The quarterlife crisis

I have dreamed of this moment since I was 12-years-old. I would finally be a grown-up, free to go wherever I desired, be whoever I could possibly imagine. A decade later, I am months away from this glorious moment of graduation; however, the reality seems more bleak then I had hoped. With little drive to be anything in particular, I am significantly less enthused about my ensuing “freedom”. As students, we are made to appear as though we are prepared for life, but at times I have no idea what I’m doing.

This phenomenon is called the quarterlife crisis.

Many of us of are familiar with the midlife crisis – when our parents make youthful, irrational decisions to buy motorcycles or marry people significantly younger than themselves; however, the quarterlife crisis, which affects people ranging from 15 to 30, goes under the radar.

The book Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner, which was published in 2001, was the first to acknowledge the changing developmental issues of our generation.

We are a generation of children who have been pandered to by our hard-working parents who have wanted to give us the world. Consequently, we can have whatever we want and be whoever we want – the only thing is, how do we know what we want?

Contrasted to the wandering, directionless youth of the 1960s, iconicized through Benjamin Braddock’s character in The Graduate, our generation is one that has thrown away the comforts and routine of mundane suburban life, only to find that a metropolitan existence is one that is fairly empty and unfulfilling.

Having a significant period of time to focus on the self, therefore adopting rather selfish tendencies, can leave people feeling that their own purpose and meaning has much to be desired. One-night stands, corporate jobs and unlimited consumer spending have brought little value and personal reward to the youth of today.

Furthermore, our generation will take a longer time to “grow up,” ie. finding your dream career, buying a home, getting married and having children. Essentially, the transition into adulthood has lengthened, resulting in anxiety during our early and mid-20s, as there is little stability in our lives.

The anxiety and stress of the quarterlife crisis is not to be dealt with lightly, and is worthy of some serious attention. As students face extreme change upon graduation, it’s an important time to evaluate life, while the university has free resources to help you cope.

Finding your dream job

Looking for a professional position for the first time is daunting and extremely time consuming.  Tara Orchard, career consulting co-ordinator at Laurier’s Career Centre, said that there are things that students can actively be doing to find the right job.

“The bottom line is to figure out what you want to do,” said Orchard.

Laurier’s Career Centre has several resources, such as resume and cover letter critiques, and it also runs several workshops that continue into March and April. The Career Services website offers job postings, which include relevant postings for summer, graduating and alumni employment.

Orchard also recommends that students start networking and use new media to get ahead. Social networking sites such as www.linkedin.com, the Laurier Career Centre profile, blogging and twitter programs such as Laurier’s Career Chatter provide up-to-the-minute career opportunities.

“It’s about clarity, visibility and being active, and [online networking sites] are more useful for finding your professional job as opposed to finding whatever job comes around,” said Orchard.

While websites like workopolis.com, monster.com and eluta.com are all great places to begin, Orchard stressed that they are actually passive ways of job hunting.

Orchard recommends that you, “spend 25 per cent of your time on [Monster and Workopolis] type of job searches and job boards but then spend the rest of your time on more active job searching – so networking, connecting with people through social media and researching companies.”

All you need is 15 minutes a day to make contacts and actively pursue the career you have already worked so hard to get.

Getting personal advice

Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, said in an interview for Eye Weekly, a news and entertainment publication published in Toronto, “If you feel you’re in crisis, this is a great opportunity to draft a five-year plan with steady concrete goals to help you get to where you want to be. Anyone can transform their life in just a few years.”

It is possible to understand and overcome this period in life as long as you are willing to make changes and get help.

Laurier’s Counseling Services is a great place to start, as it is a free resource for students. Life coaching can help you prioritize and determine solid goals to provide more structure to your future. It’s also important to look to family and friends for support – in many cases, they are going through or have gone through something similar to you.

Professors and academic advisors are also available to discuss education opportunities and how to overcome many of the hardships students face throughout university.

At this age we are at a pivotal moment in our lives. This is a time that requires thought and evaluation, and we have to use all the information we have gained to make the best decisions for ourselves.

In order to get through this challenging time, be honest and open with yourself and your peers about what’s going on in your life and be active in wanting to change things.

It’s true that our generation has been handed life on a silver platter, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook the burden of opportunity.

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