I just came across this article on Facebook, courtesy of the Huffington Post, titled “This is Why Our Generation Doesn’t Believe in Settling Down.”
I don’t have issues with the way certain people choose to live their lives. That’s up to you, and what you feel is best for yourself. But what rubs me the wrong way about this article is the assumptions made. As though having a home, picket fence or not, is somehow settling for a sub-par life or somehow limits you from living a full life.
As a millennial myself, I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite fit into my generation, nor the generation before me. I do appreciate the life lessons you learn from traveling and I absolutely want to travel more, but I also know that at the end of the day, I want a place I can call home. I want to have somewhere to go back to, that feels familiar and safe, where I can unwind and be myself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and I certainly don’t think that having a home means my life will somehow be less fulfilling than someone who lives a more nomadic lifestyle and spends their time traveling. I also don’t think the two are mutually exclusive–you can have a home (again, picket fence or not), and travel as well. One is not better than the other, and you don’t need to choose between the two.
I also fail to see how having a home, a family, and a spouse is “settling.” As one of the commenters wrote, “Settling and settling down are not the same thing.” I absolutely agree with this. In any case, if a person marries someone they love and want to be with, I don’t think the people getting married would see that as settling. After all, it’s something they are choosing to do because they love that person and feel that the person they are marrying will enrich their life. It’s getting really trite to shit on people who actually want to get married and who seek that out, as though it’s a lame thing you do if you have no other options, or something you should only want once you’ve done everything else. What’s the point of marrying someone at the end of your life, after you’ve lived it? It makes more sense to marry someone and take on all those adventures with them–whether it’s the journey towards your dream job or running a business together or writing a book about your travels or raising a beautiful family. A lasting relationship is definitely something I want in my life, because I see the value of having a companion to share my life with. Plus, I was an only child. I’ve been alone long enough. I’ve had my share of not having to share. So having a companion to do life with actually sounds pretty cool.
I find that the people who look at marriage and having a family as “settling” are quite naive. They still think that a fulfilling life means doing whatever you please and traveling without having to think about another person, without having to share your life with anyone–life can just be one big adventure. And it is an adventure–but that adventure can take many forms. Sharing your life with someone, raising a family, traveling, living on your own and learning–those are all valid ways in which life can be an adventure, and they all come with their own sets of rewards and challenges. Those people who think that marriage and family is “settling” fail to see that a fulfilling life has been proven, time and time again, to be because of the full, meaningful relationships people have with others. It’s not because of your job, or your wealth, or how many stamps you have on your passport. It’s the people in your life and your relationships with them.
I understand the pressure that some may feel to “settle down” and live life the traditional way. I’m someone who wants a lasting relationship but isn’t quite so sure about kids, yet. It would have to take meeting someone who I know will be supportive for me to consider starting a family and trust that I can take it on. I get that it might seem that there is a “right” way to live your life, and you feel ostracized for wanting something else. But I should tell you…you’re not the first to feel like this. Literally every generation before you has felt this way. There’s no need to prove how the “adventurous, rebellious” life you want is somehow better than the traditional life others choose to lead. It really rubs me the wrong way when I hear millennials talk like this. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t convince anyone that your chosen lifestyle is somehow better–instead it just makes you sound self-righteous and emotionally stunted. And butt-hurt. No one is trying to stop you from living the life you want. If you’re so secure in your choice of lifestyle, then you wouldn’t feel the need to justify it and sound pretentious while doing so. Let people live the way they want, and don’t judge them for the choices they’ve made. Someone who chooses to get married, have a family and stable job and a 401k, can live a life that feels just as adventurous as someone who travels to a different country every week.
Regardless of the way you choose to live, the one common denominator should be this: take care of your relationships. All kind of relationships–your friendships, your family relationships, your romantic relationships. Nurture them and value them, because at the end of the day, those relationships will be your home. Those relationships will be the things you can go back to when you need some familiarity. They’ll be the listening ear when you feel alone. They’ll be the source of laughter and support when you need it. Whether you choose to travel and never quite settle down, or whether you choose to have a family and a job, or whether you choose to do something completely different–if you don’t have meaningful relationships with people, then your life will always feel like it is missing something. Take it from someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of friends and has spent most of her life alone–the things I value most in my life are the few close relationships I have with people I trust. Being alone has its perks, but human beings are wired to live life in communities. It is in our nature to seek out connections with others. It is a survival trait, but it also brings value to our survival. So let’s stop with the silly debates over traveling vs. having a picket fence home. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is your relationships with others.