Quarter-Life Something: How Do We Measure Success? David Dean

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about how 40 is the new 30, and that late 20-somethings/early 30-somethings these days have different decisions to make than our parents did: marriage, mortgage, degree, job, etc. All of those decisions were made right out of college, or in their early 20s.

Now, kids are taking five years to graduate, more are going to grad school, most are scared of commitment and in general, no one wants to make their own decisions. Is it that 20-somethings now are lazy? Is it that we take our time to really figure out life, or is that just an excuse to not feel lame about not taking life serious? Does it take longer now to figure out what direction one wants to go in than the allotted time of high school and college (excluding trust fund “adults”)? Does it take all of our 20s to make that decision, and if so, shouldn’t that be taken seriously?

In high school, you were supposed to work hard to figure out where you wanted to go to college. In college, you were supposed to work hard and figure out what you wanted to with your life. After college, you were supposed to work hard and, well, work hard, climb the ladder, move to the metro (you always heard taking the subway was cool) and by the time you’re in your mid-30s,, you will be making six figures, I mean, you have to be – you wrote it down on your goal list after graduation. If everything goes just like people told you (parents, counselors, etc.) it should go, then you should be right on track to an early 40-something suicide.

I think adults – and by that, I mean the late 20- and young 30-somethings I’ve been referring to – are actually smarter than any before. We are not following the mainstream, we are taking our time. And maybe I actually want to be an artist – sorry, Mom and Dad, for the money spent on that marketing degree. I want to go to film school just because. I want to start my own company, I have an idea, and I think it might work. I want to wait tables and not do anything for a few years… is that okay?

I will admit it’s hard not be influenced by the generation. The independent feeling that makes you feel like a sell out, if you sell out. I think we have to be the most creative generation, or is that just media (mostly social) telling me so? With things like Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, social networking, anything new media, the Nick D’Aoisio (Google him, it’s admiring and painful), tumblr blogs about memes getting multiple thousands of hits, all of it makes me think I should be contributing something. What can I do that’s cool? Wait, I don’t want to be cool, I just want to be different. Wait, I don’t want to be different, I just want to shop at American Apparel. Wait…. I just don’t want to work.

If you don’t want a real job, then don’t get one, or just get one and write about how bad it sucks on some blog on some site and someone might read it from some computer. I’ve never written a blog. Oh wait, is this is a blog? So I’ve done it. I’ve done it all from an internet café listening to Frank Ocean and wearing my outfit that makes me feel so anti-hipster (it’s hipster) with my cash crop, the laptop.

Either way, it’s not back to the office for me tomorrow, I’m almost 31 and I’m a little confused, and maybe, just maybe, this blog, this site, will be the first of many, and then maybe my clothing line will get picked up, and then maybe…. well, forget it. I have to be at work early, and the rent doesn’t pay itself. Maybe next time.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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  1. There are sooo many people who talk about crisis – any crisis, at any age and under any circumstances that it makes me feel like people are looking for a sort of an excuse for things they might have or could have done. It’s not like I don’t sit down with my thoughts at all and never complain about anything. I just start thinking that the key to anything is doing or not doing (which is helpful at a point). It’s not about our parents or friends or anybody else. It’s about us when we face a problem of being not sure whether we wanna do this exact thing in our life! I do have doubts about my future, my job, my husband (if I get one) as well but I try not to give too much time and effort to this whole figuring-out process otherwise I’ll get stuck in my mind searching for the truth without a penny in my pocket and potentially lost life opportunities!
    P.S. Thank you for giving me another reason to think the matter over once again! Love this article! :)

  2. By no means do I think my/our/younger generation is lazy. I do think older generations might label us as so, but that’s fine, that’s the point of generations, they change. The most important thing, I think, is to follow your gut, follow your heart, word extremely hard and believe in yourself. No matter what you are doing, if you do all those things, all will work out the way it’s supposed to. And yes, sometimes I feel like this quarter-life crisis will last all the way to my mid-life crisis and then basically it’s just a life-crisis! Don’t let ANYONE stop you from you’re dreams are/is, and go for it. And one more time, believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Big hugs to each of you!

  3. Bless you for this post. I’m 21 and am about to graduate from University I’m so scared about what I’m going to do with my life and there are all these different pressures to figure it out but I’m not ready yet.

  4. At 33, I get it. My quarter-life crisis has lasted 8 years.

  5. I don’t think it’s that today’s twentysomethings are lazy. We grew up in a time where it was pressed upon us that we could be and do anything we wanted, and that we didn’t have to stay in the same town we grew up in and marry our high school sweethearts the way that our grandparents did. We are told we have all of these options and, honestly, sorting through them can be overwhelming. Some people take longer to decide which path is right for them, some know what path is right for them but have to work harder to achieve it. And then there’s the fact that the economy has been in a downward spiral since I was 18.

    I think it’s all about finding the right balance between what will make you the happiest and what is the most realistic.

  6. Great perspective! I fall into the late 20s category. I just graduated college and landed my first big kid job. After years of bartending and procrastinating making a decision about my life direction, I’ve finally become an adult. Or have I? Three months into my new career, I find myself wanting to change course. I’m seriously contemplating becoming a high school teacher instead of following my current path as a marketing professional. Your post really hit a chord with me because of this.

  7. This definitely speaks to me.

  8. This is great. Thank you.

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