I turn 25 in less than six months, and it’s freaking me out. Not because I’m at all bothered by age and aging in general, but because as a kid, I told anyone who’d listen that I’d be married and pregnant by the time I hit my mid-twenties. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had itchy feet. I’ve felt like I’m stuck in my own life because I’m kind of paddling along and can’t see any milestones in the very near future.
There is so much pressure to achieve. A prime example of this is the rate in which people of our generation move jobs and careers. In comparison to those who came before us, our work ethic is very much ‘fight or flight’ whereas they were known to stay in careers for decades, if not lifetimes. I believe this to be down to our constantly wanting more. That promotion, pay rise and, outside the office, the house ownership, engagement ring, litter of kittens etc etc etc. We are constantly looking for the next best thing or hunting down our next big achievement. And, sure, setting yourself goals is a wonderful challenge and one I recommend to all, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every second of your existence grafting and then upset yourself when your ‘goals’ don’t fit into an unrealistic timescale.
Partially, I believe this to be down to social media. I know I’ve said it before, but no one expresses their failures online. It’s bursting full of achievements and ‘look what I did last night with all my money and my very expensive looking shoes’ and positive updates from your friends and families lives. And that’s very difficult to compare yourself against. Obviously, you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to anyone, anyway. But even I know that it happens, consciously or not. Career coach Chloë Garland describes this as a “grass is always greener culture”.
The percentage of Millennials and Generation-Z-ers who identify as having a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety is at a record high. And again, in comparison to those before us, the results are astronomical. And whilst some may argue that this is down to the mental health stigma being broken down in more recent years, and more people feeling comfortable speaking up about their problems, we cannot ignore the fact that for those in predesessing generations, the general wage was higher and the cost of living (food, rent, property, Brazilian waxes) was much, much lower.
A LinkedIn study from 2017 discovered that 72% of young Brits have experienced a quarter-life crisis, and 32.4% would say they are currently having one. It’s OK to re-asses your life choices and career path. It’s OK to fancy a change or quit your job because it makes you intolerably unhappy. But we need to learn how to deal with the feelings that surround the changes or lack thereof in our mid-twenties. As we face an uncertain future, it becomes the norm to adopt a “fuck it” mentality. The more we spiral into a whirlwind of feeling lost, stressed and unsure, the more we find ourselves desperately searching for an escape. For me, this usually involves copious amounts of Prosecco and a 20-pack of the cheapest menthols I can get my hands on.
The odds are stacked against us, but in our collective struggle we are a community. Although there is always room for improvement, we are actually quite good at talking about our feelings, standing up for the causes we think matter, trying new things and aiming for a life we want. People progress at different rates, and while your mates might be living it up driving to France every fortnight in their convertible, your bi-annual girls trip to Bournemouth on the coach is just as valid. I have faith that one day I’ll be a published author and successful sex therapist with a brood of beautiful babies and a town house in Edinburgh’s new town. But, for now, I need to stop throwing my wages at bottomless brunches and yet another faux fur coat and focus on paying my rent. One step at a time.