Quarter-Life Crisis


Society talks at length about mid-life crises. As it’s commonly understood, one reaches middle age and begins to question a lot of stuff about being resident on this strange earth. Getting older often encourages one to ponder the multitudinous individual moments and events that constitute one’s entire life. It can be overwhelming, scary and extremely emotional. The internal monologue often includes questions including: why did I let that go by me? Why did I mess up that relationship? I still haven’t fulfilled my wishes, and I’ve never felt truly happy or content. What is wrong with me?

You might be wondering why I’m relating to an experience that I won’t undergo for at least another quarter-decade, but my reasoning is valid, as I will reveal. Based on both my personal experience and on the plethora of research and experimentation conducted on young people in recent years, I believe that millennials can experience a similar, if not more severe, crisis in identity.

When doing my research for this piece, I didn’t have to dig deep. A swift Google search directed me to thousands of articles with headlines such as ‘Millennials “twice as likely to suffer from stress as boomers”’; ‘Why millennials are the most anxious generation in history’; and a rather blunt headline from Vice, reading, ’53 Reasons Life Sucks for Millennials’. The online sources blame the volatile job market, the surge in social media pressures and the current political climate. An article by the Independent published earlier this year focuses on results of a poll conducted on millennials. It found that young adults are highly anxious about issues including money, the future, finding employment, and paying bills. The article claims that ‘[t]he study found money worries are the biggest cause of young adults’ stress followed by fears about their future.’

What strikes me about such results is not the stress levels or the poor mental health experienced by my generation (I am fully aware of this, as it is part of daily life for myself and my friends) but the reasons why. I’m writing this with the TV news on – but muted – and I can see the faces of the middle-aged politicians who are perpetually ruining our prospects and tearing down our efforts, their mouths opening and closing like vacuous, gawping puppets, saying absolutely nothing that myself or anyone my age who I know of can relate to. Had I the sound on, it literally wouldn’t make a difference. So why is there so little discussion regarding the ‘quarter-life’ crisis faced by those of my generation? Why are we giving all the airtime to the identity struggles of those who screwed things up for us so epically? I’m not saying that middle-aged folks shouldn’t worry about their own issues, of which I’m sure there are many. But they need to extend their sympathy to us young people, who bear the burden of their mistakes on a daily basis, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of our lives. If only they could see that our worlds don’t revolve around gap years, partying, social media, and ‘futile’ interests such as make up, football and fashion. We use these things to take refuge from the tsunami of negativity, prejudice, fear and pessimism handed down to us like undesirable heirlooms from that racist great-aunt.

I declare that it’s time we gave the quarter-life crisis some prominence in thought and discussion, which will take a lot more to remedy than moving country or buying a new car.

 (Which is just as well, considering the miniscule percentage of us who will be able to afford such advantages.)

[Sarinah O’Donoghue]

[Image credit: Mr ATM/flickr.com

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