Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Defining The Quarter Life Crisis

I've been working on this one for a little bit, so I apologize in the delay...

I was at a party the other night, and I was asked what I do now that I've left the bank. After answering that question a few times prior to the party, I jumped right in with the fact that I am blogging. The music blog is the easiest one to understand, but I couldn't leave out this one. This is more of your traditional blog - sub-regular rants on life, getting older, and the difficulties of merely being alive and having emotions - yet it is the one that I talk the least about. So, standing in front of a dozen or so people, I began my explanation...

This blog was actually the beginning of it all. Well, no, that's not entirely correct. The first one was supposed to be about my travels in England, but that didn't pan out. So, then, when I got back I started this one. Remember, two years ago when I faced the possibility of being 100% unemployed for like six weeks? That I would like to mark as the beginning of the crisis. (...although truthfully, I wasn't all too rational in my decision to move to England, either,... I guess I'll just leave it up to future analysts of my autobiography...)

After running through a quick list of what I am doing as a writer (and the side jobs, as well), the party broke down into smaller groups. This is always ideal. I hate parties where everybody tries to talk to one another and you just sit around in a big circle pretending to all care about the same subject matter. I never connect well with a large group of strangers, but I hit it off BIG TIME one-on-one with new friends. (My friend would later thank me for bridging the gap between her different groups of friends, which I took as a huge compliment. I love meeting new people, so I love going to parties where I have the opportunity to do exactly as I did there. It was nice that my skill was appreciated. AND, if you're ever throwing a mixer with a wide array of people, you know who to call!)

As several conversations erupted, I found myself at the corner of the buffet table, talking to a scientist. He seemed interested in my blogs, and we began talking about this one. I went through a brief history of it, and he seemed confused. "What do you mean by 'Quarter Life Crisis'?"

"Well," I began. "You know how people, when they're in their late forties, early fifties and they suddenly change careers or start dating somebody half their age?"

His confusion did not seem to be lessening, so I continued.

"Well, I'm too young to be doing that!" (I paused for a laugh, but there was none...) "...but, well, I think there is this common feeling among people of our generation, you know, that are in their twenties and faced with similar concerns about their life. They start asking themselves, 'is this REALLY what I want to do for the next forty or fifty years?'; 'will I be happy with this decision five years from now?'; or sometimes even, 'why haven't I accomplished that yet?!?' These are all valid concerns, and, I've found that writing about it makes me feel better. And my readers, when they comment, are going through the same things."

He still looked confused, so I paused to let it sink in.

"What does 'Quarter' mean?"

My new friend's first language was not English, and, like always, I had answered the question of my own agenda rather than the real question. (Does anybody see Being a Better Listener on my New Year's Resolution list?)

My explanation got me thinking, and, as it turns out, when I dwell on a question, it turns up in a lot of my conversations. Later that week, I was talking to a customer at work and discovered that he had been going through a similar situation for the last few years. Unlike myself (who ran kicking and screaming from the institution of higher learning after they handed me a piece of paper covered in calligraphy), this new friend had hid from his fears through school and travel. I was a bit jealous... The real world is actually a terrible place to hide from one's uncertainty about the future. I felt better knowing that he was going to graduate this spring without any better understanding of what he should be doing with his life than what I have. And he's in the Scared Stage. I'd never want to go back to the Scared Stage!

The problem, I think, is that we have so many decisions in front of us. Normally, I discuss this with my fellow females since we have the feminism of the 80s to thank for our decision-making problems. Sure, women could do whatever they wanted to before the 80s, but now there's even more pressure for us to choose not only whatever it is that men did before us, but to be HAPPY with our choice. And it's not even about choosing not to have babies or to have babies (trust me, with this war on right now, I'm definitely feeling the embracing of the latter over the former!). We can even choose to have babies and have partners who stay home to raise them. In fact, it's almost like our choices SHOULD be more original. The last few generations have sent so many shockwaves through the history books that there is this tiny little bit of pressure resting on the shoulders of all womankind to do something even greater with our lives. We all should aspire to be the next Oprah...

I apologise for the helter skelter of that rant. I've been holding in it for a few days, now. You see, over the holidays, I brought up Rosie the Rivetter, and how she has an action figure created after her. I love it. I love Rosie the Rivetter! When I brought her up, though, there was a conversation about how much the campaign she represented helped get women into the work force. I won't deny that the campaigns to get women to work during the war were impressive, and widespread enough to convince even the most conservative individuals in the far corners of this country to consider allowing women to do the hard labour of the men they had sent off to fight without being too concerned about that woman's children, or her 'delicate nature.'

It wasn't the beginning of feminism, though, nor was it the end. The post-war emphasis on family and motherhood certainly sent a vast majority of those women packing from the factories back to their pantries. The celebration of suburbia only continued that trend, making motherhood once again an issue of class moreso than a natural power to be proud of. (If you could afford to have children and not have the wife work as well, you were of the middle class or above.) Then came the pill, and more and more women could postpone their baby-having days to build a career. Some "spinsters" (women who never marry) were even truly successful in the careers that came their way due to the civil rights movements of the 60s.

Then, well, we can't forget the Sexual Revolution; if only because that makes us believe that Britney Spears is being really powerful when she pouts just a little bit and 'allows' her lover to physically abuse her. (If you don't understand, just ask, and I'll break it down for you.) After the sexually-charged 70's, though, we are faced with the 80's, where Dolly Pardon bemoans working a full-time job, Cyndi Lauper claims "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and, okay, maybe we should blame Madonna - just a little bit - for what we've allowed Britney Spears to get away with...

Except that, Madonna had class. Dolly Pardon had pride. And Cyndi Lauper was filthy rich! They may not have been pressuring women to get into the workforce, but they didn't have to. Women coming of age at this time had known their entire lives that they could do ANYTHING they wanted to when they grew up. And they did! Yeah, yeah, I know there's still a glass ceiling, and there's still social taboos that need to be kicked out of the office buildings women are now dominating,... but that leaves us with a lot to live up to!

Now do you understand why I had to give up the feminist cause for something that needed more work? I'm a bit terrified of what my foremothers expect from me...

Don't worry, I know it's difficult for men, too. All those girls who were told they could do anything grew up alongside those boys that weren't told anything about the future. Hmmmm....yeah, I guess it could be worse. I could have had that plan that had been given to my gender for the last few generations ripped from my hands by some scary spinsters, had it split in half and only be given back the top part of it. If I thought reaching that glass ceiling was going to be tough, imagine what life would be like if that's where I was meant to start!

Don't worry, I explained what a 'quarter' was to my new friend...

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