By BEN GRABOW
Scripps Howard News Service
May 14, 2005
It is a Saturday night and I am rolling strips of eggplant in egg and dredging them in bread crumbs and basil to bake on a greased pan, and it occurs to me that this is a very grown up thing to do.
But for all the import of spending a Saturday night in the kitchen with a simmering pan of tomato sauce, I can't help but feel that I am playing house rather than actually living in one. Every seemingly adult action I take doesn't truly seem "adult" to me. Everything I do, from going to work in the office to paying my bills to weighing produce in the grocery, seems like I am pretending. I feel like I'm filling a role rather than living a life.
Your twenties, like the twenty years before them, are a series of "supposed-to-do's."
You get a job, any job, and rent a place, any place, because you're supposed to. When you get older, you might get a say in the career or the living arrangements. Right now you'll take what you can get.
When you do the things you're supposed to do, like put money in your 401k and go after that next rung of the corporate ladder, you are following a precedent set by your parents _ a precedent set by basically everyone older than you. These adult things, these "supposed-to-do's" become precedent for a reason. They lead you towards success.
Success is a big green lawn. Or a clean house full of children with straight teeth. A huge television and two cars in the garage. And plenty of money to retire 40 years down the line. The things we want, from attractive landscaping to flat-screens and surround-sound, cost money. Doing the things you're supposed to do will get you the things you're supposed to want.
So it is any wonder that many of us bristle at the supposed-to-do's?
We, in our twenties, with our starter-lives and starter-success - high speed Internet, a car that runs, an apartment with air conditioning. We're working our way towards a family and landscaping, and all the while feel as though we're pretending. We are doing the things that adults do while still feeling like teenagers. Feeling as though we should question all of this.
This is the experience of a discontented young professional: the thrill of making your own decisions spoiled by the realization that all your decisions have been made for you.
Somewhere along the way of two decades of education, we were all supposed to decide what we wanted. We were supposed to have, set in our minds, our idea of success _ of our ultimate goal. Most of us still aren't sure of what that is, and it makes us uneasy. It makes us feel as though we're achieving someone else's goals. It makes it that much harder to tie a half Windsor every morning.
But we tie it anyway. We get in our cars or pay the bus fare, sit through the meetings and fire off the email, just like our parents. We're not always sure of why we do it, but it pays the bills, and sometimes that's explanation enough. And eventually, we'll have real reasons to put up with our daily grind, like children of our own. Or maybe lawns and plasma-screen televisions.
Until then, we have only small reasons. Like the satisfaction of carving out a little niche in the world, or the satisfaction of paying our own way for once. Maybe it's just the satisfaction a buttery, breaded strip of eggplant, crisp and steaming from the oven, dipped in your own garlic and artichoke marinara.
Yes, it's small. But this, I think, is what success tastes like.
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