1/4 Time Crisis?
Someone sent me an article in the mail recently. It came (gasp) in an envelope, which had a stamp attached and my name written on it. The article was photocopied, and with it was a note that said something like this...
"My daughter, in her twenties, sent this to me, and told me that this is pretty much exactly how she and her friends feel..." The article is, "welcome to your quarterlife crisis". I'm not sure how I feel about the article, because I'm not sure how I feel about the now popular notion that people in their mid-twenties are facing a crisis, as if twentyfive is the new fifty when it comes to emotional health, in the same way that our new discoveries of olive oil, meditation, and exercise, are supposed to have turned fifty into the new thirty when it comes to physical health.
The author spells out the crisis at several levels; it's a career crisis because these people don't yet have a firm sense of direction; it's a relationship crisis because these people are marrying later; it's a money crisis because these people are amassing debt due to school loans, lust for travel, and a general void that's filled by spending. Here are the author's anecdotal illustrations of the angst:
He bikes to work at an advertising agency, where he uses his master’s in English to proofread ad copy, and spends several hours reading music blogs and watching movie trailers, periodically Twittering updates about his workday to his 74 followers. He doesn’t really hate his job, but feels as if his skin is crawling with vermin most of the time that he’s there, so he has a plan to move to Thailand, or to maybe write a book. Or go to law school.
At her government job, she instant messages her friends and mostly ignores the report she’s drafting because she’s planning on quitting anyway — and has been planning to quit for about a year now. She spends her lunch hour buying boots that cost slightly more than her rent, then immediately regrets it.
The article goes on to talk about the multi-faceted nature of the crisis, concluding by offering support resources ranging from credit counseling, to social networking, to career counseling. I finished reading the article, and immediately wanted to share several musings for your feedback and reaction.
1. Does the fact that things have changed mean that this is a crisis? Maybe, but I'm not sure. OK, so people are marrying later now than they were when I was in college. When I was in college, my generation was marrying later than when our parents did. And the generation before that was even earlier. Debt? It's the same story. We carried more than our parents, and now our kids carry more than us. Part of me thinks this crisis is the product of baby-boomer's self-obsession. We're so self-referential that we think generations who don't do it like we did are somehow missing the mark. Narcissus would be proud of us, but I'm not sure this pathology even exists. Many, many of my friends in their twenties, though they've rejected the boomer's obsessions with upward mobility, and are often ambivalent about 'settling down', have a commitment to serving this broken world and making a difference that was decidely lacking in we, their parents. So perhaps we who are older need to lighten up and celebrate a new generation of adults who want to live meaningful, creative lives, and whose commitments to that make them marry a little later, change jobs a bit more often, and have a few more adventures. Personally, I admire and respect this new generation. Their energy, creativity, and authenticity inspire me.
2. On the other hand, it's possible that I'm idealizing this new generation and completely missing the mark. Maybe they are, in fact, self-absorbed, commitment phobic, and lacking any kind of ethical north star to ground them in commitments. It's even possible that both observations are true; there's greatness and new challenges.
3. If the artcile has any measure of accuracy, I'd want to offer the following bits of advice to this emerging generation:
A. I don't blame you for being a bit commitment shy, considering what we, your parents did to the notion of marriage, not to mention our propensity to put 'cash first', with the result that we sometimes remained stuck in soul sucking careers as means of paying homage to our pursuit of the "good life" (mortgage, vacations, blah blah blah). However, the truth remains that it's there are some elements of our souls that will only ripen in the context of profound commitments like buying a house (commitment to place), getting married (commitment to intimacy), and commitment to your faith community (commitment to Jesus' mission). Don't just DO any of these things because of social pressures, but don't run from any of these things either. There's a need, at some point, to jump in the water.
B. A rich storehouse of intimacy with Christ, and an ordering of life according the time honored practices of the faith, provide a rich center, out from which direction and guidance will come. Become a traveler of these ancient paths and you're more likely to be Gandalf at the end of your story than Gollum.
There's more that could be said, but I wrote primarily to hear from you, so please help me by responding:
1. Is this quarter life crisis real?
2. How does it show up?
3. What can we who are older offer?