Then & Now: Alicia Keys
When my friends and I talk about the “quarter-life crisis,” one thing that keeps popping up is undergrad. After some brief reminiscing and recollecting, I usually end up saying “I felt more together at 21 than I do at 27” and my friends nod their head in agreement. I think we feel this way because at 21, we were in the planning and dreaming stages of our lives and now that things aren’t going as planned or imagined in the execution stage, we’re asking ourselves “How did I get here? What did I do wrong?” Sometimes there’s plenty of regret. After asking several people what they would tell their 18 or 21 year old self, it was amazing how similar everyone’s responses were; they seemed to all break down in a few specific areas. This article is for anyone who wants to see if others share their thoughts and feelings, and most of all, for those who are 18 or 21. May what you read here reduce the chances of a nasty quarter-life crisis.
The self-esteem and confidence issues that plague you in high school do lessen in early adulthood, but their residue can grow and mutate into another form of ugly that will have you skipping out on opportunities, in unhealthy friendships or romantic relationships, letting fear keep you from things that will help you grow, stifling your identity, able to be easily manipulated and woefully indecisive. Not believing in myself enough has stopped me from pursuing my passions because I don’t believe my dreams are in reach. When I have great opportunities presented to me, I downplay my talents, thinking they’re not up to par. Who knows what advantageous ideas or details I haven’t and don’t think of because I go into things with a defeated attitude. I could be subconsciously causing myself to fail before I even begin. I don’t have any fire-proof anecdotes on how to overcome low confidence, unfortunately. What I can offer, however, is that comparing yourself to other people will make things worse, don’t beat yourself up too long for any disappointments or failures, and congratulate yourself for even the smallest things you do well or are good about you. Everyone is good at and good for something; the cliché` is true.
“…We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough. You’re worthy because you are born and because you are here. Your being here, your being alive makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.”-Oprah
I believe balance is the most essential key to a functioning, thriving life. Everything in moderation; operating in extremes is guaranteed to shoot you in the foot. When interviewing people for this article, many said there was either too much or too little of a particular thing. Don’t be all work and no play or all play and no work. Don’t spend all your time with your mate instead of your friends and vice-versa. Lack of balance has come to be one of the biggest problems in my life; being too optimistic, too cynical, all up in church, not going at all, all about one career, all about another one, too focused on the future, too focused on the present. Keeping myself in one spectrum works for a while, but eventually, it always ends up being a disadvantage.
Time flies and everything happens so fast to the point that you might not indulge in the simple things that great memories are made of or appreciate and respect the things and people that you should. Take time out to do that. Start a gratitude journal, documenting things that you’re grateful for each day or each week. It sounds cheesy, but when I feel like I have nothing and my life seems like it’s in shambles, I find hope in what I write.
So…I’m looking around and it’s seems like a lot of married people my age are getting divorced. Wondering if it was just people I knew, I started searching for statistics. According to the National Centerfor Health Statistics (The U.S. Census Bureau references the NCHS for marriage and divorce rates),60 percent of marriages for couples between the ages of 20 and 25 end in divorce. They are probably thousands of possible reasons why this is, and I think the quarter-life crisis is one of them. To nutshell the “quarter-life crisis” for those who are new to this term, it’s basically a reflective point in the 20’s where one tries to figure out where they’re going and who they want to be. The core of the crisis is different for every person; some are most concerned about career choices (which is my core), while others are concerned about romantic relationships (segue into the point of this article).
If my girlfriends aren’t getting a divorce, they’re actively trying to find someone to marry and are frustrated with their lack of luck in that department. Some of them are so fixated on getting down the aisle, they talk about single-hood as if it’s a disease. When asked what the source of their urgency is, the most common answer is a culmination of “I need to be married and have a kid by 30. I have a biological clock. 30 is the ideal age. Marriage is the next life step. When you’re 30, you’re supposed to have everything together and moving on to that stage of your life.” Instead of considering their emotional, mental and financial preparedness for marriage, young adults are focused on being the ‘ideal age.’ I can’t tell you why 20-somethings put so much value on 30; hell, I put a lot of value on 30. I put a lot of value on 25. For some reason, when you’re in your 20’s, goal timelines are shaped around a specific age. This age-contingent goal setting may be one of the things that make the quarter-life crisis a crisis. 20-somethings are very hard on themselves when it comes to goals. Everything is about success and failure. These feelings in application to marriage are only exacerbated by external/societal pressures and expectations, such as a nagging parent wondering “when are you going to settle down?” or others asking “why are you single?” Societal expectations are particularly impacting on women; a woman’s value is so measured by her marital status, “that’s why you don’t have a man” is used as and deemed an insult.
Too young to get married? Maybe.
I want to focus on one particular part of the urgency reasons list: “when you’re 30, you’re supposed to have everything together.” Not only is marriage on the list of goals and concerns, but it’s viewed as remedy for other stressors. “Getting married and being a wife would make me feel more stable. It will give me a sense of purpose. I’ll feel like I have some sort of direction. Right now, I just feel kind of lost and shifty in general. I need something that is consistent…predictable…reliable…solid and in place,” says one of my friends. Like a lot my peers around the same age, this person wants to redirect their career path (but isn’t sure how), has a long, unsuccessful dating history and is feeling kind of bored with life as most friends have moved away or are preoccupied with children they’ve had (which leads me to another reason why 20-somethings are relationship or marriage obsessed, but I’ll come back to that).
For 20-somethings lost at sea, a marriage or a committed relationship is subconsciously a great distraction as it gives the confused and stressed something seemingly fun and sexy to pour all of their energy into. In the midst, some hope that their potential mate may complete, rescue or motivate them, or be someone to relate to. At minimum, a mate can keep them entertained. “I’m bored when I’m not in a relationship,” says another friend, which brings me to the aforementioned about friends moving away or having time-consuming lives. Graduating from college means a reduction in a social life for many 20-somethings as employment pursuits can absorb free-time and take friends across the country; meanwhile, making like-minded new friends in the workplace is sometimes not as easy or feasible. The sudden crash in what was once a vivacious social life leaves some 20-somethings feeling lonely and bored, and who better to cure all that than a partner designed to be a constant companion? So, now we’ve got discombobulated, bored and lonely people, jaded from all the failed attempts at romance and broken from all of their other personal obstacles, entering a situation with emotional complexities that requires stability for all the wrong reasons. Perfect.
All of these wrong reasons can fester, boil and rise up to be the demise of the relationship or marriage, especially if the romance was subconsciously a way to feel stable or keep distracted
. When 20-somethings find themselves in this quandary, they either divorce or breakup, have a kid to try and fix it (which also doesn’t work), or remain unhappily married because they have children or to try to save face. Some walk to the altar on a hope and a prayer to begin with, ignoring their instincts. If you’re 20-something and your goal is marriage, realllllllllllly marinate on why you want to get married, why you love your mate and if you truly are ready for a lifetime commitment. You can’t prepare yourself
for everything that’s in store with married life beforehand, but looking long and hard in the mirror will give you a leg up.