Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Struggle is Real (Real Stupid)

There is a time in everyone's life - usually between ages 25 & 27 - where we think we are failing at life. Not just a little fail, but an epic fail. Chances are, we are settling into what we believe may be our career for the rest of our working life - and chances are, we probably aren't keen on that idea. We are dating the person we could potentially marry - and we may not necessarily be super excited about that either. Our friends are getting married, they're having babies. We spend a lot of time at wedding and baby showers, and a lot of money on bridesmaid dresses and bachelorette parties. If we are in college, we're probably rounding towards the end of a degree, about to graduate and be part of the Real World. We're starting to realize that it is not responsible to quit a job before we have another one, that a 401k is something we actually will need someday, that we should probably have more than six dollars in a savings account. We realize that we can't pay for everything with a credit card, and that coupons are sometimes necessary. We learn - usually through a pregnancy scare with someone we cannot imagine raising a human with - that we need to use a condom every time (sadly, this is also when we learn that we have to use said condom from the beginning if a baby is to be fully prevented). We realize, after putting on 15 pounds seemingly overnight, that we have to go to the gym and that we can't live on ramen noodles, and that we have to wear bras in public. We come to learn that we were sheltered as children and that our families are more fucked up than we ever thought. We learn a lot when we're 25. And some of it is hard to digest.

Age 25: The Year of the Quarter Life Crisis

Here's the thing. Some of us experience milder cases of the QLC. Mild enough that we forget it happened. And then when our younger friends experience it, we write it off, tell them to get the fuck over it, make them feel like they're just being whiny bitches. A lot of life happens between 25 and 30, and it lets us forget about the struggle of being 25.

But the struggle is real. For those of us who, at 25, are single and without children, working in bars, living in tiny apartments with roommates, watching all of our friends get married, get jobs with daytime hours, get pregnant, the struggle of the QLC is very real. And we are the ones who remember - and can offer a listening ear - it when our younger friends fall victim to it.

When I was 25, I had just graduated college and taken a month-long trip to Australia, where I spent a ton of money, saw things I'd never seen, and had epic life experiences that I will remember forever. I was working in a bar, living in an apartment, and I was dating guys who were so much fun - and so far from The Guy for Me. Don't get me wrong, I was happy. I was having a great time, had great friends, and was making decent money for a part time job. I didn't have paid time off, I had no money in savings, I lived off cash tips, I wasn't planning a wedding or trying to make babies, and I wasn't committed to anything happening more than 3 weeks past today. All I wanted to do was travel, drink, have sex, and sleep in - and not necessarily in that order.

And then I turned 26. All hell broke loose. What was I doing with my life? I was working part time at a job with no security and weird hours, I had no money and lived off of cash tips. I wasn't dating The Guy for Me, and I was having too much irresponsible fun. I was having sex, but I wasn't planning a wedding or making babies. I lived in a tiny apartment and wasn't saving for a down payment on a house. I had a car payment and owed student loans, and I had debt to my mom & dad. I was dreaming of vacations to foreign countries, when clearly I should have been at home, getting my fucking shit together. My proverbial duckies, were not at all in a row. FUCK!

After 25 but before 30, we start being bombarded with all of the SHOULDs; what we should be doing, where we should be living, what we should have accomplished. We start to feel the pressure, start to feel like because we aren't getting married and making our 2.5 kids in our starter home with a white picket fence, we are doing something very wrong. We begin to feel like we are failing. Our world is crumbling because even though we may feel happy and successful, we aren't where we should be. And if we're not where we should be, we're not happy and successful, obviously. Because really, at 25, we are sheep. And sheep are supposed to follow the other sheep. So since we aren't doing what we should be doing, we are failing at being a good sheep.

The thing about the Quarter Life Crisis though, is that it really is all about perspective. That's the part we don't learn til we're 30. When we turn 30, we stop worrying about what we should have been doing for the past five years, and begin to be able to focus on what we want to be doing now. We stop caring that all of our friends are married and have their 2.5 kids. We stop being concerned about mortgages and realize that home ownership is a bitch and sometimes not worth it. We look back on our abusive relationships, our heartbreaks, our bruised credit scores and our slowly growing savings accounts, and we realize that we're fine. We're happy. We don't need those things to make happiness and success for us; our happiness and success is right here waiting for us to open our eyes and see it. We realize that if something doesn't work, we don't have to do it. We can change anything we want to, in the pursuit of happiness. Marriage, babies, and a picket fence is what sheep think they need to be happy - because we are programmed from birth to think that that's what we should have. I'm not a sheep. I don't need that. I don't want that. I want companionship, sex, sleep, and a roof over my head. Those things may not come in the form of husband, child, and mortgage, and that's just fine. By the time we make it to 30, we realize that all we're really after is a purpose, a reason to get out of bed other than the need to pee, and someone to laugh with on a long drive.

And once we realize that we've made it through the struggle - that we've survived the QLC - we can dive into life head first, proverbial duckies strewn about, without order or purpose, and just do what makes us the happiest. My duckies are all over the place, but my duckies are happy. Do more of what makes you happy; it really is just that simple.