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Not Great Expectations

‘I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.’ ~ Fritz Perls.

Panicked. Anxious. Questioning what I should doing and where I am now. There was I hoping my twenties would be a carefree existence with the distinct joy of finding myself and my place in the world. The moment the pressure lifts from academics, then the job search/be successful pressure hits full throttle. I feel guilty not knowing what I should do with my life with absolute 100% certainty, I’m chasing ideas and running with them (stong pull:fertility lab). But if something isn’t happening, when do I decide to give up and try another avenue.

The Daily Mail released an article today. It’s crazy how many of us fledgling adults are slumping into a ‘quarter-life crisis’, and sad that the pressure of life are getting to us at a time in our lives when we should be enjoying our newly found freedom and be full of hope for our futures. Instead many of us are directionless and uncertain. I remember a few months after I graduated feeling this way, I read the quarter-life crisis section of the Prospects.ac.uk forum and was shocked at how low some people felt. I remember one girl who had graduated in 2007, had been working temp jobs and just felt like a robot, sick of living with her parents still and wondered how long it would be til something came her way that was even loosely related to her degree. One guy shockingly felt so down that he had contemplated jumping in front of the train as his life felt so static, lacked meaning and had spent so much time unemployed and feeling useless that he thought he would never get employed. My heart broke for these people, would I feel the same if nothing had worked out for me years in the future? A shade of failure and inadequacy.

As the article suggested – take a break from the rat race and do something meaningful to lift your spirits. Which is precisely why I’m in Canada – avoiding stewing in my anxiousness and an unstable economy (plus the small matter of love). I have dipped my toe into the volunteer realm, the thoughts of making a difference at the dog shelter and getting started in a new project freed my mind from the worries of what I should be doing, but happy to do something I wanted to do. If it takes me longer to find my calling (scientific journalism? creative writing?) or be given a chance in the working world (Health Service hire me!) then so be it. It’s hard to say that and I do worry, especially when I see the busy streets and roads at 7am of people making their way to work and thinking ‘Shouldn’t this be me?’. What if my untapped potential fades away? What if no opportunity presents itself even though I keep my ears a-prick? What if I’m out of employment too long, does that make me a loser? Should I go to graduate school?

Something that always hurts when reading these articles is the insensitivity of some of the comments. Claiming Gen Y are a bunch of whiners and feel we are ‘entitled’. I certainly worked hard to get my degree but I never feel like I was owed anything. I think if it was known how many resumes some graduates have sent out to secure a single interview, the number of young people working for free just to get experience for the hope of an entry-level job in the future, the competition, the moments of feeling worthless. The vicious cycle of ‘needing experience, but needing some experience to compete for the experience opportunity’ plus the curse of student loans, maybe they could understand the upset.

The authors touch on pressures from the celebrity lifestyle. This certainly isn’t me, I love a new pair of shoes and something sparkly to add to my accessories carousel  as much as the next girl but if need be I can live minimally and on a budget. I think we’re bombarded with images of what ‘success’ is and by some mystical osmosis we start to absorb these projections. Which is the source of unhappiness. Success is purely subjective, it’s where you want to be. Expecting something unrealistic is only going to lead to heartbreak and stress. I’m still trying to figure out my definition of success (with happiness leading the list) but it certainly won’t be shaped by anything other than my wants and desires.

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