We’ve all heard of our parents or friends of our parents going through the phenomenon called a “mid-life crisis”. It usually involves a person in their forties or fifties buying a toupee or a sports car or getting a tattoo on their boob. This is because they’ve reached a point in their life where they start doubting the decisions they made that usually are made to help support the ideologies of capitalism (i.e. getting married, buying a house, having 2.5 children and a dog named Buddy, etc).
But I’d like to propose that there is another phenomenon that occurs earlier in life, by the time you reach your early twenties. I call this the quarter-life crisis and it involves a person suddenly realizing that soon they’re going to have to start making those decisions that most people end up regretting or disliking later in life. In other words, we are going to have to, suddenly and without much warning, become ADULTS.
I know, I know. I’m scared too.
The crazy thing is how much our society supports this quarter-life crisis, indirectly of course. Think about it: we are told by society not to get tattoos because we’d come to regret them when we’re older in the same breath that society also informs us that we need to make a decision what to take in college that will thus determine our entire life paths. We need to be thinking about careers and children before we are even of legal drinking age in the States. We can’t even vote yet we are expected to know our life’s direction.
This thus leads to a quarter-life crisis. Allow me to define this term: a quarter-life crisis occurs when too much stress is put on an individual to grow up and learn how to adult too quickly. High school and college, no matter how long you attended either, do not prepare you for the real world. It doesn’t even matter how many episodes of Friends you’ve seen. They don’t prepare you for what’s coming (unless you have a part in a soap opera and live in New York City or your name is Ms. Chanandler Bong).
The fact is that I know a million useless, trivial facts about the the fall of the Roman Empire and how to divide fractions and that the mitochondria is the fucking powerhouse of the cell (whatever that means) BUT I don’t understand taxes or interest or savings plans of life insurance or retirement savings or where to go to get a passport or what to do if I need the police but it’s not, like, an emergency or anything or who to call if I think I smell poisonous fumes leaking through my house… OR HOW TO EVEN BUY A HOUSE. Damn it, I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!
And then you have the revelation: “I am grown up.”
Life suddenly smacks you in the face with the realization that while you’re freaking out saying, “I need an adult! I need an adult!”, you actually are the adult and no one’s going to help you.
So you do what any logical, sane person does. You watch Magic School Bus reruns while colouring in a colouring book and drinking grape juice because you are in complete denial about growing up.
I have no idea why society expects so much of our generation, but they do. Life isn’t what it used to be like where boys would learn how to farm from their dads and women would teach their daughters how to run a household. Nope, now we’re expected to be breadwinners AND caregivers, regardless of your gender.
So how do we overcome this epidemic?
Answer: we don’t. We muddle through it, all the while remembering that life isn’t all about money or school or jobs and careers and babies. Just remember that regardless of what happens or what path you take…
You’re going to end up hating it when you’re 45 anyways.