My friends and I are turning 25 this year, and many of us are experiencing what has been dubbed a quarter-life crisis. The quarter-life crisis is defined by an utter lack of knowing what you’re doing with your life despite the best intentions to the contrary, and a keen sense that you need change to happen. Attending university, conscious self-reflection, job hunting, you name it, we’ve done it. Despite what the older generations say about us, we’re trying really hard to find our place in the world, but the world doesn’t seem to want us.
I’ve been thinking about this conundrum a lot lately, and the biggest and most consistent problem I’ve found is how people my age have a lack of gumption. That is to say, many of us are scared of taking risks. We’ve been raised to be responsible and to be cautious, so the go-get-em’ attitude that helped our elders is non-existent in many of us. Some people have dreams of going abroad, but can’t even find the will to go into the city for a day. Some want to pursue their passions but instead are going the safe route first – and there’s nothing wrong with that. The trouble comes when you question yourself over and over again until your safe route is just another kind of dissatisfaction with life. We all want security and safety and enough money to survive, but what happens when we say fuck it all and just do what makes our hearts pound?
Safety and security is great and all, but I feel like the best things come to us when we’re willing to take a chance. When we let ourselves get complacent in our bubbles of just making it, we begin to lack momentum until we’re stuck in the 20-something rut of just living to pay off loans, or just living to survive. We’ll travel next year. We’ll move out later. When is it later?
I’m not saying, of course, that it’s possible for everyone to just snap their fingers and make life happen, but it’s certainly possible to give life a good kick in the butt to start it going. Breaking habits – even small ones – is a wonderful way to get out of that comfort zone. This feeling of being trapped, or of going in circles, or of being bored all the time – we should let it inspire us, not hold us back. What would you do right now, I asked one friend, if you didn’t have to worry about what others said, or about the money. The answers leaned towards adventure more than accumulation. From joining a class at the activity centre, to going for walks downtown, to travelling to the other side of the world, there are ways for us to make these things happen if we want them badly enough.
This post on the baby boomers points to some of the other problems a lot of 20-somethings are having, and they’re all real problems. The frustrations we’re experiencing – lack of full time, livable jobs, lack of appreciation for our skillsets, unrealistic expectations for entry-level jobs, stress from family members to “settle down” and start families (especially from parents who want grandparents) – these are all valid concerns. I have them, too – and I’m doing pretty good, even despite the international spouse. Having rejection after rejection in every aspect of life – especially now, during what is supposedly the best time of our lives – is really, really discouraging. It makes us question what the point is of even trying if every single door seems to be made specifically to keep us from knocking.
What I told my friend when discussing life is what I’ll say here – life is full of safe choices. Live at home. Keep your retail job. Watch Netflix. Diet. These are all safe choices. I’ve never been really good at making safe choices, though. I left home when I was 18 to live in Europe for a year, and from then on, “safe” never really had a place in my vocabulary. Between quitting jobs without having another job lined up, to getting married, to moving house, I take chances, and I make them work out. Even if they don’t actually work out, I take the experience in stride and use it to my advantage. I mean, everything I do, I learn from, and I can apply that learning to something else. I like to think that if I’d never taken half the chances I have, my life story would be infinitely less interesting.
At this point in our lives, fellow 20-somethings, remember that your student loans and your safety are important, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of life. Survival is great and all, but if your life is boring, change it. Move to that place you want to move to. Find a hostel to stay in and find a job. Move in with friends. What excites you, motivates you? Figure it out. What makes your heart pump faster; what inspires you? What’s stopping you? Just do it. Stop imagining what you want your life to look like and make it so. You keep saying later, but why not now? Don’t be the young upon whom youth is wasted. Use your youth to your advantage and live. Because what’s the point of life but to live, right?