Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. I woke up to tens of messages this morning — my friends were blowing up our group chat about the email we'd all received earlier regarding our upcoming college reunion.
How is it here so soon? Is everyone going? Should we rent a ridiculously overpriced house for the weekend so we can spend a few days living like old times — or rather, which ridiculously overpriced house are we obviously going to rent for the weekend? When should I start booking flights — since I'm currently doing the whole expat thing in Europe, it'll cost me a pretty penny.
My college reunion is only one of the countless events dotting my calendar for the next few months. Sprinkle in some engagement and bachelorette parties, as well as a whole bunch of weddings in the States, and then some travel buddy reunions in other totally random countries around the world — nevermind the never-ending creep of other social obligations — and I'm prepared to exhaust both myself and my bank account all too soon. I'm equal parts pumped and painfully stressed out.
And I'm not the only one. New research suggests that millennials, like me, are burning themselves out (and burning through their wallets) living in the Millennial Experience Economy (MEE). In other words, we're spreading ourselves thin saying yes to everything that crops up — but it's because everything that crops up that's worthy of attending has some kind of meaning to us.
“It’s not that weddings and baby showers haven’t always been important to people; it’s just that millennials are less connected to communities in traditional ways — they don’t go to church or synagogue, and they often live far away from their hometowns,” Jessica Carbino, PhD, a sociologist who specializes in the study of relationships told Refinery29. “These events are rituals. Humans need rituals to create common ground between families and our communities, so these over-the-top celebrations are ways to remain connected.”
Having rituals to keep connected with friends, family and our communities is all well and good... until we overdo it. And, according to research from Refinery29, millennials are overdoing it quite a lot.
The research of more than 800 readers finds that 44 percent have attended an out-of-state destination wedding, 33 percent have been to a "Big Deal Birthday" party in the past year and one in five Refinery29 readers reported having had attended an “Instagram-worthy” group vacation, (we're talking matchings outfits, photoshoots and all). That sounds like a lot of fun, until you factor in that one in five readers surveyed also reported feeling so stressed out by their social calendars that they've talked to their therapists about it.
"What this shows is that, as important and epically fun as that perfectly planned getaway birthday bash is, the status quo is leaving all of us harried and in debt," writes Refiner29 contributor, Amelia Harnish.
In fact, 44 percent of those surveyed said they’ve spent upwards of $500 to attend a wedding in the past year (39 percent said they've spent this much on a bachelorette party alone), while 17 percent said they’ve spent more than $1,000. Most of these respondents said they're willing to go into debt to attend the wedding of someone important to them, and 55 percent even admitted to going to every single wedding to which they've ever been invited.
Add to that the fact that, nowadays, evermore couples are having "second weddings," and millennials are only finding themselves with even more social obligations and financial concerns.
In her piece, "Getting Married Two Times Is the New Getting Married Once," The Cut contributor, Hannah Gould, put it this way: "What’s weird about this phenomenon is that it seems to be rooted in what normal people do (get married at city hall then have a party when they can afford one), but when celebrities do it, it comes off as a way to spend more money on the appearance of normalcy and slow-release Instagram clout. Do I yearn for the days when 'second wedding' connoted divorce? Yes."
So are millennials burning themselves out from too much social time that's consuming their energy and their dollars? It's likely.
I've had to decline invitations to close friends' engagement and bachelorette parties, and I've certainly said no to wedding invites from not-super-close friends. It's usually because I travel full time, and I'd have to fly thousands of miles to be there — that's a lot of money and time that I don't necessarily want to spend on just anyone. But, even when I do genuinely want to be there, I need to pick and choose what's actually doable.
That's just it: picking and choosing what's doable for you, and not feeling guilty about being "a bad friend" for not being able to make everything all the time. Because, after all, if you burn yourself out, what kind of friend are you going to be, anyway?
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.