I recently spent some time with my older cousins (they’re 34 and 42), who decided to sit me down and chat about my “quarter-life” crisis. They had heard of the concept, but couldn’t understand for the life of them why my generation felt so distressed about the future and, in some cases, anticipated bleak outcomes. I tried and tried to explain, but to no avail. To them, every other generation had gone through the same stressors and we were just trippin’. When I explained that we feared getting stuck in an unfulfilling job or career for an extended period time and being unhappy, they refuted that it was because we didn’t have any patience or work ethic and had a huge sense of entitlement. “You have to work your way up. You’re not going to get your dream job out of college. You have to do what you have to do to pay bills. You may have to take that sucky job to get where you wanna go. You guys are just so entitled; for some reason you think you shouldn’t have to work and start out at the bottom. I don’t recall being so concerned about the future when I was 25.” I guess since they weren’t worried, we shouldn’t be, and it’s just preposterous and silly that anyone would. Especially since we’re graduating from college and going into an unstable economy and workforce. Yeah, we’re freakin’ crazy for being worried. Silly us. I was being told how to feel for about an hour or so.
Yes, we might be a little entitled and spoiled, but that’s not at the heart of our fears or anxieties. At the heart is our fear that will we become our parents; the people that “did what they had to do” and ended up in careers that they were barely content with. Their contentment stops at “it pays the bills.” We want something more than that. Lord forbid we want jobs that not only pay our bills, but help us exert our passions as well. We understand that we have to crawl before we walk, we’re just afraid we’re going to be doing that for the rest of our lives…like our parents did. Our parents worked/work like dogs, sometimes 2 and 3 jobs, just to provide the smallest things, and still ended up living “check to check.” “Where would you get the idea that you’d have an unfulfilling work life?!” my cousins asked. Our parents. “Why do you think that if you have a sucky job, your whole life is going to be affected?” Because we spend most of our time awake at work, and depending on what else you have going on (a high-stress job, kids, school, etc.), you might not have the stamina or time for yourself. Which, I’m surprised my 34-yr-old cousin didn’t get the point about the impact of work on your overall life, considering she was only in town because she might not be home for the HOLIDAYS because of her JOB.
“You're a slave to money then you die” (The Verve-"Bittersweet Symphony")
This is what we’re afraid of; living these lyrics.
“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.” (“Office Space”-film)
This is what we’re afraid of; relating to this quote.
I love how my cousins acted like there aren’t millions of people on the planet who are discontent with their work life, and their discontentment doesn’t carry over into their non-work life. What do they think is on the list of stressors for people who are having a mid-life crisis? Much like the young people decades ago who strived to go to college to avoid the factory labor path of their parents, we strive to avoid the monotonous, restrictive, unfulfilling career paths of our parents.
My pow-wow with my cousins reminded me of why I have this section of the blog. To promote awareness, foster understanding and create a forum for all of us 20-somethings in distress. 20-somethings: somehow, someway we’re going to figure this out.