In South Africa, if you are lucky, it is possible to live up to the natural age of 52.62 years. This means that if all works out, I have around 29 years to achieve all I can before I perish and become absolutely irrelevant.
I’m in a panic. My entire generation is in a panic. We won’t get the luxury of enjoying a mid-life crisis at 40 where we can divorce our husbands for the youthful, hunky gardener or cash out our pensions for that hot, red convertible. Our life span has been shortened, and so has our craziness. A quarter life crisis is meant to be growing pains, a transition from teenage terror into functioning adulthood- where we as the young adults enter the real world. We’re supposed to feel out of place, chaotic, nervous and lonesome. I almost wish a hot gardener fits in with this description.
Thanks to the Generation Y/Millennials – which luckily includes me, this stage of development has been exacerbated. What makes Gen Y so special that we’ve drawn and literally QUARTERED our life span? Look at the developments that we’ve grown up with: cable TV, satellite radio, the internet, cell phones etc. Naturally we’re tech savvy and have to be connected to everyone, at all times. I saw South Africa’s transition into democracy, I spent hours glued to the TV screen watching the Twin Towers Fall while flipping to channels and witnessing two Royal weddings, the US gaining its first black president and reality TV with the Kardashians.
Due to most of our parents who were raised in times of the struggle for freedom, we were told: “You can be anything you want”, now fly. And oh, like Icarus we’re shooting passed the International Space Station. Too ambitious for our own good, too confident and focused on achievement. And most importantly, we are never happy and never satisfied.
Here’s a great explanation as to why.
We’ve been labelled as arrogant, selfish and narcissistic. Although, and maybe this is irony, I think we’ll be the greatest generation there is yet. But going through a quarter-life crisis isn’t fun, although since most of us are adrenaline junkies who thrive on stress (since stress= ambition) we won’t admit it. Every day, every hour I’m constantly thinking of the future. Whether its work, my education or my relationships, I have a fully mapped out plan of how and when I’m going to get there. If I take a step back it’s kind of scary, I have so much to achieve and often I feel like not enough time to complete what I need to do before the Grim Reaper yanks me off of this earth.
Anxiety for me, is like a chill pill for those who grew up in the 60s. If I’m not anxious, if I relax and let go, something is wrong- I’ve forgotten something or I feel untethered as if I’m drifting or floating. Last year I studied full time, I worked full time. It wasn’t enough that I’d gotten a job, no I had to get my dream job. Mission accomplished. Yet I’m already (2 months in) thinking about the next step, the next big move for me.
In a world of celebrities where we revere the social media gurus, my generation and I are struggling to remain relevant, to leave our mark upon the Earth. It doesn’t help that our inspiration and thought leaders are the like of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and so on. We consistently check the Forbes list of the richest, or the most powerful or the most influential.
It’s exhausting, but that fear of failure, that fear that we will be that generation who have contributed nothing to the world remains heavy on our minds. I really do worry that with all this excitement, I’ll probably have a burn out in my 30s, a heart attack in my 40s and hey! conveniently expire at the expected life expectancy age. It’s strange but I’ve never imagined myself as a granny doing old-people things. And I will not repeat the four-letter abbreviation but paraphrase, Live Fast and Die Young. There are plenty of websites that claim they can cure the crisis, but honestly- who wants to. Ambition is sexy. I’d rather blasting forward than going nowhere slowly.
If any of this sounds familiar, yet you still don’t believe me, ask yourself these 10 questions.