Being a twenty-something is supposed to be fun, right?
Unfortunately, the reality is quite different from this assumption, as research—and lived experiences—are showing. Young adults in their twenties today are seeming to show more stress, anxiety and depression than earlier generations. Pressure to effectively juggle academics, part-time jobs, and a social life – on top of the anxiety of starting a career – are pushing today’s twenty-somethings to their breaking points. It has encouraged the coining of the term “quarter-life crisis”.
Millennials are often told they have it easy, and to an extent, they do. Being brought up with the advancement of technology has given that advantage to Millennials over their parents. But the world has also changed in ways that aren’t necessarily benefiting them.
The truth is that the average twenty-something undergoes a great amount of stress and pressure. We expect ourselves, and each other, to have it all. We are a group obsessed with perfectionism – which makes sense when social media is there to be used as a means of comparison. We’ve become very good at putting on a show while struggling inside.
On top of the pressure cooker that is college life, there is the added stress of what lies beyond the world of academics. Millennials today are facing a workforce that is downright terrifying. We know how difficult obtaining a job in our field is and we’ve all been told numerous times that we’ll likely be changing careers at some point in our lives—maybe even more than once. On top of that, they’ve been deemed as the “boomerang generation,” – the generation of young adults most likely to have to return home after graduation rather than entering the working world.
Millennials very rarely understand what “downtime” is, being constantly encouraged to go the extra mile – whether it be through taking on internships, extracurricular activities and volunteering to help pad our resumes; most of which won’t have the benefit of a paycheck. Our leisure time has become focused on getting ahead, especially since the extra mile has now become so crowded.
Millennials have had a great amount of expectations placed upon them. Having to balance a series of demands every day has caused a large portion of this generation to develop anxiety and depression, along with fears about the unknowable future. Studies estimate that one third of Millennials feel depressed.
So how do we as a society combat the “quarter-life crisis”? Mid-life crises, being more widely recognized, have more resources than crises that occur in youth. There aren’t as many places for young adults to go for support. They are told that what they are going through is the average experience for people our age. But is it? This comment tends to come from the Boomer Generation, who never experienced the additional pressures that come from the digital world we live in today. With so many young individuals claiming anxiety and depression, isn’t it time we had a closer look at the problem rather than criticizing for “not working hard enough”? It’s time we start seeing the legitimacy and high occurrence of quarter-life crises and work towards solutions that will benefit our youth. Chastising for “being lazy” is no way to combat this kind of strain, and belittling the problem is the easiest way to ensure its continuation. After all, if a 50-year-old still hasn’t figured out the ways of life (hence the mid-life crisis), how can we expect a 25-year-old to?