One moment you’re sitting in hostel, burning the midnight oil while gorging on half-cooked Maggi mixed with Dominos’ oregano for flavour; books open for that dissertation you’re so ambitiously preparing for and the next you’re sitting in your shiny new job in office wondering where the hell your life is headed; only to come back late to our rented rooms with a mattress on the floor, to take recourse in the instant cooked noodles you have come to bank upon as one of the few constants in life.
As 20-somethings, young adults feel the need to get their life sorted together and fast. To match the image we have formed of ourselves as young, successful adults, many are increasingly finding themselves wading instead in the sluggish mire of confusion, fogged over by certain hazy ideas of what it means to be successful.
And the established pattern of a proper life dictated by society is this – childhood, school, college, job, buying a house, marriage, having kids, prodding the kids towards academics, then retiring and living comfortably while tending to our vegetable patches.
This is exactly the pattern more and more millennials are straying from, with their ‘we-live-only-once-so-make-it-larger-than-life’ attitude which can’t adapt to the idea of life fizzling out with just a domesticated life and kids.
Most of us are in an in-between phase between adulthood and adolescence.
But we don’t have anyone to tell us that it’s completely okay to take time to figure out what we want to do. In the push to get great grades in school, getting into a good college and then a well paying career, we suddenly find ourselves at this crossroads where we are considered and expected to act like ‘adults’ when what we really are, is something in between.
Coming to terms with the disillusionment regarding adulthood is tough, and needs understanding.
Fed on a steady diet of academics, which we were led to believe is the path to a great career and a great life, we are tossed into the fray of adulthood fresh out of college to find to our dismay that the world won’t be handed to us on a platter. We have a hard time dealing with the reality that our Utopic vision of a world of innumerable possibilities is not valid when we come to terms with handling a job, living without a family, bad food, paying the bills and making the slow climb to where we want to be.
It’s no longer about being in a stable, secure job. The new milennial is actually caught between his flowery, comfort net of what was going to be and what actually is. We are convinced that monotony is an evil and motion, constant dynamic motion is the key to whizzing forward in life.
Social media doesn’t make things easier, as it raises expectations even higher.
Switch on your phone and right from morning our senses are assaulted with social media feed of what our peers are up to. Walk in to work and switch on your laptop to a dozen notifications on how your batch-mate got a new internship at a fancy company or how that school mate in pigtails is now married.
“But how did they get that internship?!”
“How did she get married at just 25? That’s too young!”
The set pattern of getting married in the 20s and raising a family is both considered something as accomplishing a major life goal as well as an anachronism from the past, “But she’s so young!”
The pressure to compete with our peers thanks to social media is coupled with a paralysing fear of failure. This anxiety gives rise to identity issues, like what really makes us happy? What is that perfect job?
There’s this urgency to accomplish as much as we can before, as Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clarke University in Worcester puts it, ‘the age 30 deadline’.
We want to travel, we want to have fun, we want to bungee jump off the highest cliff, meet new people, have multiple romantic partners before we pick the one. This constant vacillation between what should be, what’s expected of you and what you want to do has us stuck in a rut.
Wistfully we look back towards when things were simpler as adolescents, with no responsibilities. We switch jobs faster, opting to go back to college in the middle. We are stuck in between growing up and adulthood.
In an effort to act ‘grown up’, we end up second guessing our decisions.
As adults, socialising now is going out for a drink or two, and in the haze of smoke and clink of glasses is this vague feeling of discontent which you can’t quite put your finger on. Your idea of pitching a tent in the middle of your room is more likely to raise eyebrows than garner enthusiasm for such a ‘childish’ idea.
As a result, we second guess our decisions more and more. Was that outburst really necessary? We could have handled it in a more ‘mature manner’. It’s up to us to handle our finances in a more responsible manner. Buying that expensive action figure which cost a third of you salary may not have been a very ‘grown up’ move.
Don’t rush it, just live.
Just because you’re expected to act in a certain manner, doesn’t mean you have to. In our mad dash we forget that life isn’t something we can force, it just is. Every individual has their own pace of growing up and getting things done. If we aren’t present in the moment to perceive and learn and let life teach us the essentials, rather than forcing ourselves to behave in a way which doesn’t come naturally to us, we become this odd amalgamation of forced and spontaneous behaviour.
In the end, life isn’t about getting a fancy job or a car as a means to validate your worth, it’s really about what makes you happy and let’s you be well, you.
If that means screaming gleefully and running around in circles every time it rains or buying piles of candy, so be it.
You’re already here and you’re battling it out, which takes a lot of courage. So take a break, you’ve earned it. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 27 or 25, pitch that tent right in the middle of your room whenever you need to.