My dad wanted me to go to graduate school to make myself more qualified. I, on the other hand, wanted to jump right into the field and get a job.
However, newspaper job openings were/are scarce and I had a journalism professor advising me to use this time of my life to try completely new things like blog about my travels to exotic countries so that I wouldn’t be wasting my time fixating on the fact that I needed to find a job that probably didn’t exist.
That last semester of college, and even the few months after, I became so worried that I’d become a jobless, homeless bum because I had no idea where my life was going.
And I wasn’t the only one going through this “quarter-life crisis.”
Several of my peers and friends just couldn’t decide what their next move would be, and that fear of the unknown seemed to lock them into a standstill of indecision. At 21, we’re finally allowed to make our own choices, but we can’t decide which one to make because we’re afraid it will take us down the wrong path.
The ironic thing is in some cases, the previous generations have been unfortunate because their career tracks, and in some cases, even their life partners were chosen for them, but in some ways I feel like that gave them an advantage: they didn’t have to worry about making the right or wrong choice. They went with the path that was already set for them and they seemed to be pretty successful.
It’s probably also why they reached all the life milestones a lot faster than our generation has been able to.
Our generation has been so spoiled with choices that we actually freeze ourselves in time and we slow down or progress. We get jobs later, we marry later, have kids later….
Alexandra Robbins, in her book, “Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived,” writes that 65% of 2005 college seniors expected to live with their parents after graduation,” and “the average age of marriage has shifted from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to 25 for women and 27 for men.”
I know friends who have decided to take a year off traveling, joining the Peace Corps, or working for Teach for America—which are all admirable and rewarding experiences, but they’re also a way to buy time. Personally, I don’t think I would have had the courage to opt for these alternative tracks, seeing as how I became anxious only after a month of rigorous job-hunting. And of course, another factor here is that competition is so fierce these days that having a regular bachelor’s and master’s degree under your belt isn’t enough. You have to have hands-on experience in the field and a handful of other activities and interests to make out stand out from other applicants in the candidate pool. So in some ways, those who DID end up joining the Peace Corps or traveling may have a leg up over me since they’re going out into the world and actually living. I can’t be sure. Perhaps they had it right.
It’s no wonder that we start getting depressed in our twenties now instead of in our late forties and fifties. Whereas our parents and grandparents didn’t have to become anxious about how their lives were going to turn out but may have ended up regretting their decisions later in life, we become depressed by that fact that we have no idea where we’re headed, only to (hopefully) end up enjoying the experiences we’ve had, since we chose them in the first place.
So I suppose it just depends on what stage of your life you mind being hit with that depression, because at some point, it’s going to get you.