Being a contemporary 20 something sparks quarter life crisis

Elijah Alexander

Contributor

ealexand@unca.edu

I really need someone to slug me directly in the windpipe, because that punch sounds more tantalizing than considering the trajectory of my life in this economy.

Though it seems somewhere in your early 20s life’s biggest questions are asked if they haven’t already been decided for you.

What  are your career goals? Are you seeing anyone? Do you want to stay here or make a move there? Are you going to grad school? Are you on LinkedIn?

My answer is “NO” to all those questions, except I did make a LinkedIn and you should connect with me. I am a few weeks shy of graduating from a college you’ve never heard of with a degree that sparked a fire in my mind and will put mere pennies into my wallet.

I am privileged to have lived a fruitful college life filled with travels, flings and a deeper understanding of the world we live in; but the world I’ve come to understand is now what terrifies me.

Many like myself are attempting to enter a professional world that is more competitive than ever, with exorbitant amounts of debt, minuscule wealth and little assets, according to a Federal Reserve study released last November.

Home and rental prices are increasing around the country, while household incomes remain stagnant. Illustration by Ben Toub

Home and rental prices are increasing in cities around the country, while household incomes remain stagnant for young families, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. There was a time within the last 20 years where you could move to that big city with $1500 and a dream and be able to survive for a few months. Those days are over and a grand won’t even cover your security deposit.

We live in a more educated generation than ever before, but the promise of wealth and social mobility remain in question. I know too many late 20s bartenders with college degrees. Even the American Democratic party’s It girl, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a bartender just a year ago. Though she was able to pursue politics, the demand for those with professional degrees in journalism, law and academia have fizzled.

The dream is sold to young people in America to go to college, discover and pursue a passion and find out how you can wear a pantsuit everyday.

I am graduating college wishing I knew less about the social construction of reality and more about indoor plumbing or the mechanics of my 2003 Toyota Camry.  

As I paint the future as a dystopia, I recognize my own cynical mindset. The deterministic nature of the early-mid 20s can lead one into a quarter-life crisis, a feeling of helplessness surrounding pressure to succeed in jobs, relationships and finances before your 30s.

Some people in the span of their 20s fully “adult” with a spouse, possibly a child and strive toward a career they find valuable. Another person effortlessly travels the world filled with freedom and wanderlust.

One thing for sure is their lives are being beautifully crafted on social media platforms with a pervasiveness that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The constant intake of others seemingly successful life can deepen the anxieties associated with emerging adulthood exacerbated by the economic insecurity that plagues my generation.

I don’t have a finite plan just yet and people say I don’t need one. I have some time before my quarter life crisis really hits but I am still faced with the murky economic swamp tainting my ambitions. At least I have some floaties.

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