Flash Friday: What Having It All Really Means

The 20-Something Perspective 

By Molly Ford

Christina and I have been writing the Flash Fridays, where we look at an issue from two perspectives: the 20-something and the 40-something, for almost a year now.

Once we’ve figured out a topic, I handle the 20-something perspective on the issue. For research on the topic, I usually Facebook and Twitter out the question, as well as email the question to a circle of my 20-something friends. For most topics, I have no problem getting a response from other 20-somethings. People have been happy to share a sentence, a paragraph or a story about woman that inspire them, dating in the workplace, and long-term planning, among other topics we’ve covered.

But this month’s question of having it all was different. When I asked other 20-somethings, “What is your having it all, and do you have it now?” the answers came in short supply. The few responses I got were all variations of “I don’t have it all, but I want to someday.” Some people listed achievements they wanted to meet in order to have it all: own an apartment, get a MBA, make X number of dollars. Other people listed life events they wanted to reach: date, marry, have kids. Everyone’s answer was different, and almost universally everyone seemed to think they didn’t have it all now.

So I started thinking.

Why do we have to have it “all” to be happy? Can’t we have a part and be happy? 

I haven’t read all the books in Barnes and Noble, I don’t have all the items on my clothes wishlist, and I haven’t dated all the boys in Manhattan, but I’m really happy with the ones I have. I don’t have all the degrees universities offer, all the blog traffic on the internet, or all the friends in the world, but I’m really happy with the ones I have.

And the checklist I had of goals five years ago has already been reached. I have 21 year old’s Molly Ford’s all, and if I work hard, I hope to eventually have 31 year old Molly Ford’s all.

So, looking at these two truths: if we know that you cannot ever have all of everything, and if we know that if we work hard to reach goals we achieve t hem, then what does the phrase “having it all” mean?

I think that instead of asking someone if they have it all, it might make more sense to ask them if they are happy. Because checklists, milestones and goals can change. But in the moment right before you fall asleep, when you think about the day you had and the day you want to have tomorrow, the question is: am I happy with the way I’ve chosen to live my life?

Because the only thing anyone can really have all of is one thing: all of the happiness you can possibly suck out of your own specific life, using the cards you’ve been given and the hands you’ve decided to play.

Having all the happiness: that is the having it all, at any age.

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  • I’m really shocked that there weren’t many 20-somethings that responded to the question. But at the same time, being a 20-something, I find that we oftentimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves and are sometimes told by society that we don’t have it all and probably can’t at our age because of our inexperience, whether that be in a job, in relationships, in family situations, etc. However, I do agree with you, having all the happiness is having it all at any age. Personally, I don’t know what my “having it all” would be at this moment in my life because I’m still trying to figure out what I want out of life. But I can say that I am happy with where I am. I may not be getting married like most of my friends or in a relationship or have my career launching like others, but I’m happy where I am in the world and in my life. That brings me more comfort than feeling as though I have to accomplish so much at a certain time in my life.

    • Admin

      Brittany – i can relate! I was not on the same timeline as many of my friends in my 20s but had my own happiness set point. You can be happy where you are and still aspire to different things in the future. I suppose it’s as you say — taking more comfort in what you have vs. feeling bad about what you don’t have. Maybe that is comfort in what you and excitement for what you still can have!

  • Emily

    This question really hit home with me. I am 22 years old and graduated with my BA 6 months ago. My whole life I have been on a set track: elementary school, middle school, high school, and lastly college. We set such high standards for where we want to be once we graduate but no one really tells you how hard it is to get a career in the field you want. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t have it all right now, but the most important thing is being happy. My life is nowhere near what I want for myself, but I have time to figure out it out and let the pieces fall into place. Life doesn’t go the way you think or plan. You are constantly finding out who you are and we never fully know what we are meant to do. So I take happiness in having a partner and a great group of friends and a decent income.

    • Admin

      Thanks for your comment! I frequently reminded what constant flux it is…when you come to realize that it is much easier to adapt the the flux and readjust yourr happiness quotient. I love your perspective with finding happiness in what you have.

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  • I think that’s probably because we struggle with the notion of having it all, or defining ‘having it all’. I know I do.

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