Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Quarter Life Crisis


It is when you stop going along with the crowd and start realizing that there are a lot of things about yourself that you didn't know and may or may not like. You start feeling insecure and wonder where you will be in a year or two, but then get scared because you barely know where you are now.

You start realizing that people are selfish and that, maybe, those friends that you thought you were so close to aren't exactly the greatest people you have ever met and the people you have lost touch with are some of the most important ones. What you do not realize is that they are realizing that too and are not really cold or catty or mean or insincere, but that they are as confused as you.

You look at your job. It is not even close to what you thought you would be doing or maybe you are looking for one and realizing that you are going to have to start at the bottom and are scared.

You miss the comforts of college, of groups, of socializing with the same people on a constant basis. But then you realize that maybe they weren't so great after all.

You are beginning to understand yourself and what you want and do not want. Your opinions have gotten stronger. You see what others are doing and find yourself judging a bit more than usual because suddenly you realize that you have certain boundaries in your life and add things to your list of what is acceptable and what is not. You are insecure and then secure. You laugh and cry with the greatest force of your life. You feel alone and scared and confused. Suddenly change is the enemy and you try and cling on to the past with dear life but soon realize that the past is drifting further and further away and there is nothing to do but stay where you are or move forward.

You get your heart broken and wonder how someone you loved could do such damage to you or you lay in bed and wonder why you can't meet anyone decent enough to get to know better. You love someone but maybe love someone else too and cannot figure out why you are doing this because you are not a bad person.

One night stands and random hook ups start to look cheap and getting wasted and acting like an idiot starts to look pathetic. You go through the same emotions and questions over and over and talk with your friends about the same topics because you cannot seem to make a decision.

You worry about loans and money and the future and making a life for yourself and while wining the race would be great, right now you'd just like to be a contender!

What you may not realize is that everyone reading this relates to it. We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out.

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I've definately experienced all of those emotions at one point or another. The truth is that I'm getting older and the changes are becoming more and more apparent every single day. Personally, I am starting to see the changes in the music that I listen to, the clothes that I wear, my decline in interest for clubbing (I have a good one or two years left in me), my desire to find someone that truly compliments me, my concern with investing and future finances etc. This is simply growing up.

Along with those things, however, comes those strong traces of uncertainty about the future. We are undoubtedly more fickle and nervous about our futures than previous generations ever were.

Why is this Quarter Life Crisis such a force within our generation, but seems to not have affected the Baby Boomer generation in the same manner?

In talking with Baby Boomers, most seemed to have joined the work force immediately after high school or college at around age 20, married by around 23, found careers by 25 and still had the time to raise us. They seemed sure of themselves and took charge of their lives early on. They were fiscally responsible and were family-oriented at a much earlier age. They seemed invincible and confident in their abilities to run the world.

But with our generation...

We seem to graduate at around 22, party until around 26, either marry around 28-32 or never marry at all, divorce at a much higher rate after three to four years of marriage, and change jobs an average of six to seven times by age 30. We seem to be more insecure about our futures and, in most cases, have no clue as to where we will be in life by our mid-30's. It seems as if we freestyle life. Shit done changed.

I don't understand it. What has changed so much for Generation X? Why are we not taking control of our lives at an earlier age?

I think there are several factors going on with the Quarter Life Crisis. First of all, I think that our generation was raised with unrealistic expectations in life. Too many of us expect the financial and material trappings to come easier than they really do. When they don't come, we find ourselves in a second childhood, using that time to find ourselves personally; whereas the Baby Boomers jumped into a cookie cutter life and either surpressed these feelings, or allowed them to evolve alongside their careers and families.

At the same time, I think it truly IS harder for our generation to find a decent career path. There often is no set career path - and the professions that do have one have become more demanding. A Bachelor’s degree is now the equivalent of what a high school diploma used to be. Before long, a Master’s degree will be required for most decent paying jobs. So things have gotten tougher and at the same time we’re a generation that is not as persevering as previous generations, and as result, we drift for a bit longer. This perceived professional failure then magnifies other naturally evolving areas of our lives and causes our generation to collectively doubt ourselves.

Yes... shit done changed, but maybe change is good. Maybe this Quarter Life Crisis will prove to be an asset to our generation in the long run. Maybe it will make us stronger and wiser. Maybe our true impact on the world is yet to be seen.

Maybe not.

11 comments:

serialblogger said...

I definitely agree with you on this one B. I know that I myself struggle with most of these issues and no matter what you hear from others these are always decisions that you have to work on from within.

A Beautiful Life said...

The Quarter life crisis is so real. I went through it at 23-24. When I was a teenager I thought that after I graduated from college I would be married with children and rich. I didn't know 20s could be hard.

That was one of the worst periods of my life, even though I hid it pretty well. I just read that our generation hopes to do better than our parents' generation, but most of us won't as far as debt from credit cards and student loans. That's sad.
I started coming out of the quarter life crisis at the point when I decided to look straight and not at what was going on around me or what other people had. I realized that the friends and guys I dated that faded away were just in my life for a season, and that was ok.
I feel like the quarter life crisis breaks many people. If they get though it then they will be fine, but my heart feels for the people who seemed so promising in college and couldn't make it through the quarter life crisis. I hope they recover. I wonder if the quarter life crisis is worse than a mid life crisis.

Real Entertainment...Real Divertissement said...

I agree with you 100%. But one thing that I think some and we fail to realize is that the baby boomers dealt with a lot more major issues in their day so they had to work harder in order to get something out of life. Now, we have many things handed out to us, and we don't have to work as hard to get that education, that home, or that job. Even though we have to start at the bottom, we can now network a little better to clib our way to the top. Many people are friends in workplaces that can "get you in" so we don't have to work as much.

On the other hand, who says that we have to grow up as early as the baby boomer generation. Just because they had to grow up and become responsible at an earlier age doesn't mean that we have to set the standard of the society they lived in for the society we live in. Just like you said, times are changing. Some of us that work smart enough will definitely be successful and wealthy in life. Just because you haven't found your career by 25, doesn't mean you won't find it at 35. You have to know yourself and what you can handle.

K.B. said...

The first thing that comes to my mind is one of the only songs on Mos Def's 'New Danger' CD that is listenable - 'Life is Real'. And there's no way to avoid it. I've come to accept that it's not just a quarter or mid life crisis. Life is a beautiful struggle the whole way through. I think this (the post-college time period) is when we come to understand that.

But, whatever. We gonna keep ridin' life til the wheels fall off. Understand that life at this moment is a beautiful thing no matter what we're going through. Cuz it's always gonna be some pain with the pleasure. And it's always gonna be some bitter with the sweet. And I'll be ------ if being a single black male in Myrtle Beach with a good job doesn't have some sweetness to it. Sounds like Kool-Aid to me. OH YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

ETS said...

That entry was very interesting. I think my quarter life crisis came much earlier than most - literally the day after graduation. But I seriously doubt that most people go through a quarter life crisis. Not to judge, but when I look around me, I just can't imagine that many of my peers are thinking this deeply. I just don't see it.

Gene said...

ETS was me.

K.B. said...

"I just can't imagine that many of my peers are thinking this deeply."

Well, just because they're not voicing it like Brandon is, doesn't mean they might not be experiencing some form of it. I know alot of people that wouldn't label it a "quarter life crisis," but are experiencing the same thing. Instead of calling it that, I think they would just say they are confused about where their life is supposed to go.

On second thought, this probably is a college graduate thing. I doubt my people from Wilson that have been working for 7 years are experiencing this.

Brandon said...

I think that KB is right in that this is mostly a college/high school grad thing. You'd be surprised at the number of people that experience it. I'd venture to say that most do. Even after grad school, which for some is a way to prolong that decision-making process, a lot of folks find themselves back in it.

But to Gene's point, it does tend to happen right after graduation and depending on how the person handles it, those feelings either linger (like Life pointed out) or they are able to pull themselves out of it.

With that being said, even if someone is able to overcome the emotional confusion that comes along with it, the stats about career uncertainty and the fact that most in our generation are marrying later and divorcing more are very real; so even if we get past the deep thinking of it, the effects of it are tangible and can be quantified.

Real Ent also made some great points in that this is not necessarily a bad thing, and that late bloomers can also be successful.

I experienced it after graduation for a year or so, but there are a lot still trying to find their way.

And yes KB, the Kool-Aid is pretty damn sweet, sir! ...and Red. Know wha' I'm tom' bout???

Gene said...

Not to dismiss my lil' bros opinions, but I think you all's perspective of what most people think (in this incident, the quarter life crisis) is tainted by the type of peers you come in contact with on a regular basis.

Both of ya'll dudes have some combination of the following: graduate degrees, home ownership, second/third generation college graduates, married, no baby mamas (not that I know of), etc. You are NOT the norm. It hurt me like hell the first time I heard that when I was in the real world, but it is my truth.

I honestly believe that the average 25-year-old black male is somewhere snapping his fingers and letting it rain and clearing it out and ain't THINKING about half the stuff you posted. I didn't recognize until relatively recently how much I MYSELF still focused on things behind me on some level (i.e. college stuff).

When you talk about a quarter life crisis, you are really talking about another type of consciousness here - not necessarily another LEVEL of consciousness (I don't want to turn this into some talented tenth thing), but definitely a different level of reflection and perspective.

the chairman said...

Life is not harder but times have changed. If you follow your parents path you are pound to fail. Today people change careers like we changed majors in school. Baby boomers work at only a few companies their whole life. So we grew up in an established house hold. We want the trappings of money without understanding how to get there in today's world.

In Today's world with more forms of media we see the trappings of wealth more, but have not a clue how to get there. So for the most part we sit in a dead end job bitchin'. That bitchin' leads to us trying to find ourselves through many different forms: religiion, drugs, sex etc.

andrew the asshole said...

I thought that the only crisis Fayetteville people have was something to do with WAR??