Times Magazine Ripped Off My Idea…
…Ok, not really. Now that I have your attention, let me direct you to this article from Times Magazine about 20-somethings that’s been generating a lot of buzz as of late. I guess I was ahead of the curve, as I wrote the article below for my “Dead Last” column in Seattle’s DList Magazine in July 2009.
I wrote this before I moved to Spain, but re-reading this I can go back to that feeling of uncertainty as a recent college grad faced with one of the worst recessions in decades. I can accredit traveling during college to exposing me to different ideas and injecting me with the self-realization that there was no reason why I had to follow the conventional path of “graduation, career, marriage, 2.5 kids, white picket fence.” As both I and the Times can agree upon, the unconventional is becoming more and more common within our generation all the time:
If The Shoe Fits
Much to my parent’s amusement, in high school I grudgingly referred to my curfew as “The Cinderella Curfew” because I had to be in the house before the stroke of midnight. As the rest of my friends continued doing whatever it is we did to entertain ourselves in my small hometown in the middle-of-nowhere, WA, I was forced into cutting the evening short and getting home before my Honda Prelude turned itself into a pumpkin (again, the Cinderella reference.) Curfew was the bane of my existence in my melodramatic high school days and really the only thing I butted heads with my parents on.
Fast-forward to now where we’re on a more level playing-field and my parents mighty rule has ceased to exist. It’s a strange transition. You go from checking in with the Mom and Pops on every decision, hashing and rehashing with them the who, what, when, where and why’s to making independent choices and navigating your own way through the repercussions—good or bad. The sense of freedom is overwhelming. You can live where you want, do what you want and seemingly no one and nothing is tying you down. Your twenties, in all their glory, have officially ushered in a whirlwind of responsibilities, decisions, goals, dreams, crisis, heartbreaks and—gulp– independence. The moment you realize you’re no longer seen as a child in the eyes of your parents, and when you both realize you’re capable of making your own decisions, a sense of anxiety may or may not set in. Chances are, it will. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you: the quarter-life crisis.
I always thought you had to be exactly 25 years of age to experience the quarter-life crisis. That, in my mind, was when you had real things to worry about…like jobs, bills, serious relationships…all that fun stuff. I quickly found out that soon after you abandon ship and strike out on your own everything flies at you all at once. You feel everyone but you has started getting married and having kids, pursued careers or grad school and suddenly you’re expected to have a direction in life and be well on your way to attaining your goals. At least that’s what society tells us. So what if you’re in the percentage that doesn’t have everything mapped out? Have no fear; here is your complete guide to averting a quarter-life crisis:
Recognize that identity issues are commonplace.
We all wear many hats. In the constant shuffle between the multitude of roles we acquire, we’re bound to question where we fit. Whether this identity be personal, sexual, racial, etc. we all have to come to terms at some point with how we view ourselves within these respective groupings. There is no ‘right’ time to make these self-discoveries, most occur over a series of life experiences and shape our path for us. Breathe easy, it’s normal. Life is self-discovery.
Pre-packaged is for frozen dinners, not for your life.
Usually the self-enlightenment that arrives at the end of these crises tells us that straying from societal pressures and instead carving our own way may be the only way to survive our twenties. So what lies in store for us when one can no longer cling to the comfort of the term “recent grad?”
Our twenties are designed for exploration. What is the rush? Make a point of recognizing what you’re passionate about and doggedly pursue it. As a generation, we’re generally well-aware of the fact that doing what you love will make you happier than doing what puts six-figures in your bank account. We’re immensely conscious of the regrets of our parent’s generations and as a whole, are careful not to repeat them. As savvy as we may be perceived, our flaws are, in some cases, reflected in the stagnation of maturity as a result of this prolonged adolescence of sorts. We feel forced to grow up before we’re ready to, so in turn, we put it off until later.
According to quarterlifecrisis.com (yes, it’s significant enough to have its own website) what makes this experience unique to today’s 20-somethings is that the markers known as financial independence, graduation, leaving home and starting your own family arrive much later than in the past: “the average American job hops 8 times before the age of 32, the average college graduate accrues $20,000 in education loan debt, and the average age to get married is now 27.” The American Sociological Association echoes this: In 2000, 46% of women and 31% of men had reached the aforementioned markers by age 30. In 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had reached those same markers by age 30. Are you starting to feel more “normal” yet?
A goal without a plan is merely a dream.
Sometimes I feel that there are so many directions I want to go, and so many things that I want to accomplish, that I spend more time running in circles fluttering from option to option than weeding out what is feasible and narrowing my focus. My fellow quarter-lifers tend to reaffirm these sentiments. We grew up with a plate full of extracurricular activities on top of school and work obligations; of course we want to do it all. Fight the urge to do everything at once or you’ll burn yourself out. At the risk of sounding cheesy, if you don’t wake up everyday with a burning desire to do something, than find whatever it is that awakens your soul and don’t stop looking until you do. Always keep your eye on the prize and create a viable plan that will propel you toward making your dreams a reality.
So maybe the quarter-life crisis isn’t completely avoidable. We’re all faced with major life decisions sooner or later. Stop comparing where you’re at with where your friends are at and embrace the fact that everyone is on their own unique timeline and age really has no correlation (within reason of course…if you’re still living at home and experiencing a mid-life crisis, I can’t really help you.)
So, what are your thoughts? How have you kept the quarter-life crisis at bay?