Friday, May 18, 2007

Quarter Life Crisis

My wife just told me about meeting with some other staff and faculty members (she teaches at Berklee College of Music where you can be hip, young and have a full time job) who were talking about their “quarter life crisis.”

Seems Abby Wilner coined the phrase in 1997 and, with Alexandra Robbins, co-authored the first book to identify this phenomenon: 'Quarterlife Crisis, the Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties'(Tarcher, 2001).

Quarter life crisis? Get a life. You’re a baby.

I do remember, however, being earnest at 27 thinking deep thoughts about my future. How would I make significant impact in my world? Turns out I had three children and dumped about three thousand dirty diapers into landfills, burned thousands of gallons of gas going to and from soccer/baseball/playdates. I’m right there with Al Gore and the shame with over consumption. Try to get an eleven year old to shut off his light while reading the latest Harry Potter book. And Tipper thought "Darling Nikki" by Prince was a problem.

I have had impact. No question.

I remember wondering, would I have thoughtful employment helping to create social change? At the time I was working in a fish market. I made great chowder, could filet a whole salmon in ten minutes (scales and all) and I took my stand anytime anyone asked me to cut open a live lobster. It may not have been changing the world but… I could not be bought for 7 bucks an hour.

And my bluefish pate recipe is still a guarded family secret.

Okay, eventually I did work for a socially responsible investment firm and had the opportunity to challenge the CEO of ExxonMobil to a game of golf. At the annual meeting, I opposed Exxon’s sponsorship of Augusta National, where men play golf and women are purdy little thangs serving cocktails at the nineteenth hole.

I’m still waiting for the tee time, though. Hey, I like purdy little thangs, too.

I wondered if I was a good person. I wondered if I was ever going to fall in love. I wondered if I’d ever make my mother proud. I wanted to change the world. I believed, walking around the Massachusetts State house in 1988 with the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights bill in my hands, getting co-signers of the bill Representative by Representative, I was making a difference.

And I wanted more.

I looked up this “quarter life crisis” online and found the following:

“Characteristics of this crisis are:

* feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at his/her 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 regarding present accomplishments
* re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
* disappointment with one's job
* nostalgia for university or college life
* tendency to hold stronger opinions
* boredom with social interactions
* financially-rooted stress
* loneliness
* desire to have children
* a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you” Wikipedia

Uh… I guess I was right on target.

I look at the list, at my own angst as a twenty some year old and I don’t see that I'm much different. Except I have no desire for any more children. I can cross that one off. I’m not lonely, either. I seek loneliness at times. It’s why I lock the bathroom door. And I’m much quicker to listen to other people- this afternoon, I had someone tell me to let go of an entrenched position because there was a far more effective way to create change.

I let go. I want to create change, get home to make dinner and have a chance to do the New York Times Crossword puzzle.

I no longer worry that everyone else is doing a better job. Everyone else is doing a better job. I’m doing the job I can.

I spent all last year re-evaluating my closest interpersonal relationship. Deeply. I realized the depth of 16 years together was worth digging in and trying my very best. If the sex goes? Forget it. I’m out the door.

It’s hard not to laugh at twenty year old’s drama. As much as I can relate to the questions I asked myself then, I feel the wrinkles around my eyes while I smile and answer them now.

That’s the difference, I realize. Then, I had furrowed brow, desperate heart and deep resolve.

Now? I’m smiling. And downloading my crossword puzzle.


Post a Comment

<< Home