We live in the land of listicles. 30 things to do before you turn 30. 20 mistakes to make in your 20s. Movies you’re supposed to see, places you’re supposed to visit, milestones you’re supposed to reach. It’s exhausting trying to keep up. And it sends the message to those of us who live outside the box—or list, as it were—that we’re wrong in some way.
So here’s a list of things people need to stop telling us to do:
1. Anything to do with finances
Life happens. Sometimes it’s an unexpected medical bill, or a necessary work expense (or necessary leisure expense). And sometimes you decide to go into massive debt in your 30s going back to grad school. (eep.) I get that setting myself up for my future is important, but please don’t tell me how much should be in my savings account right now.
2. Anything to do with relationships
Don’t tell me to date someone not my type (whatever that means anyway). Don’t tell me to have my heart broken. Don’t tell me to get married. Don’t tell me not to get married. Don’t tell me to live with someone. Don’t tell me to plan out my reproductive future. Just don’t.
3. Anything to do with a job
Should I be a vice president by the time I’m 30? A partner in a law firm? Should I be making six figures? Tell me, oh wise Internet, tell me.
4. Anything to do with travel
From the time I knew what Europe was, I wanted to travel. But I didn’t make it there until I was 33. My dad went to Italy for the first time a couple of years ago when he was in his 60s. It’s not always easy to make travel happen, so telling someone they should be going somewhere when they may not have the means is just… mean.
5. Anything to do with life skills
Can I fix a running toilet? Yup. Can I sew a button? Nope. Can I hang a mirror on a wall? Yup. Can I read my insurance forms and know what they mean? Nope. Can I paint my own finger nails without messing up? Yup. Can I keep a plant alive? Probably not.
I get it. These things don’t come out of nowhere. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there satisfied with someone telling them that there’s one way to live their lives. I’m not one of those people. I’m 36. I live with two roommates. My bedroom is decorated with Star Wars posters and sports memorabilia. I am in grad school with the intention of starting a whole new career (and a whole new level of debt). I rarely cook dinner. I don’t know what my life will look like in six months. And I’m perfectly happy.
The thing is, if we let people set standards for things like age, we are opening the door for other standards: gender, sexual orientation, race, beauty. I don’t know about you, but my life isn’t—and shouldn’t be—dictated by a list.