Friday, March 3, 2017

On Turning 20: confessions of a Quarter Life Crisis

The day I’ve been dreading has finally come: my 20th birthday. I’m currently suffering from a bad bad bad birthday depression and all day I’ve been like, please don’t congratulate me on something I did not consciously achieve. What’s there to celebrate on a birthday, really? The fact that I managed to survive for the past 20 years? There’s not much competence needed for that, just a breathing body. Okay, maybe my life has been a bit more enervating than being exclusively in a vegetative state, yet there’s still not much to celebrate.

I had grown to love the age 19: old enough to be considered an adult (although not in the exact same way as 18 year olds are generally considered, which is, as an adult by law but a child in every other perspective) and to be seen as an independent human being, yet young enough to be allowed to dream but not required to turn those dreams into actions. It is the age of having the best of both worlds. When turning 20, everything changes. Turning 20 is being on the eve of real life. Some might still be under the illusion that adulthood will turn out the way they had imagined for themselves, others might wonder: “Is this it? Is this life?” Unfortunately I’ve learned too much about life already to know that the answer is yes, this is it. This is all and nothing more, but perhaps even less. Somewhere around the age of 20 everyone will come to realize that adults’ favorite quotation (“everything is going to be harder and more complicated when you grow up”) is not some melodramatic outburst of jealousy on youth, no, it’s solid truth.

Ever since I was very young, I was quite a dreamer and terribly ambitious. So ambitious that my mom recently confessed that her and dad were quite concerned about those ‘ambitions’ of my younger self, as they were unsure how to break it to a little girl that it is not guaranteed that those dreams will come true – at least not as easy as children tend to believe. Even if someone would have ever tried to explain the truth about adulthood to me then, I am unsure if I would have believed it – I would most likely contribute such a pessimistic view on life to one’s disappointments in his own life. In contrast, I was continuously praised for being sooooo ambitious, and god, she is going to make it when she’s older! Those praises were reinforced by my own constant success in my academic life and beyond, so naturally it never crossed my mind that something could stop me. But when 20 came, it’s suddenly not OK to dream about the future anymore. The future is here. If you want to achieve any of those dreams, you gotta work for it and it starts today. You got to be realistic about those dreams. There’s not enough time, there will never be enough time, so choices have to be made. What if you fail? Soon time will be gone, soon you will be too old to do certain things. I feel like I soon will be 30, and many people will feel that this is an exaggeration, but those people probably don’t have the same plans for those ten years as I have. I grew up believing that when you’re a grown-up, you can pretty much decide on your whole life the way you want it to be: where you’re going to life, what job you’re going to have…but for most of the time, it’s not up to you. And as you can’t have everything, choices must be made. I never had to make truly hard choices in my life, as there was never really a choice to me, there was never really more than one option. I always knew exactly what and how I wanted something. But now every choice seems like a loss of something else. I just don’t know how to arrange my life. One day I feel like just quitting everything, at another I want to achieve all and everything even if that means not sleeping and working myself to death, there’s just no in-between.

I wrote about achievement and failure before, read it here: La La Land

While life always went along at a convenient pace for me, something changed after I graduated from high school. Of course I had noticed that time seemed to pass a lot quicker than it had in elementary school, but I never felt that it needed to slow down – I was always a long time already ready for the next chapter in my life before I had finished the previous, so time couldn’t go quicker for me. Even now. Yet when I turned 18, things got out of hand. Suddenly I had much more obligations and other things on my mind and on my To Do-list than I had time for and I felt as if time was slipping through my fingers like water – I was desperately trying to grab it, but I couldn’t hold on to it. I turned 20 today yet I am pretty sure I celebrated my 19th a few months ago. Has it been twelve already?

I’m just not keeping up with everything lately. There’s too much I want to do, too much I need to do that I do not want (at the expense of the time I could spend on things I do want), too little time and too little money. That’s another major issue: money. Even if I would have enough time, I would not have enough money. The time-money issue is one that has bothered me ever since high school: if I would work a lot and earn a lot of money, I would not have time to spend it. If I would not work much, I would have enough time to do all, but not the money to do anything. It’s not that I don’t want to work – I do want to work, I just find it unfair that I’ll most likely not have the time to spend it on things that I want. I’m not much into material things, but in most jobs I won’t be able to travel around for too long each year, would I? It sucks big-time! Much in the same way that a lot of the good food is unhealthy and makes you fat. Why is that? No good divine power would think of something so evil!

So here I am today, pretty sure I’m struggling with a Quarter Life Crisis. My view on my own position on my life span is completely messed up: I feel terribly old, as if the big 30 will be here in no time, while at the same time I feel too young and too lost to be able to achieve anything yet. So much is expected of me, not in the least place by myself. I’m terribly tired, both physically and mentally, of all the things I need and want to do, squeezed into the small amount of time that I’ve got. I want to learn so many things, go to college, acquire new skills, travel to a dozen of countries, live in a comfortable place, have a family, make money – all while I’m young, in a time where I’m expected to get good grades, do volunteering things to improve my resume, have a side job to earn some extras, spend quality time with family and friends, make sure my house is clean and tide, be in a stable relationship, do sports, eat healthy, take care of myself, enjoy my time in college by doing fun stuff, travel a lot (as we’re supposed to have a lot of time left compared to older ages, which is even more frightening!), oh and I need to have hobbies, too – it’s just too much! I wish I could take it easier but then I would feel like I’m wasting my years, you’ve only got only one life for god’s sake! You’re gonna die one day and soon you’ll be pretty much forgotten. The fact that life’s short and unique haunts me every day and makes me feel as if I need to use my time as efficient as possible and I often only do things because I am afraid I will regret it if I miss the chance. Yet because I have so much on hands, I often completely shut down and do nothing instead. Isn’t that ironic?

When I shut down, both physically and mentally tired, not able to get anything done, I usually break my head over one single question: WHY? Why would I do all this? Why do I need to do all this? What’s the whole freaking point? Then I suddenly don’t care about anything anymore. By overthinking everything and to where it stands in life makes it impossible to find the joy in it, even in things that I had enjoyed before. Like, I love traveling, but I can’t afford it in a time that I’m still in college yet if I will work a full time job someday I won’t have the time to travel, how do people even travel? When I still could dream freely (without having to think about the practical issues), I could get excited about literally every country, but now I never get the same feelings again and keep wondering why I ever got excited about something that now seems so meaningless. I also like spending time with friends, yet all my friends at least have their own lives and like different things than I do so sometimes we just do the mainstream things that no one could really hate yet no one truly enjoys. Now I sometimes can’t even move myself to invest in my social life, because I feel like no one really cares anyway and I wonder, do I?

Whatever I do in my life, it feels useless. Life is just about surviving. All you do (at least all that society wants you to do) is just to give your own life more security on the long term. All you got to do is work your butt off so you can keep yourself alive now and so you don’t have to starve to death when you’re all old and wrinkly. Every freaking day is the same. You go from weekend to weekend, from vacation to vacation, hasting through your life without truly living. Some people see no harm in that, but I just don’t know how to escape the path that society has paved for us. If you don’t go to college, you won’t find a convenient job and you will be poorer than you could have been later on. Oh, and it will be a damned waste of your perfectly fine set of brains if you don’t go to college, too. Society says, just get kids to get some satisfaction out of your own poor life. The kid didn’t ask to be in this world and to deal with the same unfairness that you have to deal with, but at least it will satisfy your mind a bit to spend all your time and energy on another person’s life, as if your own life will suddenly become purposeful now in some way (Is this why Christians dedicate their own life to God?)

Maybe I want too much. Call me spoiled. But I will only agree that a quarter life crisis is a first world, 21st century problem. I’m pretty sure people who’s basic provisions aren’t guaranteed don’t care for how they fill in their life on the long term, as the existence of that same life is not even so sure. Just like some people from previous generations in the first world: my parents grew up in poor families and worked their butt of to make sure their kids didn’t have to grow up just as poorly as themselves. They didn’t even think about it, they just went with the flow. They went to college because it’s what everyone did and it was the way to ensure yourself and your offspring a convenient life. They never questioned anything. They went to college, went home, had fun with friends, worked in a side job on the weekends, and that’s all, but all of that was better than what they’d ever known before. If you, like me, grew up in a comfortable and safe environment, real life isn’t better than what you had when you were younger. It’s like suddenly going from a baby pool where your feet can still touch the ground into the deep tub. Yes, you are able to swim, but you’re not a fish. You can’t swim in there forever. After a while you need your feet to touch the bottom again or else you’ll drown.

The funniest, literally most hilarious part of a quarter life crisis is that no one will deny any of the thoughts you have about life. Truth is the main problem here and no one knows how to solve that problem. A ‘solution’ may be either acceptance or ignorance, as when you will just try and live and ignore the ugly truth (I think I finally get why religion can be so satisfying – it totally legitimize ignoring life’s truths). I’m sure this is all just a phase that I will overgrow once I have accepted everything, yet it may come too late so that all I’ll need to accept is that I’ve wasted so much time on being clueless. Some older people may say: just live, just do what you’ve got to do, just go with the flow, just don’t overthink it, accept it. Am I supposed to do that and ignore all that I know now? Do I have to become a zombie and exist without truly living? What is truly living anyways? In short, I believe that truly living, or at least the purpose of life, is to fully deploy and develop yourself and your talents, but strings of society don’t allow you to do that. You’re not being awarded for doing that. All you get to develop are your talents that will benefit society as a whole, which is, talents that will bring you a job so you will be useful in the economy. I’m not lazy, at least not mentally, and I want to learn. I want to learn a lot about a lot of things and acquire a lot of different skills. But society wants you to focus on a single field and become an expert in that field so you’re ready to work as an expert in that field. And even if there would be a college where you could learn whatever you’d like to learn, I would most likely not even want to go there, because it wouldn’t prepare you for a job in this society. I just feel like I don’t belong in this society.

I love to blog because on my blog freedom is boundless. I could literally write everything and about everything I feel like. I can even write 3,5 pages unstructured text about my quarter life crisis, regardless if anyone would read it. Yet again I sometimes think: why would I do this? Yes, it’s for fun but it takes up a large amount of time and energy (which is problematic now I seem to have so little of it) and it will never provide for me. I don’t want to turn myself into a brand. When I even started to question something that I love doing the most, I knew that the way my life is going is terribly wrong. I’m just not sure how to make it right, and I’m not sure if acceptance/ignorance will make it any less wrong.

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    you write for people to know they're not alone with this exact feeling ❤️

  2. Nog gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!! xxx

  3. Nog gefeliciteerd! Leuk om te lezen <3


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