Bowie, Rickman & My Quarter Life Crisis

I’ve been having a less-than quarter life crisis. I’m 22, what do I have to complain about?

The recent deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman are at once totally unrelated and shattering to me personally. I did not listen to Bowie’s music as much as others across my social media feeds proclaimed to have, and I have not seen all of Rickman’s films, but their names and most famous performances are closely linked with my childhood.

My dad would listen to Bowie when I was young, and his songs live in a deep dark part of my subconscious that only exists when called to the surface by a song I don’t know but that stops me in my tracks nevertheless. Rickman was cast as the anti-hero in the movie adaption of a set of books that my dad would read to me as soon as they came out (the first was released when I was 4 years of age). He was obsessed, I was obsessed, we were obsessed together.

When I heard the news about Bowie, I very suddenly and involuntarily began to cry (just a little bit, I mean I was at work I couldn’t just lose it). This fit of tears confused me; I was not a committed fan of Bowie, so why should his untimely death be so shocking to me? It was not until I had this same reaction with the death of Rickman that I began to cotton on. Their deaths were a death knell for my childhood. And that scared the living shit out of me.

I knew it was coming, but in no way shape or form am I ready to become an ACTUAL adult, an identity that I closely associate with the dreaded ‘Full-Time Job’. I asked a man at work the other day that works as a cardiologist which life/career path I should take, and when I proposed the idea of a full-time job over making cakes and being a student, he said ‘NO! Keep going with the cakes, don’t get a full-time job.’ So when do I go for the full-time job? Ever?

All this came after some major self-reflection over what path I want to take after the (relatively) straight forward fork of my bachelor degree ends. There are so many options on my plate, and just as many factors pulling me between each one.

One of those options happens to be whether to invest my time immediately in a career, which is also the full-time job path. I keep being pulled down this path mentally, after considering all my other options which are so much more unconventional and uncertain. Part of the pressure I feel to go down this path stems from my recent obsession with entrepreneurs and start-up companies, especially the gospel of The Collective founder Lisa Messenger, whose ‘just start!’ attitude and success stories are at once inspiring and stimulus for a panic attack. Despite the fact that many of these inspiring ‘doers’ fully admit that their success did not happen overnight, chief of which would be Lisa Messenger who spent years not knowing what she was really passionate about or which career to pick, my anxiety clouds my memory and I think ‘what the hell am I doing?’

Research undertaken by Dr Oliver Robinson from the University of Greenwich confirms that I am not alone in my quarter-life crisis. According to a survey of 1100 young people, almost 90% of people in their 20s ‘admitted to feeling under pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before hitting 30.’ Anyone who says that our worries are just ‘Gen Y being [insert generation-alist crap about having it easy, being on our phones too much, not being grateful enough etc]’ should turn to their own worries to understand where we’re coming from. Author Damian Barr, writer of Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis, suggests that 20 somethings are facing the same worries that the last generation did not face until their 40s. People under the age of 30 in 2016 face a ‘perilous property market’, competition with huge pools of graduates looking for the same jobs, and constant pressure to be socially active.

Additionally contributing to this pressure is the hard-to-admit reality that my day job in hospitality might be contributing to this crisis; according to Anthony La Montagne, professor of work, health and wellbeing at Deakin University, lack of control over decisions about how we do our job doubles our risk of depression and the lack of control over how high a demand can be made of us in the workplace creates ‘job strain’, which actually makes us sick physically and mentally.

I keep forgetting that time is on my side. Robinson’s study also found that after an average crisis period of two years, where we may move through phases of feeling trapped and scared to leave jobs or relationships, we will then move into new, more positive stages where we feel that change is possible, that we can rebuild, and from there we can feel good about making new commitments.

While I can’t hurry two years of personal progress, I can remind myself of a quote from one of my new favourite books:

‘…time is the stuff of which a self is made.’ -Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

And I’m going to give myself some of that sweet time.


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