Friday, April 11, 2008

Everyone Dies Alone

I regularly read well-heeled girl's blog. She recently wrote about being a 20-something year old and facing challenges, expectations, and questions about what the future may hold. Many commenters chimed in with their experiences feeling alone, wanting to stay on the academic path by enrolling for advanced degrees, and being uncertain about the future. Read it here.

(this was originally a blog comment, but it got long and mean, so it didn't quite fit in with the other comments.)

Yes - I feel overwhelmed and lonely sometimes with lots of questions about the future...

But these feelings aren't specific to Gen Y-ers, all young people in all eras have felt this way. I feel like articles that people write to define/compartmentalize/generalize young people are counter productive to actually -living life-. I do appreciate knowing that other people get down sometimes just like I do, but I don't like articles summing up generations because that feeds into "our" expectations.

For example, Meg commented on Well Heeled girl's entry that she was taught her whole life should be directed towards college...but where did this expectation come from? I know parents and role models are a huge factor, but I also think these articles and books are detrimental because they help reinforce "societal norms" like going to college (or being stick thin, or being heterosexual, etc). I often wonder what my life would be like on a remote island without all the social conditioning and definitions of "success" that mainstream media [read: advertisers] drown me in.

Anyways, getting into a great college and graduating is a short-term goal that is very helpful in life, but is just a means to the end. I had a blast in college - I met people, partied, learned stuff, and graduated with a double major in 3 years. But now I'm finished with that, I'm on to something new, I would hate to be stagnant and perpetually stuck with my 18-year old mindset. Looking to the future, I know that getting married, having kids, and living in my dream house aren't necessary for me to be happy. I'm weary of people who "always knew I wanted 2 girls and 1 boy".... because I wonder: you are going to shape your life around an idea you had when you were 8? I liked eating crayons when I was 8. C'mon!

Instead of looking outwardly into the world to see what options and paths are offered to me for a "happy" and a "fulfilling" life, maybe in being introspective and honest with myself, I can find my own path to happiness. I doubt there's a cookie cutter template of happiness for all people. I liked how Well Heeled girl has planned action-oriented steps and that she knows sad feelings are normal and mandatory in life. For a control freak like me, it helps to remind myself that I can't control what happens at the office, in the world, or how other people act/think, but I can temper my own thoughts and change my perspective (think positive). Also, it helps me to know that I am the one who decides when I'm at peace with something and I can take as much or as little time as I want.

For example, in the pf blogosphere - people routinely change their perspective to get out of debt. Instead of thinking that shopping or material things providing happiness and relief, people re-frame their thoughts to see that paying off credit card debt and watching their account balance numbers go up each month actually provides more happiness.

So in the quarter-life crisis context, instead of seeing a lonely/confusing time, I really do see being young as a precious time that should be enjoyed to the fullest and the height of opportunities and possibilities. It's great!

Here's a tidbit - an excerpt from the "quarter life crisis" wikipedia entry -

Characteristics of quarter-life crisis may include:

* feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level
* frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
* confusion of identity
* insecurity regarding the near future
* insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
* insecurity regarding present accomplishments
* re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
* disappointment with one's job
* nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
* tendency to hold stronger opinions
* boredom with social interactions
* loss of closeness to high school and college friends
* financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
* loneliness
* desire to have children
* a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

I wanted to add a botched Tony Robbins quote:

"Fear is a better motivator than desire, attractions, or potential rewards could ever be."


Johnathon said...

I read through this, a little bit ago. I like it.

Johnathon said...

It seems very insightful, and really feels like you put a lot of thought into it.