The latest craze of social speculation and influx of statistics falls upon the heads of young adults, the twenty something’s. The rumour is that we’re all miserable and disappointing our potential; financially, romantically and in our careers. The idea that we now enter a second childhood in our twenties leaves me feeling both offended and a little frustrated. Obviously financially it’s now harder than ever to get on the property ladder and many people are waiting longer to marry and start families but it doesn’t mean that we’ve just stopped progressing or that we’re wasting time if we haven’t conformed to traditional conventions. And on the flip side, for those who have, this is no reason to write them off as being ‘settled’ in either the people they’ve become of the paths they’ve chosen. Quarter-life crisis are on the up apparently and we’re all too lazy to understand why it’s happening to us.
Being a twenty something myself, I find this time in our lives very exciting. I have friends who I’ve known since early childhood, friends from work and university who are all so diverse and full of life I’d find it really difficult to categorise us all as the same thing. I certainly haven’t witnessed any of my contemporaries simply giving up on adulthood. Those living with their parents are saving for mortgages, long travelling trips or studying. People who have families and have settled down aren’t boring or conventional they are making their way as young parents and often juggling demanding jobs as well, whilst they are grown-ups in the traditional sense of the word I don’t see them as a different species to the rest of us singletons. City dwellers struggle with rent and stressful jobs but seem to be working their socks off to get ahead in their careers. Is any of these options wrong? Do they deem each other less or more mature and leave a certain group in crisis?
Recently Meg Jay did a Ted Talk entitled “Why 30 isn’t the new 20”, which fuelled controversy around the ideology of quarter life crisis. Working as a psycho therapist she takes particular interest in people in their twenties, detailing some of the young adults she’s met in the consulting room. Jay makes some worrying statements, suggesting that we make most of our life defining decisions before we’re 35 and that we aren’t taking seriously our responsibility making a path for the rest of our lives. She focuses here on the single amongst us, or the unmarried people who might still be sussing out what they want from their careers or lives even.
An anecdote that stuck with me from Jay’s Ted talk was one of a girl in her mid-twenties who went into crisis when not knowing who to name her next of kin. As an adult it might not seem right to add your parents if they live far away and if your single without a long term partner, it might be tough to put a name that one person who has responsibility for you should anything happen. I know that feeling, I’ve experienced that feeling, next to be flat broke and feeling as if my life is going nowhere. But can I point out that this is just product of growing up and being single? Life is tough particularly when you’re starting out and you’re living an independent life, but that’s what gives you the freedom to grow into the person you’re going to become.
She also adds that making the wrong relationship decisions now can lead to young adults rushing into marriage in their thirties, making them settle for the wrong type of person later on. She thinks we need to start working on our marriages before we’ve even met the right person. Whilst I agree it’s not healthy to stay with someone who isn’t right just because you’re lonely, I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that these people are doomed to rushed marriages for the sake of ‘settling’. Give us the benefit of the doubt won’t ya?
She advises us on how we can pull ourselves out of the quarter life crisis. And even though I’m not convinced about the epidemic she describes, she does have some useful advice on getting ahead when you’re feeling a bit down and out. ‘Identity capital’ is the phrase she uses. Start working towards the person you want to become even if it seems out of reach, start nurturing your hobbies if it’s a career you want in something you enjoy and for happy relationships surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on you, cut loose those relationships that are no good for you. Simple positive stuff really. Little tit bits from a speech designed to address a crisis but really is just some good advice for people of all ages. She describes this as an investment in your future.
When feeling a little lost and frustrated with my career my Dad once gave me some invaluable advice. He told me that even though I didn’t see things moving on right in front of my eyes it doesn’t mean nothing is happening, for every person you meet, application you make your planting seeds for your future. Each experience, even if it’s a bad one gives you knowledge and experience that you didn’t have before. Everybody has ups and downs but this is more down to life rather than being a young adult; health, finance and relationships will throw a spanner in the works when your least expecting it and I’m a firm believer in encouragement rather than sensationalism.
Can I suggest that instead of a generation in crisis we are a generation of adaptors, I feel privileged to live in a time with so many choices. Don’t let them get you down, you’re doing just fine.