Rory Gilmore, 401(k)s and Being a “Grownup”

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Rory Gilmore is my hero. To me, she rocks the perfect mixture of super cool, yet quirky and relatable. She stayed loud and proud about who she was, not caring one bit that she ate lunch alone in high school. Instead of a car, she wanted a dictionary (of all things). Unlike most female characters, Rory had a shamelessly massive appetite, never obsessed over her appearance and wasn’t afraid to be herself. She made mistakes (like getting arrested) but owned up to them. Rory isn’t just a TV character for me, but a living, breathing person that I could easily imagine being my equal.

I think all this now causes Gilmore Girls to bother me. Partly because I have to wait ages for the revival, but also because Rory reminds me of all the ways I’m failing.

“Failing” is an odd word to describe my life, because a random observer would say I live a decent life. I’m studying something I enjoy, I don’t loathe my part time job and I have plenty of time left for friends. I also write for a magazine that feels more like fun than work.

But then I look at where I am now, in my junior year of college, versus Rory’s. She was voted the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Daily News, managed to tame a notorious playboy and kicked some serious ass at a journalism panel. Before that, she interned at a famous newspaper, earned the title of valedictorian in high school, got into multiple Ivy Leagues and regularly beat Paris Geller at her own game.

As for me? What have I done? I got into my dream college, but so did many of my high school classmates. Last spring, I nearly fell for a scam internship. While I’m lucky enough to write for CM, that pales in comparison to Rory at the Yale Daily News.

Maybe you want to write off Rory as yet another perfect character who lived a ridiculously unattainable life, but I know that’s not true. She’s relatable and real. If a refreshingly normal girl like Rory could do it all, I should be able to. So I’m doing it all wrong, then.

Last week, I received a 401(k) info packet telling me how and why I should set mine up. Retirement? I barely know what I’m going to have for dinner tonight. How am I supposed to prepare for my future if I’m not sure I have one? I’ve never even been a lowly coffee fetching intern yet.

I always thought a 401 (k) was just for “grown ups.” Sure, I can get married and almost drink legally, but I’ve never considered that I’m an adult. Adults can cook real food that doesn’t come from the frozen aisle. Adults can keep their rooms clean. Adults don’t freak when they see spiders in the shower. Adults also know what they want to do with their lives. As for me, some days I want to be a journalist, but on others I daydream about becoming a TV writer. Should I apply to grad school or try to get a job? Minor in history or psychology? Just writing this makes my hands shake.

This, plus all of Rory’s accomplishments, just makes me panic even more. While I can hide my immature self in the relatively safe world of college, I can’t do that in the real world. I’m ridiculously unprepared to become a grownup. Hell, I hurled the 401(k) packet across the room when I quickly realized the only words I recognized were my name on the front of the pamphlet.

Rory knew exactly what she wanted to do. She became a “grown up” long before the law considered her one, and she’d probably figure out all of that 401(k) jargon with her usual flair. With everything she’d done, she’d have no problem navigating the world. Me, not so much, and I’m running out of time.

Every time I bring this up, my family tells me not to worry. According to them, I have the whole world ahead of me and every opportunity open. But all of those opportunities are just more ways for me to fail.

Maybe I shouldn’t compare myself to Rory, but to another Gilmore girl. Lorelai left home at 16, unsure of anything other than that she needed to build her own life away from her parents. She never interned, was never voted the Editor-in-Chief and even lived in a tool shed for many years. Yet look at everything she eventually accomplished despite her less than stellar start.

Maybe I don’t need to live exactly like Rory. I don’t know who or what I want to be, and I have a strong feeling I’m going to be unemployed for a while after graduating. But as some of my older coworkers say, I’m just a baby. If all goes well, I still have at least 80 years left. So why do I need to figure it out all now?

Rory certainly started to peak in high school and college, but you know what they say: What goes up, must come down. Maybe if Gilmore Girls had continued, it would’ve shown her crashing and burning. And not just in that cute way like when she briefly dropped out of Yale.

So if I don’t kick some serious ass now, maybe I’m not screwed. After all, who wants to peak in their twenties?

Valerie is a senior at the University of Washington, studying English/Creative Writing and History. She loves anything caffeinated, Netflix and long road trips. She'll always be obsessed with Once Upon a Time, Scandal, Private Practice and Agents of Shield.

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