Expectation Vs. Reality: 5 Ways I Thought Being 23 Would Be Different

by Lauren Toland

When I was younger, I imagined age 23 marked the beginning of adulthood.

I’m talking stable relationship on the brink of engagement, skirt suits, crisp white blouses and recipes from health magazines, for nightly nutritional dinners.

I thought that upon college graduation (and my subsequent 23rd birthday), an instant transformation would take place and suddenly, I would be an adult.

Having recently approached this seemingly pivotal age, none of these things are true. My reality is drastically different in almost every way possible:


Expectation: The morning routine consists of waking up at 6 am to prepare a healthy, balanced breakfast and read the newspaper before heading to the office for my fast-paced businesswoman job.

Dressed in a designer pencil skirt and pumps, I attend important meetings as an executive employee where I make influential decisions that affect the economy.

Reality: My roommates wake me up before they leave the house because my 17 alarms somehow don’t do the trick.

I calculate the perfect equation to allow for maximum sleep and still get to work on time.

I wake up and dig through piles of clothing to find a shirt with the “appropriate amount of cleavage" (which is mysterious ratio I have yet to perfect) and drive to work while applying mascara at red lights.

My decisions are far from influential, as I spend most of my time on Twitter. I’m paid hourly, drink at the office and think it’s hilarious that I have a business card.


Expectation: My kitchen has a designated filing cabinet with labeled folders organized by cuisine, chock-full of torn-out recipes from magazines and pages from cookbooks.

Every night, I prepare healthy, delicious, culturally-varied meals with a full set of cookware purchased from Crate and Barrel.

Reality: I can barely make tea. Cooking consists of peeling back plastic film and microwaving on high for three to four minutes. I loathe the grocery store and takeout is my savior.


Expectation: My closet is organized by item, color and occasion, so I can get dressed with ease and efficiency.

Designer blouses, professional skirt suits and matching high-heeled pumps fill the shelves. My chic style is the envy of my peers and I effortlessly pull off a fashionable look every day.

Reality: My style can be described as "inappropriate homeless girl."

Half of my clothes are ripped, skimpy and cropped, and the other half are in unpacked boxes (though I moved into my house seven months ago).

Despite my excessive amount of clothing, I never have anything to wear. My usual outfit is jeans and a transparent white t-shirt, which is not exactly an original, enviable style.

After-Work Activities

Expectation: I'll spend my time at happy hours, sipping cocktails and networking with industry professionals at classy bars.

I'll walk from work to meet up with friends who also have high-powered, downtown jobs and consume a civilized amount of alcohol (perhaps a drink or two) and then go home early to responsibly prepare for the next day’s work.

Before bed, I'll read three chapters of a Malcolm Gladwell book and it'll be lights out by 10:30 pm.

Reality: I spend the majority of time on the couch watching TiVoed episodes of "Parks and Recreation" while arguing with my roommates over who has to take on the arduous responsibility of fast-forwarding through commercials.

We drink heavily in our living room due to a combination of laziness, lack of money and propensity for not wearing pants.


Expectation: I keep my finances in order with a thoroughly planned budget that meticulously details my income and expenses.

Any extra money goes directly into my savings account. I research stocks, check the Dow each morning and invest wisely, with the advice of my financial advisor.

Reality: I forget to sign the back of every single check I deposit.

There is no reasonably-calculated budget, and my attempts to save money are often derailed by my impulsivity and all-consuming love for online shopping.

I have absolutely no idea how to figure out my credit score or what an insurance deductible is.

When I get bills in the mail, I either send them directly to my parents or throw them somewhere and pretend they don’t exist.

As with most things in life, my expectations of turning 23 were drastically different than how they actually transpired in reality — and I couldn't be more thankful for it.

I’m grasping on to these years of minor responsibility, occasional mishaps and spending time with my friends before I approach actual adulthood.