03 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]

Also, let's just get the whole "ok boomer" bullshit out of the way.

I feel like this is a little unfair, given that what we’re really talking about here is the inner lives of a generation that spent their formative years stewing in the social-norm propaganda of a generation that pulled the ladder up behind them who are struggling to come to terms with both the internal and external consequences of that experience.

I don’t know about you, but literally every TV show I can remember from my youth that featured a young family showed them living in their own (large) homes that they could presumably afford by virtue of the middle-class jobs that afforded them the luxury of being home for dinner with their families every night.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that maybe, just maybe, that shit left a mark.
posted by mhoye at 7:09 PM on January 24 [36 favorites]

My own reaction to turning 30 has been weird. I'm exceptionally poor but very good with what money I have. I am a dead fish when it comes to romantic relationships so I've stopped trying. My retirement plan is to die choking on blood in my 60's during a food riot turned bad.

I'm not sure life is about what you have, or even what you've experienced. I've been think more and more that life isn't a collection of anything at all, but rather a singular experience frustratingly funneled through this bullshit called "now" and that there's been trillions of people who've had that happen to them, and maybe trillions more. Every thing I do will be forgotten, if I'm lucky some worms will eat me and my intestinal gasses will be eaten by anonymous trees.

What matters isn't what I've done, or what I've got or seen, but how nice I've made this "now" for both myself and others. Granted, I'm still a massive failure at that, but it's a way more reasonable, and hopefully more fulfilling goal.
posted by Philipschall at 7:14 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]

this thread is talking about a very specific experience in 2020

Yeah, like, I'm in my mid 40s, and though when I was in my 30s lots of my friends were getting a Bad Case of the Shoulda's, I feel it hits current 30-somethings in a different way because social media was so different when I was in my 30s. Like, phones were so much simpler, there weren't as many apps, it wasn't so easy to share pics and videos, and like it didn't feel like the whole world was on social media yet. And like, social media nowadays makes it reallyyyyy easy to compare your life to so many other people's lives, which contributes to the problems the article talks about.

But social media also gives us all this evidence that Lots Of People Are Doing Subtle Variations On The Exact Same Thing, which seems like it would exasperate feelings that there are things that you *should* be doing. Like, "everyone" you know is doing an Ice Bucket challenge, or they're all watching The Good Place at the same time (and the time to do it is Now, because that's when everyone else is watching it), or they're all doing the same dance on TikTok, or they're making/sharing a Woman Yelling At Cat meme, etcetcetc. So much of social media is about contributing something very similar to what lots of other people are doing.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:29 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]

One of the things I remember most about my 30's, especially my early 30's, was how exaggerated the differences were between the people who were lucky or smart enough to be successful and those of us who were muddling through. One person is working a low-paid job or trying to finish a degree, and another just got promoted to regional VP or their parents just gave them money to buy a house.

Those differences seem less extreme now, maybe because I know a narrower range of people these days, or because a lot of people trend towards the middle, I don't know.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:36 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]

A little light relief: How to nab a husband (Eugene Mirman)
posted by leibniz at 7:38 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

I tell myself it’s fine to go at my own pace and my own direction, as long as I’m taking care of myself (which I definitely wasn’t doing in my 20s). In the unlikely event I ever realize I want to raise children, I’d be even happier with adopted ones, so no time pressure there.

All of my life’s big turning points have come on quickly, taken me completely by surprise, and yet felt completely natural. I couldn’t have planned my way into where I am now. So I trust myself and my process enough not to worry about milestones.

Day-to-day stress and my aforementioned desire to take good care of myself is an ongoing topic, though. I think it’s at least partly due to decision fatigue from not following the ‘conventional’ path as depicted in my youth. Or from having grown up in a repressive household where I didn’t get to make many decisions. Sometimes I try to deal with it by coming up with regimens for parts of my life, but I quickly rebel against them. Such is life. I do think I’m slowly becoming happier, so that’s something.
posted by mantecol at 8:20 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Extended human lifespan is part of this.

If you're going to live to 100+, you don't want to just spend a bunch of extra decades being old. You want all that extra time evenly distributed throughout the lifespan. Which is what I think we are actually seeing. Adolescence feels like it goes on till 25 or so these days, and those early adulthood markers are all drifting later and later. I'm 50 and it is so weird to me that my grandmother had been a grandmother for 5 years at my age. I feel about 36.

It makes no sense to me to shame people about doing things later in the lifespan. Like why wouldn't you want your twenties to go on for a few extra years? You're so much more sane and stable later on. Yes, there is the problem of declining fertility, but I feel like a lot of the drama about that is overblown. There are a lot of other ways to be an adult that don't involve biologically having kids.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:24 PM on January 24 [25 favorites]

They're calling age 47ish "peak misery". Before and (hopefully) after is better. YMMV and all. Personally it was *much* worse when I was younger. As that old song says "I was much older then, I'm younger than that now...". (Or something like that)
posted by aleph at 8:32 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]

There are a lot of other ways to be an adult that don't involve biologically having kids.

Yes, but.

Not if you (or your bosses) are a religious fundamentalist there isn’t, and they’re gonna be the ones with the whip.
posted by aramaic at 8:40 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Also some people want to be parents. Even ones who aren't religious fundamentalists.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:21 PM on January 24 [24 favorites]

SPrintF: "I'm an old guy, a "boomer" I guess. For my part, I don't know how young folks manage these days. I am very aware of my privilege."
Me too. (Well, close enough; a year or so off being the last of the boomers). I hear the miserable older (and some younger) farts bitch and moan - then look at how younger people are getting on and think "y'know, they're doing pretty well - but we left them with a shit hand to play…"
posted by Pinback at 9:53 PM on January 24

"We have to take in nourishment, expel waste, and inhale enough oxygen to keep our cells from dying. Everything else is optional."
– Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), “The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization,” The Big Bang Theory

posted by bryon at 10:50 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

I, a 32 year old lady, have been in therapy since 2008 thanks to obsessing over "shoulds." I am so tired.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:16 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]

I'm 27 and really have no illusions that anything in my life is going to be standard. I'm actually more confused by my high school classmates who all seem to be marrying other people in their exact income bracket and hitting those milestones. So many of my friends and I are suffering because of a shitty economy, but also finding new freedoms in friendships and communities and love lives, and really, we make do, resist, or assimilate with the conditions we are in.
posted by yueliang at 11:46 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]

The social judgments and pressures are very real and can be objectively harmful, but in thinking about this, I keep thinking about how strange it would be to get far into your thirties still internalizing these values if they weren't already yours (e.g., not actually wanting a kid by 32 or whatever), and thinking as if social media were an accurate reflection of reality. You're not really a grown-up until your "shoulds" are your own--if your circumstances are such that you're being coerced into some degree of conformity, at least in the privacy of your own mind. That's the milestone you need to be hitting. Which I think is the ultimate point of the piece, but it's a strange thing to have to be telling your 30-something peers. What were you thinking about during all that backpacking?
posted by praemunire at 12:00 AM on January 25 [21 favorites]

Also, let's just get the whole "ok boomer" bullshit out of the way.

So for anyone who is older and from a different generation who accomplished more of these types of adult milestones at a younger age, well good for you, but this thread is talking about a very specific experience in 2020, so let's not even bother hashing that out. You can just favorite or not comment in this thread. Please and thanks.

Silencing is golden.
posted by fairmettle at 12:17 AM on January 25 [11 favorites]

And like, social media nowadays makes it reallyyyyy easy to compare your life to so many other people's lives, which contributes to the problems the article talks about

I typed as far as 'Nobody should use soc' when I saw a big foot in the sky slowly starting to descend towards my head.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:40 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

The lesson I have from baking bread applies here:

"Watch the dough not the clock."

and it works for both the literal and metaphorical meanings.
posted by srboisvert at 1:06 AM on January 25 [17 favorites]

Also, let's just get the whole "ok boomer" bullshit out of the way.

Literally the very first words in this article are Thirty-somethings today are less happy than their predecessors, possibly because adulthood milestones are converging in a unique-to-this-cohort way. There is nothing unique about this cohort, even this willingness to self declare themselves as uniquely hard done by has been done before.
posted by epo at 1:51 AM on January 25 [13 favorites]

Hmm, that should have read "That is not unique to this cohort".
posted by epo at 2:40 AM on January 25

Silencing is golden

I am feel uncomfortable
posted by ominous_paws at 2:48 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

If the milestones are things like home ownership then things are indeed different for this cohort (and those coming after) as documented statistically. There's a similar story for availability of council housing, and just access to affordable, stable living conditions generally. And earnings.
posted by Dysk at 3:19 AM on January 25 [12 favorites]

What were you thinking about during all that backpacking?

Here's the thing. As someone who's 50 now who, with my peer group, also experienced most of the anxieties and issues shared in this piece, I can look back and ask myself "what was I thinking about?" The truth is that, as i"ve learned all too recently, being able to do intentional and informed life planning is a result of certain privileges. You have to be taught this - taught about the way time evaporates, taught about the phases of life and to understand which changes are inevitable and which can be influenced by your choices, educated about the way finances and opportunity work, shown models of people with different kinds of lives both satisfying and unsatisfying so you can reason from their example, and shown the guidance and emotional support to develop a healthy independent sense of self. As a child of very young boomers, I've become really aware how much I was not taught, and how not having that foundation made me more likely to be like "huh?" when I faced choice points, too often recognized only in hindsight. I think that for people who are trying to figure out the scenario "this isn't what I planned/expected," the answer includes that there is a role for economic structure and how it interacted with individual financial and educational privilege, a role for chance, and finally, a role for having had a healthy upbringing that involved a lot of talk and thought about envisioning and planning your future, not in a "the places you'll go!" way but in a pragmatic and concrete way. The cards you were assigned, the cards you were dealt off the top of the deck, and an informed, strategic mind making choices about play.

The people I know who seem to have everything I was hoping for, or at least have a life they really like, had all that.
posted by Miko at 3:39 AM on January 25 [49 favorites]

Achieving the marker of homeownership has actually left me feeling adrift and unmoored since that particular goal was always this like unreachable aspiration, until it wasn't. And it took a bit but it got replaced by a giant neon question mark named "WHAT'S NEXT ???" so, you know, the grass is brown on both sides, is what I'm saying.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:04 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]

being queer and trans makes this extra fun!
so much of my authentic, chance at being happy life, was held down til my mid 30s due to parents and a world that told me i couldnt be myself
now i'm definitely ME but looking around like oh damn...
posted by emirenic at 5:10 AM on January 25 [21 favorites]

It's the economy stupid

I mean this in so many ways.

Probably the most important one is it's the inequality stupid. The technical term is monopoly, but basically modern robber barons have vacuumed up all the happiness for themselves leaving everyone with a deficit.

shown models of people with different kinds of lives both satisfying and unsatisfying so you can reason from their example

There's also the legibility of life-cycle consequences from the economic system we're in, but most people in history have not had that and still been somewhat happy.

The big one on top of inequality is the MadMen effect. We're totally bombarded, now beaming from our pockets, with messages about what to be afraid of, who has it better and this one weird trick that we can buy to fix it.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:50 AM on January 25 [10 favorites]

I always figured I'd never have kids, own a home, etc because I am gay. I thought I'd have a job that wasn't a dead end and live in a big city.

One very positive thing about being LGBTQ, and I don't know if this is still true today now that we're pretending gays and lesbians should have the same middle class tastes and lifestyles as straight people, is that it frees you from a lot of social expectations.

Anyway, now I'm in my thirties and actually did hit all the milestones - career, relationship, and house. Turns out I am actually bi. Also, more importantly: We both have union jobs.
posted by subdee at 6:08 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]

I feel Miko's comment so hard.

I have seen no evidence that that boomer and older generations of my family had any concept that parents are supposed to care about the thoughts and feelings of their children. There are rampant stories in my family tree of parents abusing, neglecting and/or abandoning spouses and children. There were/are four older millennials in my extended family (raised by boomers) and three of them were adopted out of abusive and neglectful situations into situations that were less bad. Two of them will probably never hit those milestones - one because of disabilities that may have been partially caused by severe neglect and illness while living as an orphan in a third word country and the other is slightly non-neurotypical and was homeschooled in an insular fundamentalist religious community by a parent who was a moron - they were literally taught to be stupid. The third one is destitute, divorced and childfree but just starting to get a career together. The fourth one looked perfect on paper and had the house and career and marriage and was amazingly gorgeous and loved by everyone. The whole family was shocked when they committed suicide recently.
posted by Blue Genie at 6:51 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]

Last weekend, I spoke to a much younger friend who is from a relatively wealthy family. I said something about wanting to take an expensive plane ride one day and he said "It's better to buy a house."

Never in my life did I think I would ever, ever be able to afford a house. It was such a foreign concept to me that I never even thought of saving for one in the first place.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:57 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]

I hit all the typical capitalist milestones in my late 20s (except having a kid, but good job, new car, house, nice things, fiancé, etc) and I really wish I had spent my time and money on literally anything else. It turns out I didn’t want them as much as I wanted to fit in with my peers and ease societal pressure. I also admit I couldn’t have known they wouldn’t bring me happiness until I had them so I understand the feeling of being a “loser” for not having them. I wanted to continue traveling and experiencing the world but no, I felt the NEED to conform and settle down. I’m still untangling all that, 5 years after throwing it all away for what feels more “me.” Turns out that looks a lot like a loser on the surface, yet again.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:44 AM on January 25 [7 favorites]

One of the problems is that Republicans, and middle America for that matter, have failed to reconcile that children are so expensive that they've become a luxury item in many urban areas. If you want to focus on the family unit as the nucleus of American society that's totally fine. I wholeheartedly agree with you. But we need to support those family units as best we can and also recognize that a family unit need not be father, mother, 2.3 kids.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:06 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]

Pet Rock, I think Republicans understand perfectly that urban (and likely progressive) families tend to be smaller. One of the main goals of the Republican Party is keep it that way - by any means necessary.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:14 AM on January 25

I'm aware that there have always been individuals in every generation that have their own set of 'shoulds,' but concrete ecconomic realities are fundamentally different for my cohort, especially when put in contrast with our parent's generation.

I graduated college in 2008, right as shit was starting to tank. Newfound degree was largely useless, I've never used those skills a day in my life. I've had trouble finding steady work since then, resulting in a weird, fragmented resume, and the path I eventually settled into is in slow decline, and I can't afford to get out and retrain into another field. I work part time and cannot find full time work. I can count the years that I have been fully employed since college on one hand. I'd literally have been homeless several times over but my wife has a fortuitously-in-demand advanced degree and has a well paying union job, a fact that we are daily grateful for.

Contrast that with my folks, both of them only went to college for a year or two, and did not receive a degree. Yet they were able to end up with jobs that, while were not their Passions in life, they enjoyed as much as one can enjoy work, and those jobs compensated them (very) well. They never had large swaths of unemployment (some of which was planned as projects were ending and known, not a surprise 'you're laid off job loss). to the point where they functionally have zero debt, own their home and cars outright, go on a couple vacations every year, have legitimate retirement plans that will likely sustain them for the rest of their lives.

My wife and I are accepting to the sacrifices we have to make to survive and thrive, and don't expect anything to be 'perfect' and have in several areas of life. We try to, without too much 'should'-ing, enjoy the parts we can. We're fine with our small house, the sometimes crappy school we have to send our kid to, and our neighborhood that's sometimes a little sketchy. Those things don't keep us up at night (okay, every night).

The things that gnaw at us are those ongoing, larger looming economic realities; will I ever have steady, secure job path? Can we even attempt to save for our kid's to go to college? Is there any way we can attempt to grow old without being a burden on our kid? The answer to most of these broader economic questions are usually "Maybe...but probably not."

We're aware that things are rougher for many folks in our cohort. The reality for most of us is that ecconomic security does not exist. There's no amount of hustle, hard work, or grinding that can get us out of some of these patterns and systems, and that's where the real, deep dread hits. It's the fear that things will not be okay no matter what we do, or how hard we work at it.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:19 AM on January 25 [26 favorites]

I’m 57 and missed a ton of so-called milestones. Some of them I hit by accident, because I had no plan. I have regrets about having no money for retirement yet, but I’m glad I had all the fun I could while I was young. I chose to be poor & party my ass off, travel, play music & fuck off at the creek or swimming pool, which may or may not have been wise, but it is what it is. I may not die in comfort, but I really don’t care that I’ve never bought a house or a brand new car.

I’m disappointed that my career choices were tenuous & fraught with failure, but music is no living any more anyway, and I couldn’t have seen that coming in 1978, so I accept that. I settled down at 35 & got an actual career going, just in time for kids to absorb all the loot, but they were worth it. Would do it all again, but I’d like to have a short talk with younger-me about going to bed on Friday night instead of Sunday afternoon, since it would be nice to have a little of that gas left in the tank, but I can’t change what’s been done.

I’ll work until I die probably, but what else would I do anyway? It’s all good.

People gotta let go of what “society” expects of them because really, society is actually just a million strangers that are wrapped up enough in their own bullshit that yours doesn’t matter to them. You’re not impressing anyone but yourself. Make today a good day, then get up and do that again tomorrow. You’re gonna run out of chances to do that soon enough.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:21 AM on January 25 [12 favorites]

Grumpybear, within my generational cohort (GenX) all of us who bought a house transferred our economical goal anxieties to whether we could retire or whether we would die working. So you can do that too, but I really recommend forestalling that question while still building a reasonable amount of savings
posted by bl1nk at 9:35 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately for me, the "shoulds" I beat myself up about line up with my "wants." I do desperately want to own a home, to be married*, to have a stable career. But like a lot of us, I was never given the tools or the chances to do that, and faced discrimination and push-back in all arenas. Because of who I am, I am not allowed to have the things that I want and people in power over me actively try to keep things from me. I'm talking about adequate physical and mental health care, mentorships, jobs, financial stability, higher education, even the ability to drive. So I feel this intense mixture of rage and regret that I try to push down because it gets in my way. I don't know how to deal with it other than ignoring it. There are no self help books titled things like "How to be OK when your family, community, and society in general don't want you to be OK." I know other people around me have it worse, and I feel angry on their behalf as well.

*I've noticed a lot of women around 35-45 have not gotten married and do not have long-term partners because we are in this weird place where we want and expect feminist, equal partnerships but our male peers are not on the same level. So we either sacrifice massively in order to have a relationship, or we go without.
posted by Feminazgul at 9:58 AM on January 25 [37 favorites]

And I realized that -- I'm never going to have a house that I could keep it in. When I was a kid, I assumed that when I was my parent's age, I'd have a house like them, but instead I'm in a very tiny one-bedroom apartment, and not likely to ever be in a place much bigger.

I have been struggling with much the same thing. My great-aunt died and my mom dealt with all of her things. There were some really nice, useful things in there--if I had a totally different financial situation and living space. I had no place to store them or ability to use them. When in my life would I use those dinner party dishes or glasses or tablecloths, when there's no place for people to sit or eat? Where would that nice side-table go? The sewing machine? There would be no room for the day-to-day in my apartment if I filled it with those boxes of aspirations. I took a couple of doorstops and some measuring cups and that was it.

I guess I can comfort myself by calling my life relatively minimalist compared to my more successful family and friends. But the bigger places and the money allow them life experiences and socialization opportunities that I can only dream about. I don't care in the existential sense that I'm missing milestones, I never cared about those or even thought that they were for me. But I do care that by not achieving some of them the life I have is just emptier and certainly far more financially precarious.
posted by schroedinger at 10:26 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]

METAFILTER: being queer and trans makes this extra fun!
posted by philip-random at 10:54 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]

The, uh, trajectory of world events since 2008 has been a wonderful remedy for my own self-flagellating anxiety about "milestones". Seeing how unhappy they made my parents, or at least their failure to remedy their pre-existing misery, was also instructive.

I do not and would not judge anyone who is unhappy or anxious because the house and the kids and the nice family vacays and the dining room set inherited from Grandma is something they truly want and can't have in this hell-world. Those are wonderful things, and it's normal to want them and what they represent. It's obscene that such relatively simple happinesses are unattainable for so many (and frankly always have been). BUT the spiralling instability of our society, and my bone-deep fear about it, helped me sort out extremely early which of these things I truly wanted (like permanent romantic partnership) and which I sort of felt...liberated from chasing after due to the sheer folly of even attempting them.

The way I truly see things is, maybe if I'd been born a different person at a different time, my life's focus could and would have been the dazzling career, the beautiful house in $city, the private school, the lawn, the hardwood bookcase. But here at 100 seconds to midnight those things just won't happen for me, and what's more there is other, urgent work to do. I'll have to derive some sort of meaning from that, or I'll lose the ability to get out of bed in the morning.

And Christ, Blue Genie, I am really sorry.
posted by peakes at 11:04 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]

Life is tough. Always has been, always will be.

In the words of Chopper... here.

Replace country name for where you live.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 11:10 AM on January 25

Naah. I don't agree with the "life is tough" and especially "always will be". But if it gets you through the day...

We just do too much of that "tough" to ourselves. Which we have a choice about. Which I hope we make better choices about in the future. Which...
posted by aleph at 11:20 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

So, it's kinda weird. I'm just about to finish off my early-30s, and I have a great career (even though I majored in Useless), own my own house in a (major?) city, and am about to finish graduate school in a few months. I even have a job with a pension! That I have these things without the help of the Bank of Mom and Dad and despite being raised child-of-immigrants-working-class means that I'm supposed to be fulfilled by the mere satisfaction being at being a middle-class adult.

So, do people perceive me as an adult? Sure they do, even moreso after I bought my house. I'm just not a relatable adult.

I grew up around the sorts of people who ended up with masters degrees, mortgages, and well on their way to marriage by 25. I hit those milestones at least a half-decade later than most of my peers, which created a lot of social distance in my mid-late 20s. The time I spent hustling because I didn't have the same sort of safety net meant I wasn't free to have the kind of fun that a lot of my peers could invest in, which, of course, made me appear boring and humourless. Also, most of this stuff happened in the five years since my most significant LTR ended. Yes, good for me that I did all this while single and wondering if anyone would ever want me again, but being a self-sufficient lone wolf creates distance from all those people who reach these milestones alongside loved ones.

So, cool, I'm sort of successful now, but the way I got here has basically left me without a peer group and makes me wonder if it's possible for me to find one (as well as a partner) so I can have a sense of community. I know I have things reasonably good for someone who graduated into a recession, so I don't blame anyone for tuning their world's smallest violin, but the process of getting my shit together has left me lonely in a way that other people rarely seem to experience.
posted by blerghamot at 12:10 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]

You have to be taught this

You have to learn it, one way or another. I think it's fair to say that my upbringing didn't feature a lot of the pragmatic planning about the future, etc. mentioned, which certainly makes it easier, but even if it had...ultimately, you have to work these matters out for yourself, and by the time you're into your mid-thirties you really should have made some decent progress in distinguishing your own values from your society's. Again, can't stress enough that I'm not talking about (a) goals you actually want for yourself or (b) fundamental life needs like economic security--everyone really should have a job that assures them a decent standard of living, they should be able to build a future with the life partner they love, etc. The effect of boomers trying to maintain value systems it's impossible for all but a few to meet in the economic system their generation has absolutely strip-mined is a real problem. But the article was definitely talking about more than that.
posted by praemunire at 12:24 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

praeunire: this. That and when I grew up it was common knowledge that the various systems *were* out to get you. For various reasons, mostly economic, but the political was sure integrated with the economic (surprise!). An appreciation for that basic fact(s) forms a lot of life planning. Or we felt that it should. Different ways to do that but you need to invest some effort and thought in what's best for you (and how to maneuver around/with the systems). And no. I was never taught that by my parents.
posted by aleph at 12:35 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Also some people want to be parents. Even ones who aren't religious fundamentalists.

One of the weird things about my very specific experience being ace, and knowing I was probably ace well before this was anything that could be spoken about outside of very specific online communities, and never having had intergenerational queer role models... is that I spent most of my adolescence and early twenties convinced that having a family or being a parent were totally off limits to me. Like, those things were not apparently available in real life that I could see in a format that I felt remotely comfortable with, and while I could find the odd person who wanted similar things on the Internet, they always seemed to be continents away from me. And I've never been comfortable with the idea of being a single parent because I was (am) certain I'd fuck that up without a counterbalance from a co-parenting adult.

I have been increasingly surprised at noticing how much I do want to be a parent as I approach my thirties, now that I have access to people and community who see and support the person I really am. I'm frightened of how financially inaccessible parenthood seems to be, but... figuring out which of those "adulting milestones" I'm supposed to want that I actually want, and feeling that I might find out that I want them just in time to not be able to actually have them feels especially cruel.
posted by sciatrix at 1:51 PM on January 25 [12 favorites]

Milestones don't tell you where you are.
They only tell you how far away you are from the next place.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:49 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Shoulda have been a poison to me all my life, and even more fun, at 43 and not in great shape, I’m paralyzed by the realization that I’ve got a lot more behind me than I have ahead of me.

I’ve had the specter of should hanging over me for so long that it’s made me utterly unable to recognize the things that I’ve done with my life that, to an outside observer, are worth remarking on. More than a couple younger acquaintances have told me they look up to me, and wish they could do the things I’ve done, and my immediate response is to downplay it, simply because I’ve done it, so, to me, it must not have been that difficult or worth the respect they have for it, all the whole thinking of the things I should have been doing instead, thinking about how the choices I have made have blocked the paths to those things I should have done.

But, when I try to push back against this, to think, hey, no, this thing I did was good, it did have value, I find myself worrying that I’m too full of myself, that all I’m doing is crowing about nothing more than what anyone else has done. But, and this is literally a realization from the last couple of days, made more real by this thread, yeah, I haven’t done what I thought I would do, but I have done more than I could have imagined when I was younger, and is, and will have to have been, enough. It’s not easy, and most times I can’t actually manage it, but I’ve come to understand the only way I’m going to manage to get through this is to stop thinking about my should haves and focus on my what I have done, and, going forward, the things I will, can, and must do.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:26 PM on January 25 [8 favorites]

"If your pa voted for Reagan, he may owe you half a million dollars. Consider this the next time he hints at grandchildren."
posted by eustatic at 7:52 PM on January 25 [8 favorites]

My experience has not been about "shoulds" at all. Two things:

1. My baby boomer parents and others of their generation eagerly telling me not to worry about milestones and keeping up with what friends do, etc. And I'm thinking, that's never been my motivation. I don't want a house as a milestone, I want a house because my apartment is ugly and cold and there is nothing here worth investing in and making better, so it stays that way. Will I be looking at this two-tone brown living room forever?

I wasn't unhappy at my job because of my job title or entry level status. I would have been content to have an opportunity to prove myself and slowly advance. I was unhappy because men with power have consistently treated me like garbage and when I complained about how others were treated (not even me!) I was blacklisted from advancement.

2. People assuming I'm making choices to forego things rather than being forced to. For example, when I have expressed frustration to friends about boomers (I'm calling out boomers because the people doing this are either my aunts&uncles or friends of my parents - boomers all) who want to know why I don't have kids, people my age are eager to talk about how "we don't all want to have kids and people need to respect that we have different goals". Which, yeah. But the reason I don't have kids is financial. So I go from a person older thinking I "should" have kids without understanding my circumstances, to someone my age celebrating our independence that our parents can't understand. And I'm like - you're all wrong! I am experiencing pain and sadness about this! But you never fucking asked why!
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:15 PM on January 25 [22 favorites]

I had my life-defining moment at age 29, when I was a brand new mom whose newborn had been handed a terrifying medical diagnosis. I didn’t know if I would be able to return to work. I didn’t know how to navigate the health insurance needs my child would have. I didn’t know if either of us would be able to live a life worth living. Eventually I figured out how to shape my career around access to a specific level of health coverage, and my career in my 30s has been one of careful prioritization of family stability over personal fulfillment. There’s a voice in the back of my mind whispering about passion, talent, creativity, and prestige - the shoulds. And I’m desperately hoping I feel more confident in my 40s about how things worked out, rather than descending into a pit of despair at the dip of the happiness u-curve at age 47 and doing something stupid to jeopardize it all.
posted by Maarika at 8:50 PM on January 25 [7 favorites]

It cannot be a coincidence that that this sense of disconnection and lack of alignment with community has remained, let alone increased, in a world where so much SHARING and other social media crap is supposed to be the magic bullet to eliminate that very thing. Comparison is the thief of joy.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:23 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

I think it's more like the wrong sterotype of "money is the root of all evil" where the original is "*love* of money is the root of all evil". Of course if you *could* compare wo getting sucked into all that you wouldn't be there in the first place.
posted by aleph at 10:34 AM on January 26

My version of that is "self-esteem is the worst human invention."

I've missed so many milestones I've gone so far as be tempted to watch "Failure to Launch." I already like "Limitless" and "Our Idiot Brother," so I think at the very least I'm executing something perfectly for my times if I'm turning to pop culture for spiritual affirmation.
posted by rhizome at 10:55 AM on January 26

I think our 30's are the time you actually reject, down to your bones, the fictions your parents told you.

1. Hard work will be rewarded (and its implication: if you are not rewarded, it is because you didn't work hard enough).
2. You can be anything you want (and its implication: if you are not what you want to be, it is your fault).
3. You are special (and its implication: if your life is not special, you are the one who screwed it up).

It seems that this age is both a time of mourning and a time of excitement, at least in myself and many of my friends and acquaintances. No, your life isn't what you thought it would be. But that isn't a personal failure - the game was rigged from the start. You can let go of those expectations of yourself and give yourself permission to enjoy what you have. Feel the rage at the bunk bill of goods sold to you by a spoiled generation, then look around at what you've managed to cobble together and appreciate what an accomplishment it all is considering how much was stacked against you.
posted by FakeFreyja at 6:41 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]

It's not a lot of consolation, but I also find it helpful to think of the period 1945-1975 as a historical anomaly for expectations and hopes of what members of the middle-class could achieve. Before 1945, it was rare to go to college and rare to own a home and rare to take vacations, etc. That was the Boomers' formative period, though, so they raised their children with expectations similar to what they were able to aspire to, but those possibilities began narrowing by 1980 as the economic structure shifted. It was great in a lot of ways while it lasted, but it was perhaps not reasonable to expect that the same forces that constrained all but elite classes for most of human history would not kick in again after the postwar boom subsided. What we have in part is a crisis of rising expectations dashed. Some of the stats about college attendance and expectations in this recent New Yorker article were interesting from that perspective. It may be wrong and unfair that many of us are unable to have what our parents had at our age; but it may also have been wrong and unfair for them to have it.

Selection of work track is part of the expectations issue. I am a first-generation degree earner, raised by parents who were thrilled to send me to college and didn't think too much beyond the degree about what my options would be. There was a general assumption that professional, well-compensated lifetime career opportunities would be abundant for people with liberal arts degrees. They were not then, and that's even less true now. Surveying peers, the people who I think may have chosen more wisely with regard to lifelong income and job security went into healthcare, particularly advanced nursing and healthcare administration; technical fields, especially software development and technical support administration; finance; and engineering. There was a lot of wishful thinking - not only on the part of parents, but of college recruiters and leadership, high school guidance counselors, etc. - that there were going to be expanding professional career prospects for people with no particular technical training or vital skills. I'm a big proponent of the liberal arts, but it's clear it was a mistake to think there would be abundant opportunities to build on that in the professional world.
posted by Miko at 4:53 AM on January 29

It's not a lot of consolation, but I also find it helpful to think of the period 1945-1975 as a historical anomaly for expectations and hopes of what members of the middle-class could achieve. Before 1945, it was rare to go to college and rare to own a home and rare to take vacations, etc.

Another way of looking at it is that millennials are the first generation in a century to be worse off than their parents (unless you're in the US, in which case it hit generation X as well.

The extent of generational wealth transfer from the young to the old over the last several decades is what is really historically unprecedented here.
posted by Dysk at 7:42 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]

The extent of generational wealth transfer from the young to the old over the last several decades is what is really historically unprecedented here.

Thing is, in the 80s there was an extensive trasfer of wealth from the old to the young. Union busting, pension hacking, downsizing, seniors eating dog food...this was early Private Equity, then called hostile takeovers, corporate raiding, and other euphemisms for buying with debt and eviscerating running businesses. See also: schools no longer having art or music programs. Wages of the 99% have been flat since 1970, the year Boomers started to graduate from business schools? Shocked face.

Taken as a whole, Boomers appear to have been taking from, well, everybody else, no matter what age they were. Now that they themselves are becoming elderly, they're still burning the place down.
posted by rhizome at 2:15 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]

Now that they themselves are becoming elderly, they're still burning the place down.

"One third of Baby Boomers have nothing saved for retirement age... .Debt is yet another problem for baby boomers. On average, they’re more than $110,000 in the red, a burden more than 50 percent higher than the amount carried by people born in the 1930s....These generation members hold less wealth, are deeper in debt and will face higher expenses than retirees a decade older than them..."

My GI generation grandparents: Never wealthy, but owned their home thanks to GI Bill and whiteness, made a good living as tradespeople, raised 4 kids and a few grandkids, retired with pensions, bought a retirement home on a lake property, left enough to cover their expenses, never wanted for anything. My Boomer parents: terrified and underprepared.

In the US at least, it was an anomaly for the WWII generation and the Boomers to amass so much wealth within the middle and working classes (and that's all that is meant by "a century": those two generations - since as noted, Generation X here was the first to achieve less overall than their parents.) (Or for your amusement, maybe the Boomers were; it seems to be the first cliche to do worse than its parents). Once the Reagan Revolution corrected that and restored the flow of wealth to the top percentiles, that blip evaporated.

It's almost like the problem is our inequitable economy and regressive taxation structures and not what age it happened to catch you at. It's almost like it's about capitalism.

"Despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, it seems to me that the boomers are not the problem. The rich are."
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]

Debt is yet another problem for baby boomers.

Keeping with my theme, financial engineering is a thing, too. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Trump dies with billions in debt. It's a heck of a way to live if you can manage it and certainly a form of wealth.

"Despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, it seems to me that the boomers are not the problem. The rich are."

Oh, being a Boomer doesn't mean you're rich, it's the other way around. Boomers had the largest money vacuum for the past 50 years regardless of how many benefited, let alone retained a fortune. Put it this way: only one-third? Perhaps the rest of us should be so lucky.

The facts remain, and the timing fits.
posted by rhizome at 4:37 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]

I care about changing things for all poor people and increasing security and opportunity for all, though I'm also interested in a moderate and modest economy. I have no time for generational beefs - that's intentionally divisive identity politics. The numbers are what they are because the trend is what it is. Who got caught on what part of the trend is not the fault of 70-80% of people, none of whom could choose when they would be born. It is the fault of the global financial and political elites who created this reality with great intention and foresight. Let's know the enemy.

I'm interested in a more equitable distribution of wealth - even if that means we all have a little less. It doesn't have to mean that, because of the super-wealthy. But the standard of living of the wealthiest top 30-50% of the last 60 years was not good for society or the earth, and we should not aspire to it. It was wasteful and impratical. It served mainly the interests of manufacturing and financial-innovation shareholders. It worsened climate matters, destroyed environments, created crises of social isolation and alienation. We should not bring that back. We should not want to consume that much. It was (is) bad. Knowing humans, I have zero confidence that we would have spontaneously scaled back en masse had the financial environment been any different, out of the goodness of our hearts.

We should use our resources to place emphasis on more human-centered values and more satisfying ways of living - not on lamenting that we can't consume as much. We should prize stability and security over piling up a hoard against a rainy day. We should support education at high levels of quality and ambition, because it enriches life, culture, and happiness, but not expect that having gone through that education means you are being shafted if you don't have a 20th percentile managerial job and the salary to go with. We should care for people when they're sick, mentally or physically or chronically, without a price tag. We should fundamentally readjust what it is that we value.

I get that that's not what's happening now - if this were just a paradigm shift and we could feel good about where we're headed despite personal sacrifices, that'd be great. But the superrich are still running away with everything that could be making life bearable, even good, for everyone else. Still, since we're going through it either way, I'd like to see how we can find opportunities to adjust expectations in a positive direction - and maybe continue to build support for a progressive tax structure, long-term. If we were successful in creating that, and getting all that good stuff, hell no let's not go back to the capitalist-driven consumptive ideal of midcentury.
posted by Miko at 5:02 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]

We should use our resources to place emphasis on more human-centered values and more satisfying ways of living - not on lamenting that we can't consume as much. We should prize stability and security over piling up a hoard against a rainy day.

Given that we're talking about things like being able to afford stable living conditions, or to start a family, I'm not sure what axe you're grinding here. We're not complaining because we can't get a third Mercedes here. "Maybe you should instead value consuming less" is a profoundly shitty response to lacking access to the resources for basic life stability.
posted by Dysk at 3:02 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]

Given that we're talking about things like being able to afford stable living conditions, or to start a family

Obviously I don't speak for Miko, but since the article we're discussing is about comparing ourselves to an imaginary list of "shoulds" it makes sense to talk about the standards that many people aspire to and what the externalities of those milestones are.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:13 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Yes. I’m saying the “shoulds” were never really prosocial standards, and agreeing with everyone that our economic policy would better be oriented for providing the largest number of people with a modest degree of stability and security, instead of what’s essentially a rigged craps table.
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

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