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Monday, August 6, 2007

The Quarter-life Crisis

“So when will this end it goes on an on. Over and Over and Over again. Keeps spinning around. I know that it won’t stop…This is a Sick Cycle Carousel” --Lifehouse

Honor’s Biology, Psychological Statistics, National Institute of Mental Health sponsored research, Psi Chi, Peer Counseling etc, etc, etc. That’s pretty much what my to-do list looked like a year ago. I spent sometimes up to 18 hours of my day working, doing research, taking charge of student organizations, and dealing with my own issues and all the stress and meetings, and…. Well you get the point. After I graduated I was totally burned out!!! I had nothing else to give. After all, I thought I was going places! It was like being in a huge washing machine agitating slowly right then left while trying to tread water. Just spinning and twirling until nothing made sense.

So it was all worth it! All the work, stress, and breakdowns. Now I have a high paying job equipped with paid time off and hecka benefits. Now I have just moved into that new condo in the next town with the large bedroom, fireplace and garage. Now I’m big baller shot caller, speeding down the highway of life in my Mercedes, master of my own destination…! And totally hallucinating! Condo? Heck I can barely afford to pay for the computer that I am using to bring you this marvelous masterpiece of a blog.

I supposed I am the one to blame for my current quandary. I was a victim of my own assumptions. I assumed that hard work would pay off. I assumed that I’d be accepted into a great graduate program. I assumed that after years of more work I’d be Dr. Crystal Clear--a tenure-track professor @ Everything University producing multi-million dollar life changing, earth shattering research. I assumed I’d be doing the thing I love so dearly: disseminating knowledge to the next generation of graduate school hopefuls!

But my reality is in stark contrast to these illusions. Everyday I leave my parents house where I still reside, drive to my low wage job, put on a uniform, apron, and hairnet and skewer fruit! I sure didn’t remember that in my dream. (I should add that my current occupation as a customer service rep at a local business is a miraculous improvement when compared to my old job—the one I’m sure violated the 13th amendment on so many levels. But that’s another story). So when do I get to change the world? When do I get to apply some of the things that I have learned? When do I get see the fruits of my labor (no pun intended).

Wouldn’t you know it, those darn sociologists have cooked up a term that describes my present predicament: the quarter life crisis. (Our society has a ready-made label for everyone and everything--but I digress!). The term is analogous to the mid-life crisis and is applied to the period of life ranging from ages 21 to 29. The Great Wikipedia describes the following as characteristics associated with the “crisis”.

• feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level (check)
• frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career (check)
• confusion of identity (I know who I am, I just don’t know where I’m going. ½ check)
• insecurity regarding the near future (Fat huge big check)
• insecurity regarding present accomplishments (yesterday I put together two fruit salads in under 7 minutes—okay that doesn’t count as an accomplishment. Check)
• re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships (Check)
• disappointment with one's job (Oh yeah, Check plus)
• nostalgia for university life (check)
• tendency to hold stronger opinions (my opinions have always been strong. No check on this one)
• boredom with social interactions (Ha, yesterday I discussed umm, shoes)
• financially-rooted stress (A million, million, million checks!)
• loneliness (all my friends live far away, tear drop slides down right cheek)
• desire to have children (I’m depressed NOT suicidal, what the heck!)
• a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you (because if you have any type of job, or attend any type of school you probably are. Sigh)

So what happened? I attribute crisis to my catch-22 (I am 22 years old for those who haven’t read my illustrious profile). See you go to school to get a degree so that you can get a good job. Then when you get out of school the world tells you that you need to have 2-3 years experience in order to earn a respectable living. Hmm, but you can’t get experience if no one will hire you and paradoxically no one will hire you if you don’t have experience. This is probably the reason that such severe underemployment exists in our economy. My present frustrations can be likened to those algebra problems you did in high school—the ones that take two hours and eight sheets of notebook paper to complete. Then after all your hard work you find out that the problem can’t be solved! That the answer is “no solution”! I grow increasingly disillusioned…Dear God, have mercy on me.

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