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.
When you’re growing up, you look forward to the day where your parents view and respect you as an adult and you can have an open dialogue where your opinions (or feelings) are not negated. I’m past 25 now, and that day has yet to arrive. I’m able to have conversations with my mother, but dare I challenge or disagree with her opinions or express exactly how I feel about her behavior or statements, I’m met with anger and accused of being disrespectful; no matter how polite I am. My mother suffers from what I call “parental egotism;” where parents hold the attitude that their children are completely and forever subordinate to them and therefore cannot speak against anything they purport.
If the situation arises where I’m upset with my mother, I’m told “I don’t have a right to be mad” at her. In other cases, she’s acts as if she’s above criticism. There’s a rationalization for everything she does and she’s always right, because “she’s the mother.” If I insist or continue to suggest that she’s perhaps wrong, she becomes defensive and sometimes attacking or belittling. For example, the topic of baby showers for teen mothers somehow came up. My mother explained that she was against the concept because when she was younger, giving a teen expectant parent a shower was viewed as condoning their sexual activity. When I argued that people should approach it as providing for a child who will be in need, versus support of teenage sex, she said “Oh, you’re just one of those people; any and everything goes with your generation.” When I asked her to explain what she meant by ‘one of those people,’ she wouldn’t elaborate, but she clearly meant it within a negative context. Not only did she make a negative generalization of my generation, she inferred there’s something wrong with my character because I had a different opinion than hers. As the conversation continued, the egotism rose as she reminded be that she’s been alive longer than I have, knows what she’s talking about and that I “don’t understand.” The “don’t understand” phrase is particularly agitating. To understand means to comprehend. I comprehend what she’s saying, I just don’t agree; its two different things.
The constant reminders of how old she is (“I’ve been around longer than you”) is equally agitating. I realize that I’m young and I far from know everything; I don’t propose that I do (my parents got lucky, because I never felt or acted that way as a teen either). However, I find it arrogant to assume that there’s no more room to learn because she’s reached her 50’s and the life-wisdom she’s acquired makes it impossible for her to be flawed or incorrect. Not to mention it’s invalidating to imply that my opinion has no value because I’m young. I’ve lost count of the times where she initiated a discussion with me, only to respond to my statements with “you’re just young” or “I’m right; I’m older.” Why start a conversation with me if my opinion is worthless to you from the beginning? I may behave the same way she does when I’m older, but for now I plan to start my statements with “In my experience” or “what I’ve learned in my years on this earth is…”
Parental egotism really rears its ugly head when the adult child tries to set boundaries or wants to discuss their childhood. Some parents find it appalling to see any assertiveness come from their offspring or hear the words “no” or “stop,” abusing the honorary title of ‘parent’ to take advantage of their children, guilt or manipulate them into submission. A friend of mine said he feels like his parents take advantage of his bountiful income, constantly expecting to borrow money after mismanaging their own funds. “If I only give them a certain amount, none at all, or tell them how frustrated I am, they find it insulting. They say I should willingly give them money no matter what because they gave me money in school. I sometimes can’t purchase the things I want or invest my money the way I wish because of how much I give them.”
Many parent's mantra.
Addressing the past or how you were raised can definitely be uncomfortable; A few parents deal with this discomfort with avoidance, denial or defensiveness. For those who have the discussion, some may inadvertently nullify their adult child’s feelings (especially if there are differing perceptions of the same event) or internalize their kids’ comments to the point of having deep guilt. If the conversation becomes a heated debate, the blame game can begin or going in circles about whether or not someone should feel a certain way. “When I talk to my mother about the things that upset me during my childhood, she always takes it as me trying to say she’s a bad parent. If it isn’t for worrying I’ll hurt her feelings, I have to deal with her telling me I perceived something wrong or telling me how to feel, instead of just accepting my feelings and hearing me out,” another friend said of her parental interactions. When dealing with disputing family members, talk-show host and former therapist Phil McGraw (“Dr. Phil”) frequently says “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” In familial disputes, I think some people get so focused on ‘winning’ the argument or trying to get someone to change their feelings or opinions, that they lose sight of the end goal, which is peace and understanding.
While some parents are chronic sufferers of parental egotism, others only exhibit it occasionally. Fortunately with my mother, it’s occasionally. There have been moments where my anger has risen to the point of disrespect; I typically apologize. Maybe when I have my own children, my mother will fully level with me. Until then, I’ll respectfully assert myself and hope I won’t need my boxing gloves.
We 20-somethings are haunted and plagued by our age-contingent goals. It messes us up. This whole idea of telling yourself that you have to do or attain a certain thing by a certain age is more harmful than helpful. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and being proactive about them, but the problem with goal setting around your age is that it often adds undue pressure and issues. Sometimes we take on things or responsibilities that we truly aren’t prepared for. For example, rushing into marriage
or getting an apartment or home that you really can’t afford because “you’re supposed to have that done by 25.” Speaking of financial matters, I’ve seen people change academic majors or join career fields that they only half-heartedly care about because the income or benefits will help them reach an age-based aspiration. In the long run, they ended up resenting themselves AND their work and felt trapped with no way out.
Intense anxiety can develop as one approaches a particular age, causing stagnation, depression around birthdays or attempts to relive a previous period, possibly stunting maturity. Uncertainty or fear of failure to reach an age-based goal can easily cause stagnation; sometimes it seems easier to procrastinate or not pursue something than tackle it and fail. I call it “I’ll think about it tomorrow” Scarlett O’Hara syndrome ("Gone with the Wind"). I fell prey to it myself. While I was in a graduate counseling program, I rapidly fell out of love with the idea of being a therapist. Instead of using my time in school wisely and doing everything I could to explore options with my impending degree, I put it in the back of mind. I avoided it. I waited until the month I was graduating to ask questions. I was so afraid and uncertain about what I was going to do next that I froze.
As for birthday depression and reverting to the “good old days,” I had a friend who suddenly went missing-in-action just before her birthday. When she resurfaced weeks later, she revealed that thinking about her birthday saddened her because she didn’t think she was “where she needed to be for her age.” I’ve seen many a friend revert to acting as if they were once again college freshman or high school students, trying to go back to a time where their lives were uncomplicated by age-contingent goals and expectations. Those that didn’t revert carry an emotionally heavy bag of regret; unsatisfied with how things have turned out, wanting to undo decisions and feeling cornered by the choices they’ve made.
The worst thing about age-contingent ambitions is that if you fail at them, if often breaks confidence, reduces self-esteem and causes insecurity. One friend told me she feels inferior and that others will judge her because of the things she didn’t do at “the right age.” The judgment is a real villain. Another peer of mine constantly hears condescending remarks about being unmarried. I’m harassed not only because of my marital status (I’m currently single), but because I haven’t found “my big girl job” yet. People are forever nagging, questioning or bossing you around about what you haven’t done yet and when you’re going to do it. If one’s self-esteem is shaken, feelings of incompetence and incapability can quickly set in, thus diminishing motivation or belief that other dreams can become a reality.
Age-basing can suck the fun out of life as you spend so much time with pressure, stress, fear, guilt, regret and insecurity. When setting goals, analyze your motives, what pursuing this objective will require and if your ideal timeframe is reasonable. Do you really think achieving this goal will improve your life? At what cost will you seek after your target? Are you making decisions independently or are you making choices to appease someone else? Are you trying to fit into a mold? Are you doing what you think is healthiest for you? Are you emotionally, physically or financially ready? Also, make sure you choose objectives that you can actually influence. For example, it doesn’t make sense to expect to be married by 25. You can’t make love happen and it’s best to not try to make someone marry you (anyone can find a partner or sex-buddy, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be a quality mate). Sure, you can try to date and increase your chances of finding a mate, but that’s it. That’s all you can do. If you fail at achieving something, yes, it will suck. You might feel terrible and useless, but that’s not true. Just re-route and reevaluate. Good luck.
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.
Lumbergh of 'Office Space': total B.S.
Dear Potential Employee,
I’m your potential employer and as your potential employer I’m going to remind you of why you wanted to quit school and start a traveling band in the 1st place, as I behaviorally will be a culmination of the butthole that bullied you in the middle school, the anal-retentive jerk professor you had in college, the guy that stole your girlfriend last week and your overly bossy parents.
I will make you kiss my tail and chase me down with repeated calls, emails and meetings and act like I can’t be bothered with you even though I’M THE ONE who needs assistance and employees. Basically, I’m going to act like I don’t want you. If you seem confident, I’ll take you down a notch because I will view it as egotistical. If you’re humble, I’ll turn my nose up and view you as weak. Even though your resume is impressive, I WILL unfairly judge you by your appearance. If you’re too attractive as a female, I’ll either hire you because I want eye-candy in the office or not hire you because I will assume you’re a slut. If you have the slightest hint of a tattoo or a piercing, you can forget it. Even though you need money to have ultra-fine clothing, I will deny you income if you show up in just the decent clothing you can afford.
Speaking of resumes, even though I required it and you just handed it to me, I’m still going to expect you to fill out the same exact information on our standard application. It’s especially important that we have the same information in two places as we will completely negate it if an applicant with connections and less impressive credentials comes in. If you’re too educated, we’ll tell you you’re overqualified. If you have one degree too little, you’re under-qualified. We’ll also tell you that you don’t have enough experience; although, if no one ever hires you, you’ll never gain such experience. If you manage to book an interview, our questions will be irrelevant and unreasonably difficult to answer (ex. If you could be a tree, what type would you be and why?). If not that, we’ll ask “moral measurement” questions (ex. have you ever stolen from your employer or have you ever gotten upset with your employer?). Moral measurement questions are my favorite to ask, because I like to watch people squirm while trying to decide whether they should give me a socially-acceptable Ms. America answer or be honest. I love my job. Maybe one day you’ll have a job like me. Thank you for your interest in joining our staff.
Your Potential Employer
I’ve been thinking…why can’t honed hobbies count as work experience? If one indulges in photography as a hobby and they have proof that they’re rather skilled at it (such as a photo album), why can’t they put it on a resume` and apply for a photographer position at Olan Mills? I know that might sound funny, but seriously, why not? I’m still hunting in the jungle for a job…if I’m not considered “overqualified” (because of my master’s degree in psych), I’m under-qualified (not enough hands-on experience or a more specific degree, license, etc.). I’ve been applying for an array of positions in different fields: human service, non-profit organizations, media…even event planning. I haven’t applied for anything I don’t have some prior experience in; I guess I just don’t have enough-particularly in journalism-despite running the ENTIRE entertainment section for my college newspaper. I feel like I should be able to put running this blog as experience on my resume`. Afterall, it is semi-journalistic and is a testament to my writing ability. Also, I’ve learned so much about networking, marketing/promotion, web design, social media and public relations while operating this site, among other things. I know a lot of talented, creative and intelligent people whose gifts really shine through their hobbies. Am I being unreasonable here or what? Lol
Hey man, no I'm not...am I?
I was having dinner with a friend and easily got into a music industry debate with our friendly waiter after he spotted my Dereon` bag (pop-star Beyonce’s clothing line). He said that he didn’t care for a lot of mainstream music and threw around the word “sell-out” when discussing artists he felt changed to a more commercial sound. As the conversation went on, he eventually said “but I guess anyone who has job is a sellout, so, it’s whatever I suppose.” Perplexed, my friend asked “How is that accurate? How does having a job make you a sellout?” He explained “Most people don’t work in a field they truly enjoy or are interested in. Most of us would have different jobs if we could do whatever we wanted and still pay bills.” I could understand his point and to a large extent, agreed. My friend still didn’t think it makes you a sellout if you do what it takes, including taking a job you hate, to pay bills and handle responsibilities. This same friend asked me a few weeks ago why it was so important for me to have a job I love or at least like. I figure if I’m going to spend 40 hours a week somewhere, I have to at least like what I’m doing. If I loathe my job and hate getting up every morning because I dread what I have to do, that’s not a quality life. Spending 8 hours a day watching a clock and wanting to crawl out of my skin for money is just not worth it to me. It’s going to screw with my sense of purpose. I’m going to look up and go “Is this life? Is this what it’s all about?” Needless to say, my own desire to have a job that not only offers monetary support, but personal fulfillment as well, is what partially led to me agreeing with my waiter.
“You’re a slave to money than you die.”-Bittersweet Symphony , The Verve Pipe
The more I thought about what the waiter said, the more I thought about all the different ways we “sellout” while in the workforce. The butt-kissing, the toleration of condescending remarks, the hiding of tattoos & piercings, the concealing of religious, political or cultural beliefs & sexual orientation, the revisions to Facebook profiles-and often, contrary to what your mama told you, this won’t stop the “higher” or more successful you get at your job unless you’re the CEO. What are we doing all this for? Money? Yes, you have to have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear and transportation. If you have children, there’s an even greater need for these things, among other items, but where do we draw the line between meeting needs and selling our souls? What do you think?
I hate job hunting because...
1. Not only is it time consuming, but it’s time consuming with very little fruit from the labor. Many people apply for 1,000 positions and will only hear back from (maybe) 12 companies.
2. It’s amazing the amount of chasing you have to do-constantly emailing and leaving voicemails for the same people and making stops at the same locations. Aren’t the companies the ones that NEED employees? The way you have to chase down some execs, it’s almost like they aren’t hiring at all and you have to convince THEM to open a position.
This photo says it all.
3. It makes me feel incompetent. When you spend so much time chasing execs, proving yourself, being evaluated and sometimes kissing butt, you may start to feel unwanted, unqualified or just plain not good enough. There is a lot of rejection and comparison to others involved with job hunting. It’s been hard for me to keep what’s typically apart of the job seeking process from negatively affecting my confidence.
When you hit your 20’s, your relationship with your parents hits this weird place. Having been away from home for a couple of years (especially if you’ve went college), you’ve tried to reconcile what your parents have taught you with what you’ve learned on your own about society to develop your own worldview. Being successful at reconciliation alone can create this abrupt, invisible, insidious wedge between you and your parents that you maybe didn’t anticipate. Suddenly you have less in common with your parents than you did before and the vast difference in opinion incites frustrating arguments and debates. If your disagreements are about sensitive issues like religion, sexuality, politics or race, they can likely lead to the reception of value or character judgments from your parents that hurt your feelings or anger you, causing more friction. Understanding that your parents think they’re doing what’s best for you with their idea insistence and imposing beliefs, you struggle to remain respectful when voicing your feelings; even though you don’t feel particularly respected or understood yourself. When you were a minor, you couldn’t wait to become a young adult because you thought you’d be able to have a more honest and open dialogue with your parents about any topic, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Even though you’re ready to talk, they aren’t necessarily ready to listen. You keep thinking that you and your parent’s life stages will one day complement each other and you’ll meet in the middle. Here’s to hoping.
This experience leads to what I call “hero disillusionment.” If you had a decent relationship with your parents, you viewed them as near-perfect all-knowing heroes with the most appropriate beliefs and standards. The bright and shining image you once had of your parents starts to dim as you come in contact with their human side, more clearly realizing their biases and selfishness. Although you’ve known these people your whole life, you have moments where you look at them and go “who are you?!!” What you learn about their opinions and personality might be shocking, as it may contradict how they’ve raised you. On the opposite end, what you learn can answer long-held questions about your upbringing; resulting in resolve or anger (“They messed me up!”). Ultimately, you will either understand and appreciate your parents more, or come to dislike and break from them. “Hero disillusionment” tends to be more of a challenge for those who live at home or in regular physical contact with their parents because they don’t have the built in space to recover from divergence as those that they live away from home.
Seeing as how I’m still navigating this period of my life, I don’t have any quick solutions or tips. This article serves primarily as a forewarning. What I CAN propose is therapy (if you can access or afford it), if you find yourself in anger or sadness as a result of “hero disillusionment.”Anger and sadness are very powerful, potent emotions that can spiral out of control if they aren’t regulated. Guardian discontentment can seep into other areas of your life that can be hard to notice. That’s my offering.