When I was 25, my life was a mess. I had left a brief mistake of a marriage, moved in with my father and his girlfriend, was rehired in a position I had left a year before, and started over again. Shortly after all of this happened, my grandfather died. Twenty-five was a year of many losses.
Now my daughter Katie is 25, and her life is so very different from mine when I was her age. Single, with a job she passionately loves, she travels around the world to movie premieres, film festivals and the like with people most of us only dream about meeting. Confident, self-assured and driven, she is the antithesis of the frightened, lonely and lost young woman I was in 1987.
The women I knew at 25, my friends and co-workers, were a hardworking bunch, but for the most part, every one of us was, whether with purpose or subconsciously, looking for a husband so we could get married before we turned 30. We came of age at the tail end of the rise of the Women’s Liberation Movement. We all marched in to job interviews in our skirt suits and floppy bow tie silk blouses, our legs covered in pantyhose and our feet in our first pair of grown-up pumps.
For the most part, our jobs were not a passion in our lives, but a byway to what we assumed came next: domestic bliss. We had taken baby steps towards what the millennials are doing now—biding their time, pursuing dreams, taking risks, postponing the seemingly “happily ever after” reality we hoped for 30 years ago.
I was frightened to take even the slightest detour from what I imagined my path to be. For me, there was no backpacking around Europe or joining the Peace Corps. I know others did things like that, but I lacked something—confidence, support, interest, faith—I’m still not sure what it was, but it kept me locked in place. Even when I began working, I didn’t take my work as seriously as I should have, because, in my heart, I knew that this job, this career, was not what I wanted to do with my life. I only wanted to be a mom.
Katie thinks nothing like I did. She imagines a future filled with power and strength and accomplishment, her career the focus of her ambitions and dreams. I think she’d like to have a family someday, but she wants, professionally, to continue to grow, with women she works for and with serving as examples of how to succeed. Her industry is filled with women who run things, create things, lead people and change lives. She thinks of herself, at 25, as young, with many years ahead of her before she has to “settle down.” And even when she does, she will continue to work, whether it’s necessary or not, because when she’s working she’s happy.
It’s taken me a couple of years and some serious soul-searching to come to the understanding that what my daughter is doing is absolutely fine. I worried for a while that she didn’t seem concerned enough about the things I thought were important so many years ago, but for Katie, her job and her personal life are intricately entwined. I fretted about her finding a partner so she won’t be lonely, but those are my values and my insecurities, not hers. Unlike my friends and me at 25, she doesn’t feel the need to be in a relationship to feel complete. She is complete on her own.
When Katie was growing up, I always told her to make sure she had something of her own when she got married—money, a career, a home—something she could claim and hold on to for herself. It’s something I have always regretted not doing before I married my husband. What she’s found, far sooner than I did, is herself.
When the day comes (and it will) that her life shifts in ways she cannot understand, when life surprises her in both wonderful and terrifying ways, she will be far stronger than I was when it happened to me.
A version of this was previously published on Purple Clover.