Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner have gotten a lot of attention recently.
The two twenty somethings -- one a journalist, the second a website administrator -- have thrust themselves into the public eye to champion the concept of the "quarterlife crisis."
According to Robbins and Wilner, the world has been relentlessly tough on the twenty somethings of our generation. Few have sympathy for how tenuous decisions regarding careers, adult relationships and finances can drive a recent college graduate into, they claim, depression. And so, they liken the period between one's commencement ceremony from college and one's thirties to the midlife crisis, dubbing the uncertainties of one's twenties the overwhelming and frightening "quarterlife crisis."
It was about six weeks ago, while the duo was visiting the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Katie Couric, that I first stumbled across their idea.
And I bought it -- hook, line and sinker, as they say.
I, too, believed myself to be frozen in a moment of crisis. I was slowly, but surely, realizing that I had no specific career path as I plundered my way through my summer internship. I was discovering that I was not ready to "stop being a kid" -- an all-too-common symptom of the quarterlife crisis, Robbins and Wilner claim. And, worst of all, I was a year away from my college graduation trembling with the pure and simple fear of failure.
The "quarterlife crisis" became a buzzword for me and my close friends. I even admitted to my parents that I was in the midst of a quarterlife crisis, as if I were stricken with some bizarre ailment. They laughed, told me to stop thinking about it and go to work.
It was comforting, for at least awhile, to realize that the anxiety that had crept up on me during my first three years of college was not a unique feeling. I had a label for the weight of the unanswered questions in front of me, and it became pretty simple to hide behind this label rather than try to actually answer these questions.
The comfort, however, only lasted until two days ago, when it suddenly hit me how selfish, naive and shortsighted the entire idea of my so-called "quarterlife crisis" really was.
I was speaking with a woman well out of her twenties, thirties and perhaps even her forties. And, like most well-intentioned middle-aged women, she struck up a conversation with me by politely prodding me as to what I have planned to do after graduation.
"Well," I confessed, "I don't really know."
But rather than nod quietly and tell me not to worry, that life figures itself out -- the typical response when I admit I am pretty damn directionless -- she responded with a surprising amount of admiration.
"That's really the best," exclaimed the woman, for whom my respect was growing by the minute. "You get to try everything. My friends, who are the happiest with their careers, were just like you."
And she is right. A lack of direction can be entirely terrifying at times. But, unlike graduating with a set plan, it forces you to take risks. Having no commitments, no identifiable passion -- and, frankly, no training in any particular field -- is going to force me to follow a hunch, take a job on a whim, try something I highly doubt I will like, but try it just simply for the sake of trying it.
There is no denying that it is scary. There is no denying I am going to fall flat on my face while following one of these whims or hunches.
But it certainly seems self-serving to presume myself to be in "crisis" merely because I am realizing there are hundreds of roads I can travel down in the future, and I cannot pick the one that looks the most appealing. If I am going to fail, now is the time to do it, before I have the weight of a mortgage or children and anybody but myself to worry about it. Fifteen years from now it will not be so simple.
So to Robbins and Wilner, nice try, but, please, let's get over ourselves. Wallowing in self-pity or plunging into unwarranted depression over the fact that you cannot make a decision or commitment during your twenties is not only self-centered, but it is downright laughable. Complaining because we cannot decide whether we want to become money-making lawyers, commanding politicians or, god forbid, forgo the lure of the bank altogether to work for a non-profit belittles the millions without these opportunities at their finger tips.
The "quarterlife crisis" is not the result of pure career anxiety. It is the product of the luxury of a simple life at elite private schools -- Penn included. The real world that some of us have been sheltered from until now is filled with tough decisions. But to be blunt, suck it up. Deal with it. Fail, pick yourself up from the pavement and move on.
As for me, in the mean time, I will continue to wander somewhat aimlessly and haphazardly, and, eventually, I will stumble onto something that fits. If nothing else, I will see a lot along the way.Comments powered by Disqus
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