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, went back to a job I had left a year before and started over again. Shortly after, my grandfather died.
Now my daughter Katie is 25, and it's shocking how different her life is 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.
I am both immensely proud and sort of jealous of her life, which, I suppose, is how all mothers should feel about their children.
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 hoping to find a husband and get married in our twenties. 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.
Our jobs were not 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. There was no backpacking around Europe or Teach for America 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 found myself not taking things as seriously as I knew I should have, because no part of me wanted to imagine that later on, that would be what I'd be doing.
Katie thinks nothing like I did. She imagines a future with power and strength and accomplishment, her career the focus of her ambitions and dreams. Yes, she'd like to have a family someday, but she wants to be so much more than she is now—and what she is now is pretty wonderful. 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 realize that what my daughter is doing is absolutely fine. I worried for a while that she didn't seem concerned enough about her personal life, but for her, 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 pretty 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 always regretted not having. 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, she will be far stronger than I was when it happened to me. And that makes me a happy mom.