Published on February 19th, 2013 | by Max Metzger5
The quarter life crisis: Why your life is crap
Post-university blues getting you down? Unemployed? Living at home? The quarter life crisis is upon you.
Stewing in front of Jonathan Ross’s late night televised jowls was probably not what you imagined post-graduate life to be like. Perhaps it was your university chancellor’s graduation speech, declaring you the leaders of tomorrow that filled you with all that hope. Or the idea of having a successful career, dreamt up last summer whilst slaked with cheap beer, on holiday in a former soviet nation. Either way, the quarter life crisis is upon us and it’s not looking pretty.
A whole swathe of graduates now appear to be living half formed lives, lives that they weren’t expecting, let alone promised. Maybe this is poetic justice for a generation that not only invented the word amaze-balls, but probably only learnt to shower because they realised they could also masturbate in it as well. Ah, tender youth.
The 2o-something life we expected was always going to be elusive. And although there are some who grew up in time and moved into maturity and proper adulthood, for many of us, this period of life looks like it might stretch on. For those who have already found success and fulfilment, this is not for you. You are not welcome here. Please leave…
For those who remain. Here’s a loose but frank description of the pit you now inhabit, and perhaps a way out of it.
Where there were once accessible jobs, there is now a sprawling glut of aborted adults, each with a half price degree, stepping on the last one’s face on their race to the bottom. There are now 56 applicants for every graduate job, compared with 31 in 2008, and employers are turning away anyone who got lower than a 2:1 at the door.
Then there are the underemployed, those who work for nothing. This is perhaps the closest to a real job that many can expect. Josh, 22, an Oxford graduate, is now an intern in bicycle logistics. Despite initially “giving up a living wage in order to get great experience to further my future career,” Josh has since found a better description for his situation: “getting paid fuck all money for no experience…I gave up a decent wage for nothing in return.”
How were we to know that ‘Viking studies’ was to be of no use?
Until now, life has been purposeful, or at least punctuated by a series of lovely certificates, each one rewarding you for your effort and intelligence. How were we to know that ‘Viking studies’ was to be of no use? 55% of those who graduated in 2011 are now unemployed or in menial jobs and that number is supposed to grow for those who graduated in 2012.
Lily, 23, a Londoner who finished university six months ago, spends her nights in Soho, shovelling grub and alcohol into the mouths of rabid yuppies. It is no wonder then that she has resigned education to “a complete fucking waste of time.”
After the louche but purposeful years of university, taking off the training bra of exams and free money. and letting the bountiful bosoms of real life swing in the breeze is something many find difficult.
Seb Baird, 23, head of Oxford University’s Mind Your Head campaign mentioned that while people consider university as a crucial developmental stage “we should focus as much on the transition from education to the wider world: many young people, especially in a harsh economic environment, feel pressured to consolidate their identity, decide their life direction, and to prove their self sufficiency.” One in four graduates experience depression, and suicide remains the biggest killer of young men in the UK. There are fears that it has worsened with economic downturn and cuts to mental health services. Faced with this, it might be easier to retreat from reality.
Back in your living room, the TV isn’t helping but vicarious living seems to be the only kind available at the moment. Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, says that TV serves as a surrogate for every other kind of gratification, one which anyone can live through. Studies show that given enough isolation and TV, people will look for relationships of any kind, even false ones. Many find basking in the glow of that 2D womb deeply comforting, and who wouldn’t? On TV, sickness, unemployment or malaise never last for more than an hour.
We should blame the deceptively affable Ross, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey and Chandler – they promised you a life of cool apartments, comical unemployment and regular sex. They are not your real friends. You may fool yourself, uttering the words – “I’m such a Monica”, but despair follows on its heels. You are not Monica. You are Alice. From Chipstead. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Film is life with the dull bits cut out.”
The quarter life crisis has no credit rating and is thus, easy to dismiss
The quarter life crisis has gone largely unnoticed in mainstream media. Lewis, 23, said that this is because, as opposed to “a social recognition of midlife crises” in which “there are economic advantages – a 35-year-old is depressed, he buys a Porsche on credit,” those suffering from a quarter life crisis don’t have a credit rating and are thus, easy to dismiss.
Things aren’t all bad – the number of graduates applying for each job has fallen from a high of 83 in 2011 and is still decreasing. Grim unemployment figures often come with calls for the government to spend more to stimulate job growth. Anyone who took part in Stop The Cuts campaigns may yet be vindicated. On top of this, the coalition’s unpaid work scheme has been deemed unlawful, hopefully a sign for the future.
The quarter life crisis can also be a good thing according to Dr Oliver Robson. While it is characterised by anxiety and depression about the future, it’s also the burnt ground from which a new life can start in earnest. ‘Hang in there’ may be a trite cliché, but is nevertheless applicable.
Remember, no risk no reward. You must not isolate yourself but face shame, pain and humiliation with a shit-eating smile because that’s what the workplace and life in general, requires. “Give me all the shit” you must say, “I must have it all.” Vicarious living is for the old, so get out of your house, away from the television and off the computer. It might be easier to live someone else’s life but it’s also pathetic.
Above all, anybody who tells you that these are the ‘best days of your life’ should be met with a swift kicking.
Photo: ralph and jenny via Flickr, Sander ver dan Wel