The “Rat Race,” 20 Years Into Adulthood

On Friday I attended my 20th year reunion from Easton Area High School (class of 2002). I tried to talk to a lot of people and hear about their lives, after all I hadn’t seen some of them in closer to two decades. Obviously there was a range of answers. Some are finishing doctorates, others served the country, some did time in jail (and are doing well now, so we’re proud of them too), many are parents, a good chunk married, and of course there’s me. Twenty years after graduating from a large public high school, the range of experiences is really broad and the conversations took some turns down some fascinating rabbit holes.

It didn’t matter where anyone lived, where they were married or not, if they had kids, or what their career- almost every single conversation took on some version of “I’m always busy and just trying to make it.” In some cases it turns into a conversation of burnout from work, in some cases it’s a discussion of rising costs of living, lamenting the work-life imbalance, or just how difficult it is to make it as an adult in our world.

I suppose if you were born a billionaire (or most millionaires) this conversation might seem silly, but it’s worth stating that American adulthood is way too serious and not enough fun. You could attack the ills of “adulting” statistically and talk about how many millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, but in this case it was a realtime focus group of “early millennials” in a room telling you how it actually feels to be almost 40 and “responsible” in America. It’s also worth noting this was the portion of nearly 600 people that are both still alive and could/wanted to attend. If we could have extracted the responses of the majority of our peers, I’m guessing the answers may have become more pronounced.

When we were teenagers, “The Matrix” attempted a fictional life at how our society truly is just a system, and to be fair I now think that movie did more to foment conspiracy theories and crazy than good, but I could not help but consider the message again as I had my Saturday morning coffee. Do we really just raise children to inherit a pile of debts and build their lives around their work that pays them? Are we long past time to consider if our entire way of life is organized wrong, and limits our pleasure in life? Is this really the best we can all hope for in this world?

Anyway, I really live my classmates and enjoyed hearing about their marriages, kids, and achievements over the past two decades. For all the lamenting about growing into adulthood and the challenges we face each day, most of them are healthy, happy, and finding ways to enjoy life as we enter a new decade, now separated by a bit more space. People asked me about my career and life travels, usually saying they saw me in ___ city on social media at some point in the past 15 years. I almost felt bad in a few of the conversations. I’m fortunate life has went the way it has for me so far, and I’m glad it’s going well for them. I guess I’m also wondering if there’s anything else to this life, now that it’s statistically over.

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