"I'm Living Two Different Lives": This 19-Year-Old Student Explained The "Terrifying" Reality Of Living With Unsupportive Parents In 2024 And How It Affects Their Daily Life

As an older Gen Z'er, I sometimes struggle with comparing myself to my peers. I see people my age living lavishly or starting families, and I can't help but think, "I'm not where I'm supposed to be at all." I feel like it's common to think you're supposed to have it all figured out and settled by a certain age — but that's just not realistic for everyone.

Friends laughing around a dinner table with healthy meals under patio lights
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So, to showcase that there's no real timeline to follow in life, I sought out Gen Z'ers from the BuzzFeed Community who were willing to share their lives with me — and the internet — by highlighting parts of their day-to-day existence.

And by the way: If you are interested in submitting your own Gen Z Journal or know anyone who might, fill out this short form with just the basics for a chance to be featured in a future edition.

Welcome back to Gen Z Journals.

Collage of assorted notes and reminders including sale receipts, paper scraps, and journal entries, with "GEN Z journals" text overlay

Check out the last Gen Z Journal here.

Dannica Ramirez / Canva

This week: Meet Jay (he/him/she/her/they/them), a 19-year-old from the East Coast. The remainder of this post will be from their POV.

Students sit in a lecture hall; one figure in the center is obscured by tangled lines, representing confusion or anonymity

Note: Jay has asked not to include personal photos for their safety.

Andersen Ross / Getty Images / Dannica Ramirez
Crumpled paper with list of topics: Occupation, Money, Daily To-Do, Relationships, Changes, Community, Feeling out of place
Dannica Ramirez / Canva
The word "occupation" spelled out in colorful cut-out letters on a crumpled paper background
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

I do not currently have a job, but I'm in the process of looking and applying for one. I am a pre-med freshman at University.

The word "Money" in cut-out magazine letters pasted on crumpled paper
Dannica Ramirez / Canva
Receipt from University Hygiene Clothes showing a purchase total of $20.00 with an additional tip, date and time stamp, and "APPROVED" notice
Dannica Ramirez

I live at home with my parents, and excluding university bills (a mix of FAFSA, scholarships, and loans), I spend less than $20 a week. I get food through my school, and I don't have many food options at home, so on weekends, I usually need something to tide me over. Other than that, the occasional expenditure on necessary clothes and hygiene is probably $20 or less monthly. Most of my clothes I bought on clearance — or they're free t-shirts from middle school — but hey, what's more punk than reusing clothes for five or more years?

Text on a dollar bill reads "I WANT TO WORK!!!" in handwritten capital letters
Dannica Ramirez

As for how I feel about my financial situation: I! Want! To! Work! My family wouldn't let me get a job, but I'm finally in the works of getting one (which is terrifying). I'm financially and medically dependent on my family, and I often feel isolated from my peers, especially pre-meds who often have rich and educated families supporting them and don't have to worry about money. I'm looking for a job in my field, which will probably be lab work. I love working in the lab so much; it's like church to me.

Old-style computer with a "Jay" label, displaying screen with job search graphics and envelopes
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

For the record, I would've been happy with an 'average teenager job.' I come from a family of dishwashers and maintenance men, and I've been doing outdoor 'men's work' since I was questionably young. I love work; I want to get out there!

Cut-out letters on crumpled paper spelling "Daily to do list"
Dannica Ramirez / Canva
Handwritten list titled "Jay's Agenda" with tasks, some checked off, such as homework, pet care, and room cleaning
Dannica Ramirez

Right now, my to-do list is full of homework. Otherwise, it involves things like taking care of pets, taking meds, finding food for that day, cleaning up my room, etc. When I have class, I commute to my university, where I'm out as queer, then go back home, where I'm closeted. Other large-scale things like job applications and med school logistics float from list to list. I do love my to-do list system; it's color-coded, and I live and die by that list.

Person-shaped outline made of squiggly lines is superimposed over a bedroom, creating an abstract visual effect
Westend61 / Getty Images / Dannica Ramirez

My sleep schedule isn't great. Right now, I'm averaging five hours a night, and that's going into fourteen-hour school days and a stressful house. I go through bouts of both hypersomnia, where I can only wake if I'm panicked, and insomnia periods of lying in bed for hours, rolling back and forth like a rotisserie chicken. On weekends, I usually take Benadryl to knock me out to try to "catch up" on sleep. It isn't the greatest habit, but it works for me.

Cut-out letters spell 'Relationship' on a crumpled paper background
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

I am a proud aromantic! I am bisexual, but I also love my aromanticism. The thought of being in a romantic relationship is horrible to me, but I don't judge. My friends are my world; they and my family are all I need in life.

Three heart-shaped candies with text "I'M OK RIGHT HERE. THANKS!" on the largest one
Dannica Ramirez / Canva
Collage of cutout letters on paper reading "changes & challenges"
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

Honestly, starting university was terrifying. I still live at home, so to most people, it doesn't look like a huge change. However, I went against many of my family's wishes, and it was terrifying to put myself out there. I'm doing a lot of this on my own, and it's scary! Hell, I'm applying for jobs and can't even tell my parents. Being in the medical world is wonderful but also a huge leap for me. In my spare time, though, I love drawing abstract designs. Right now, I'm in an art deco phase; I've been creating my own designs!

As for challenges, some days, I feel dumb for even being bothered by my home life. But other days, it nearly breaks my heart. Every morning, I go to school, put a rainbow keychain on my backpack, and become a proud queer student. Every night, I put the keychain back in my bag and go home to a family that would disown me or take everything away from me if they knew who I really was. There are so many painful details that add up far too fast, but at the end of the day, the point is that I'm living two different lives, and they're only separated by a couple of streets.

Person holds up a rainbow flag with their back to the camera in a street setting
MesquitaFMS / Getty Images / Dannica Ramirez

That said, I have two goals for 2024: kiss a girl and get a job. I need to initiate and am terrified of doing both things, but I've also wanted to do them for…a very long time.

The word "Community" spelled out in mismatched letters on crumpled paper background
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

I've definitely found it hard to make friends in university. Being a commuter and having such a complicated background makes it hard to connect with people. My family constantly saps my energy, and I've been too scared to join queer communities on campus. It's really hard balancing my different lives; if I get too comfortable in one, I risk the other.

Notification on screen reading "REMINDER FOR JAY: Go to club meeting today" with options to ignore or OK
Dannica Ramirez / Canva
Cutout letters on crinkled paper form the question "Do you feel like you're not where you're supposed to be?"
Dannica Ramirez / Canva

I constantly feel like I'm horrifically behind. What near-20-year-old has no savings, no job history, no freedom? I often feel like I've squandered my future. I'm not very active on social media, but even seeing my peers in person causes pangs in my chest sometimes. I can't even begin to describe how out of place I've felt my whole life. Even now, in a relatively liberal university, I'm still the odd one out because of my background. I heard a classmate say, "Pretty much all kids our age were raised being fine with gay people," and I nearly laughed out loud. People have no idea how broad the experiences of those around them are, and that really has to change.

CD case labeled "SONGS THAT HELP GET THROUGH LIFE" with a name written in the center, surrounded by hearts
Dannica Ramirez

There's this quote from Only Murders In the Building Season 3: "You can afford to take your time. What you can't afford is to waste it." I remember that quote every couple of weeks or so, and it always hits me in the gut. I don't have regrets about my past. Of course, I wish I came from a different life, but I've given my all to get where I am.

A handwritten CD with song titles from Halsey, Renée Rapp, Billy Joel, and Elton John
Dannica Ramirez

Just because my effort doesn't put me in the same place as my peers doesn't make me less deserving than them. I'm learning that more and more as I find new ways to succeed in life.

If you relate to any of these stories or if you're interested in hearing stories from more people, let me know in the comments below! If you have a Gen Z Journal of your own to share, you can fill out this short form with just the basics. We'll be in touch to discuss it further if your story is a fit.

Note: This submission has been edited for length and/or clarity.