Why It’s OK To Reach Traditional Milestones In Your Own Time

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Research has revealed what the general public considers to be significant life milestones. And they include pretty much everything you might expect: from losing your v-plates to getting married and having kids; from the day you first move out of home, to the day you become a homeowner.

But are the ages we’re expected to be checking things off the milestone bucket list unrealistic? And has our ability to achieve these goals changed drastically since our parents were our age?

Leaving Home

It’s more likely that today’s young adults will stay at home longer than the generation before them did. And the reasons people leave home, when they eventually do, are different as well.

In the past, people moved out at earlier ages and were more likely to do so to get married and start a family. Today, the reasons that propel people to move out include a combination of a desire for independence, greater employment or career options, and to attend university or TAFE.

However, living in share houses for people in their early 20s is also more common now than it was in the past. This is due to the fact that housing affordability in Australia has been rapidly declining since the 1980s.

So next time your grandpa Bill brings up the fact he bought his first house at your age, tell him nowadays you need a bit more than a handful of loose change a can of VB to put down a deposit for a 2-bed-1-bath in an inner-city suburb. 

Losing Our Virginity

For all the fear mongering and talk of this generation as sex-crazed and promiscuous, the age at which young people lose their virginity has been increasing.

Interestingly, the median age Aussie lads and lasses first have sex is 17 and a half years old. In fact, we’re having less sex in general now than we did 30 years ago. 

Getting Married And Having Kids

Worried you’ll end up like Toula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who committed the great social faux pas of being unmarried at the ancient age of 30?

Thankfully, the idea of the big 3-0 as the deadline for proposals and positive pregnancy tests is becoming rather dated. In fact, the number of women getting married for the first time in their late 30s and 40s has doubled in 10 years.

Not surprisingly, with women entering the workforce in droves and being seen as more than just baby-making machines, the average age they have children has steadily risen too.

In addition to this, the age we hit the marital milestone isn’t simply moving; it’s being seen as less of a milestone. People are less likely to view marriage as a necessary outcome of a long-term relationship. Not to mention, even with the same-sex marriage survey underway, that marriage isn’t even an option for the Australian gay community.

Finishing University

Another reason the achievement of traditional milestones has shifted later and later is, in part, because of the increase in young adults pursuing higher education.

The percentage of people in their early 20s attending universities and TAFEs has increased substantially in recent years. In 1971, only 2 per cent of the population held a Bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2011, that figure became 18.8 per cent — over nine times the amount from 40 years ago.

So, all that being said: don’t fret if you’re 24, still studying, still living at home, and can’t envisage popping the question to any of your tinder matches.

Smashing the proverbial life-goals isn’t as easy as it was in your parent’s day, or in quirky Manhattan-based sitcoms. Moreover, the milestones we have in our head may not even be suited to us anyway.

Lizz is a politics and philosophy graduate, creative writer and soy-latte drinker. She is the avocado-flavoured icing on the indulgent millennial cake. You can follow her on twitter at @lizzkuiper