Why Hitting Milestones In Your 20s Shouldn’t Happen On A Schedule

Amanda Pena
Amanda Pena is one of those bridge and tunnel people that frequents the city for her job and the Chipotle on every other block. She hopes to be the next Cheryl Strayed and touch people's lives through her writing and/or find the best prosciutto deli in Manhattan.

“My God, are we gonna be like our parents?” – Andrew Clark

“Not me. Ever” – Claire Standish

“It’s unavoidable. It just happens.” – Allison Reynolds

“What happens?” – Claire

“When you grow up, your heart dies.” – Allison

(The Breakfast Club, 1985)


While The Breakfast Club is a cult-classic delivering endless amounts of snarky jokes and pop culture references, the film, at its core, is furtively touching upon sensitive themes and topics that all humans can relate to. This scene covers one of the most important revelations that occur when your twenties hit; the world is no longer black and white and all of that in-between, all of that deafening space in which everything we once knew is questioned, is called the grey area.

Now, let’s not be dramatic, our hearts do not essentially die. But remove that teenage angst that I’d hope Allison and the majority of us have discarded by now (it comes out every now and then when mom doesn’t have dinner), and examine what the grey area means to you. Perhaps your world of having everything black and white consisted of graduating by 22, on the road to career self-discovery by 23, being in a committed relationship with the person you’d hope to settle down with by 26, and considering children by 30.

That was black and white — it was this vision that you beautifully conjured up in your head when you were younger, and sure as your ego is at its peak when you were 18, you were positive that this was exactly how your life would pan out. I mean, it has to, right? What could possibly deter this journey?

And then your twenties hit, and when you find that that vision did not come true, or those milestones in your visions came at different times and in ways that you could not have foreseen those years ago, you understand that it was all part of the greatest scheme of our lives – the grey area.

A few weeks ago, one of my childhood friends and I went to the beach, and naturally, we dove into deep conversation over this inevitable shade of life. We had revisited the dreams we had colorfully discussed in high school and when we compared them to our current realities, we were in awe of how different things turned out. Without getting into specifics, we had come to the conclusion that when you get older there is never any straight path to the life you want. It’s different routes taken, it’s sacrifices, but most importantly, it’s letting go of that vision you once had and moving with life’s curveballs as opposed to letting them knock you down with disappointment.

Life happens in the most mysterious of ways. The grey area, while full of crushing realizations, should be the driving force behind your motivation to keep going, to keep striving, no matter if the course ahead looks foggy and unnavigable. Do not punish yourself for not having achieved what you wanted to by XYZ age. Years from now you will look back and understand why this happened at this specific time. As we move into this realm of grey, and transition over from what we once knew, remember that life has so many unplanned surprises along the way that our notebook dreams could not have predicted.

Ally Sheedy’s heart didn’t shrivel up and die when she grew up. Her heart, fueled by textbook thoughts of career, marriage, and children, got a bit more realistic as life revealed to her that it wasn’t perfect. And maybe this imperfection, this grey area, is life’s consistent apology to us for not living up to the standards we had set for it as children. While it is indeed disheartening to watch our lives unfold in the strangest of means, the best thing that we can do is keep our heads above the water, cautious of how easy it is to fall back into the waves of our childhood.

It’s a wake-up call for all of us, life itself included; one that’s meant to relieve us of the pressures we had placed, and prepare us for the unknown, whether it comes tomorrow or six years from now.

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