“I Used To Think I’d Be Dead By My Age”: Millennials Are Sharing Exactly How Their Lives Veered Way Off Course, But For The Better

“I Used To Think I’d Be Dead By My Age”: Millennials Are Sharing Exactly How Their Lives Veered Way Off Course, But For The Better

I was recently transported back to 2009, the peak of the “indie sleaze” era, when I attended the Just Like Heaven music fest in Los Angeles. Headliners like MGMT, M83, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even Azealia Banks took me back to listening to my blue iPod nano on the way to AP Calculus. It got me so sentimental and I thought, “Where did I think I was going to be today when I was back in high school, over 10 years ago?”

author posing in front of the just like heaven music festival sign (insert top left) author at younger age (insert bottom left) just like heaven 2023 lineup

Pernell Quilon

Since nostalgia and millennial sadness were in the air that day, I asked other adults at the festival who they thought they’d be by now when they were in high school, how they’ve changed, and what their biggest regret is. In exchange for their honesty, I drew these anonymous portraits of them. Here are their stories:

Note: Some names and identifying details have been altered for anonymity. 

raya the screenwriter previously wanted to be a session guitarist

Pernell Quilon

“The biggest thing going on in my life when my older sister introduced me to this kind of music was that our parents were getting divorced. I was in an all-girls Catholic school at the time, and I was causing trouble. 

Looking back, my biggest regret in high school was that I was too shy. I didn’t feel ready to show all of myself in that particular environment.

keely the photographer thought she'd be a stay-at-home mom

Pernell Quilon

My biggest regret back in high school was not having enough fun. I like to think that I’m making up for it now.

I truly thought I was going to have kids by now, and that they’d be my life. But around the time I started listening to the artists on this lineup, I was in my school’s photo dark rooms learning how to develop. And I just followed it.

Now, I take pictures of the bands I listened to for a living.”

saul the bartender thought he'd be a lawyer

Pernell Quilon

“When I was listening to this type of music, I was just getting started in high school. The biggest thing going on in my life was that I wanted to get into college really bad. I was so worried I wasn’t going to make it in and never be a lawyer.

I’m still on my path to becoming a lawyer, but I’m taking my time now. The path changed, and so did the vibe. And honestly, I have no regrets.

molly the stay-at-home mom with her family

Pernell Quilon

“I had just met my now-husband, and we were going to my first Coachella back in 2010. I think I knew back then I’d end up with him forever. I just didn’t know the in-between — I’d just finished college, and I felt like I was a free adult for the first time in my life. I regret not exploring that side of me sooner. M83 kind of defined that whole era for me.

I used to work in recycling with my husband and was making quite a lot of money from it. Today, he runs that business and I raise our kids. It’s a good life that I had no idea back then I was headed towards.”

ronnie the writer thought he'd be a teacher

Pernell Quilon

“The biggest thing going on in my life when I was listening to bands like MGMT and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was that I felt stuck between feeling religious and ratchet. I was at a crossroads of who my parents wanted me to be versus who I wanted to be.

My life’s changed a lot since then. I spent a lot of time with myself. And now, what was supposed to be my passion, is my main job.”

claire the musician thought she'd be dead

Pernell Quilon

“I’d just arrived in New York in the early aughts. I’d dropped out of high school and was hellbent on living a life that wasn’t possible for me in Florida. I was going to clubs, and hanging with bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

But back then, I didn’t see myself living past my late 20s. Honestly, my biggest regret from that time is using heroin — it took over my life for a long time.

These days, I’m still making music and in the resale, or flea market, business. I love where I live in Los Angeles, and I love being creative. I’m glad I stuck it out.

angel the grocery store employee used to want to work for conde nast publishing

Pernell Quilon

“I was dealing with a lot of depression at the time, and the music of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, and Azealia Banks helped me get in touch with my body — I didn’t have to process anything, I just had to move to the music. I needed that.

Looking back, my biggest regret is not graduating high school. It doesn’t matter when you start working, but I feel bad I didn’t give my parents the joy of seeing their child walk the stage.

We’re still close, though. They actually dropped me off at the concert, because fuck Uber.”

jennifer the gig-worker used to book bands at concert venues

Pernell Quilon

“Back when I was listening to this music the most back in the early 2000s, I was running a nightclub in Silver Lake and booking these same bands — I booked a lot of their first shows in Los Angeles, including Peaches. I booked one of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s first shows back in 2003 at the Fonda, then in 2007 at the Echo.

These days, I work in production, catering, and even background acting. I make money however I can. I’ve lived a whole life, and now I’m trying to live another one.”

mick in online marketing used to think he'd be stuck in montana

Pernell Quilon

“Back in 2010, I was traveling a lot. I was working a lot. I was always on the go. There was a business endeavor I was pursuing at the time that would’ve locked me into living in Montana. It was lucrative, though I didn’t feel like settling yet.

In hindsight, my biggest regret is not putting down roots sooner. I love my life in Los Angeles, and that I get to come to these festivals with my best friend Molly. And her kids.”

mike the cruise ship employee thought he'd be dead before 2023

Pernell Quilon

“Honestly, I’m drunk as hell right now. But I know how to handle myself and my liquor. I didn’t so much 10 years ago, and that’s my only regret. I spent a lot of years of my life thinking I was going to not make it to 50. But still here, bitch.

I like my job. I travel on cruises as a perk. I get to enjoy my life! I’m headed to another music festival after this one, then I’ll be back in mom jail for a while — I’m taking care of her during these last years of her life. I’m a good drunk son.

Where did you think you’d be now back in high school, and what does your life look like now? How do you feel about it? Share your slice of life in the comments.

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