I’ve heard a lot lately about twentysomethings like myself who are just floating along after college and how that demographic is alarmingly on the rise. The New York Times, Mark Driscoll, Donald Miller, Wall Street Journal, as well as another fellow blogger, Kyle Reed, have all weighed in on the crisis. I feel it’s now time for me to jump into the deep waters of this murky swamp.
Admittedly, I fit into the group that defines the crisis at hand. I am in a one-year paid internship, I blog and am in search of the next great opportunity that romances my desire for adventure. I moved back home after graduation last summer to raise support for my internship and in a couple months hope not to be moving back, pending future employment. I have done something not so typical of the stereotypical twentysomething “guy” and that is move away from home and not to either Nashville or the LA/NYC scenes. Honestly, I’ve chosen something far less glamorous than that, but not so radical as join the Peace Corps. or Teach for America, but I digress.
In my first crack at this topic, I nearly butchered it, but my good friend Erik (as usual) helped me find my direction. The problem isn’t that we twentysomethings are refusing to grow up, it’s that we all were forced to “grow up” the moment we entered high school. College admittance has become competitive to the point that the day we enter high school, we’re reverse engineering our lives from 35 so that we’ve planned out the GPA we need to get into the college that offers us the right major and the best chance to get into the career we want. This is at age 14 (at least it was for me).
You have a bunch of new teenagers plotting over 20 years down the road when we haven’t even begun to experience arguably the most complicated stage of human development. No wonder there are heaps on stacks of twentysomethings reneging on the lives they planned out and just floating throughout this period of their lives. We never had a chance to be teenagers and college students and just enjoy the ride that is finding our identity in these years.
I’ve always been a late bloomer, so I hit this phase when I was 16. However, this was when my parents separated which I am in a sense grateful for in all honesty. The fact that they did eventually divorce is unfortunate, but personally, it took from me my very identity. Essentially, the core of how I defined myself was violently ripped from my soul and I was forced to examine with a fine-toothed comb exactly who I was (which I’m still doing over seven years later).
I spent high school running from my identity crisis only to run smack dab into it in college. It is only because of this disaster that I had the opportunity to look somewhat objectively at the madness that was my life and step back from the ledge that would have led me straight down into a career that I would have soon regretted. Few people seize this opportunity until they’re a few years out of college.
I have not experienced this phenomenon myself, but I think the great quarter-life crisis occurs like this. After a year or a few, people are jolted from their salary-induced status quo by some unpleasant stimulus (I suspect it’s different for everyone) and realize they missed out on their dreams, their very youth. They realize their best laid plans have failed to satisfy themselves and so they jump ship. They run to something, anything, more romantic than their current reality because frankly, it sucks. Their reality and their passion have become mutually exclusive and so, like the child dormant deep down inside, they flee to a sort of dream existence devoid of logic and meaning. There is another biting reality in store, however.
Life isn’t just a whim or a dream. Yes, we need to dream and dream big, but not every dream is worth following. This is why God gave us a brain. There is a happy medium that can be reached before you hit your thirties. That is, only if we take off the societal blinders we’ve so readily put on years ago.
So, yes, I agree we have a crisis on our hands, but it’s not for a lack, but a hyper sense of responsibility. Before it’s too late, we must realize that our identity is not rooted in our career or the college we went to, but the God who gave us the passions that He designed us to follow. Those passions do not fit neatly on a life chart or a career path. They are sometimes all over the map and do not make sense, but they must define our occupational future. If they do not, then what are we really following? Or, should I say whom..?