If you were to ask a twelve year old me where I expected to be at twenty one years old, I would have, without hesitation, replied that I would probably (definitely) be in Hollywood, with two (or perhaps, three) Academy Awards already sitting comfortably on my marble mantle piece. I’d be wearing head to toe Chanel, with an equally designer clad boyfriend/ fiancé (probably a previous co-star) who loved me for me, not only just my class, fame and money. I’d be made.
Flash forward ten years to a newly twenty two year old me. And guess what?
No, I am not in sunny Hollywood. I am 5,437 miles away in a very stormy London. I have – drum roll – zero Academy Awards (are you dissapointed?). I am certainly not dressed head to toe in Chanel, but draped in a comfy mens t-shirt (twelve year old me shudders). I do have a nice boyfriend at least, although he was most definitely not my co-star. My taste in men has changed considerably since then. Actors make me cringe nowadays.
I’m not completely helpless on the career front either. Since I graduated with a Literature degree I have been modelling somewhat successfully. I’m still an “actress”, going to auditions and taking acting classes. My life, on paper, sounds sweet. And let’s face it, things could be a lot worse. But one day, very recently, as I was minding my own business, it hit me. A little devil in a graduation gown popped in my brain.
“Hi. Where you aware that you’ve been out of education for a whole year and you haven’t even paved out your career yet? Ha! You failure!”
I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with life’s big questions: Am I on the right track? Am I doing well enough? Am I making enough money? Am I really and truly making the most out of my life?
We’re brought up on happy endings; you just happen to bump into your Mr. Perfect and bang, you’re married off with a perfect relationship. Somehow, you’re picked out of a crowd and handed an opportunity for your dream job. Happy endings just don’t come to us quickly or as suddenly, unless it’s the type of happy ending you receive in a massage parlour. My parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I believed them. But no one tells you how difficult it is or gives you a step by step guide of how to get there. All this false expectation leaves us with an immense amount of pressure.
Born in 1992, I am a member of Generation Y. I come from an era in which every thought, goal and achievement is posted on multiple sites for us all to witness on portable screens. It is impossible not to compare our lives to others when it’s shoved in our faces every time we unlock our smart phones.
Let’s face it, we carefully pick and chose what we are sharing with our social network. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Oh look, she’s having soooo much fun at that party. He’s making soooo much money. She loves her boyfriend sooooo much. We are forced to keeps tabs on what everyone else is up to, whether it’s getting married and having babies, sitting front row at LFW or getting promoted to CEO of some big shot company. We all know it’s grossly exaggerated, rose tinted and carefully portrayed, yet it still manages to persuade us that everyone else has it better. At the basis, the internet is a platform to show off. No one would dare admit that they too are struggling. It’s all about keeping up appearances.
So I went searching for some honesty, and the results were surprising: almost everybody I spoke to admitted to experiencing some sort of personal existential panic between the ages of 20-23. Some remember this crux period as a distant memory as long as twenty years ago, while some were, as I am, presently lost in the culmination fog.
If this is something we all experience, why is this quarter life crisis epidemic not openly discussed? Why weren’t we warned?
Everyone tells us that the twenties are our prime. It’s supposed to be this magical time in our lives where we have fun with our friends, build relationships and careers. See the world. Make memories that we can tell our grandchildren around a camp fire. But nothing will ruin your 20’s more than the anxiety that you should have your life together by now.
Perhaps the quarter life crisis is a crucial part of self discovery. Those who have over come it, say that “things just happened naturally”. Many are now happy and successful in fields they had no intention of getting into when they were 21. I suppose life is all about being happy, and success is liking what you do. Instead of looking at the ultimate goal and end outcomes, perhaps taking the one-day-at-a-time approach will help everything fall into place. In the meantime, work on deciding what you enjoy, and enjoy it. Instead of trying to figure out how our lives are supposed to be, maybe we should just live. Instead of comparing every aspect of our lives to that of our peers, maybe we should concentrate on our own individual journeys and on making them more meaningful to us.
All those suffering from QLC can do is have fun, be nice, take risks and and work hard, and the rest should (will) work itself out. I’m yet to discover my purpose in life, but I refuse to stay stuck in this quick-sand of self doubt. So here I embark on a new lease of positivity and forthrightness, open to new experiences and willing to learn.
If you need a little faith that success is a gradual process, see what some of the most successful people in the world were doing in their early twenties here.