The Self-Help Files: Quarterlife Crisis

It’s been a little while since I added a new installment to my Self-Help Files, but I’m back with one now! I’ve also added some others to the “to-read” list in this category (and some to the “absolutely do not read”), thanks in part to a Borders trip with two of my favorite ladies, Kristin and Alicia.

I went to Barnes & Noble with my mom the other day on a hunt for a specific book for my nephew, which we could not find. But of course we went to the bargain and publisher’s remainder tables for some cheap finds. There, I happened upon the ultimate in 20-something self-help:

Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins & Abby Wilner

This is the book that literally (and I don’t use that word lightly) defined the quarterlife crisis, a term that we hear so often now. I was really excited about reading it and seeing what it had to offer, and I ended up reading it in just about two days.

I finished it this afternoon and rated it on my Goodreads as two stars. I wasn’t overly impressed. I guess my expectations were pretty high for it, but I felt underwhelmed regardless. I can certainly appreciate the value of the book at the time of its first publication, and for the sheer fact that it defined this period of immense change, transition and confusion for twenty-somethings.

That said, here are some of my issues with the book, as well as some of the things I enjoyed.

The Issue: It’s outdated.

There’s no other way to put it. The book was published in 2000. It was a pre-9/11 world. In the introduction, the authors talk about how “this generation” has no major world event to unite them. Whereas the baby boomers had Vietnam and the JFK assassination, “this generation” has nothing. The closest they could find to a major event that brought share grief and identified them together as a common group…was the death of Kurt Cobain.

If you didn’t know before when the book was published, it certainly was established in the introduction that it was “before our time.” Sept. 11 changed everything and is undoubtedly that event that bonded us as a generation.

I continued to find fault in this throughout the book. As the authors talked about the various twenty-somethings they interviewed for the book, they mentioned their graduation years from college, and most were between 1994 and 1998. When I graduated from elementary school.

Everyone was talking about their jobs in “computers” and communicating through E-mail with a capital E.

I found it hard to relate to these “characters” because of those facts, regardless of the fact that many of the things they were saying and experiencing were similar to what I am going through today.

The Redemption: The content is legit even 10 years later.

Regardless of this, I found myself nodding furiously within pages of beginning reading it. I couldn’t help but agree with everything the subjects and authors were saying about feeling overwhelmed with choices. About feeling pressure to make sure that you make the right decisions. About feeling like every little decision you make will alter your life forever.

They pointed out how older generations seem to think it’s such a blessing for us to have so many more options available to us. And it is. Absolutely. I am not (and they are not) saying that it’s not a great thing the way the world has evolved for us. But because of having so many options available, I know that I am not quite sure what the best path to take is. It was comforting to know that this feeling is legitimate.

One of the things that I agreed with most and put a bright pink post-it on was that twenty-somethings are constantly comparing themselves to their peers. On my post-it, I scribbled: “10x worse with Facebook!!!!”

True, yes? How often do you find yourself looking at Queenie McPopular from high school, wondering where she stands professionally or personally? How many times do you stumble across an freshman year classmate’s profile and think, “He’s engaged and works for Super Awesome Fabulous Amazing Company?!”?

I mean, through the wonders of stalking Facebook, I’ve discovered that numerous people from within my major have started their own companies. And become successful at it. And while I am happy they’ve been successful because they’re great people, part of me is boiling over with jealousy and wondering when the hell I’m gonna get my act together and be successful.

What these comparisons (both in 2000, or BF – Before Facebook – and today) leave out, is that you don’t know what’s going on these people’s minds. They could be (and likely are) struggling with the very same things.

The Message: We need to help each other.

That’s what I found to be the most redeeming quality of this book. The message that everyone out there is likely experiencing the same problems, but no one wants to talk about it. There’s a stigma associated with not know what you want or where you’re headed. I’ve definitely experienced this as I’ve made this new transition in my life. I’m still avoiding neighbors back at my parents’ house.

But if us twenty-somethings would just talk about these things with each other every once in a while, maybe there wouldn’t be a stigma associated with it. Maybe we would feel some comfort in knowing that there are other people like us out there. Maybe we would feel legitimized and be able to help each other out.

I think we’ve actually come a long way with that in the past ten years, specifically with the blogging community and the numerous options for self-help books available now. But a little face-to-face reassurance of it would be nice every once in a while, right?

So, if anyone wants to chat about their feelings associated with their own quarterlife crisis, let me know! And if you want to borrow the book, I can arrange that too. I’m glad to have a comparison between the “original” quarterlife book and the more recent ones. It’s worth the read, but why buy it when I already did?

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3 thoughts on “The Self-Help Files: Quarterlife Crisis

  1. You’re so right — “we” as a generation are ridiculously inclined to compare ourselves against others and sadly we determine our value from those comparisons. I whole-heartedly agree that if we all just put our cards on the table once in a while it would allow others to feel comfortable enough to do the same. In doing so, we would probably find connection rather than some unfair comparison we’ve created by assuming that everyone else is better than us. ::Sigh:: Thank you for this post it was lovely and so, so relevant 🙂 — Adrienne

  2. Sad to say, but being unwilling or unable to “share” the struggles and concerns remains even as you age. My generation finds it hard to discuss retirement planning, health issues and relationship struggles at our ages too. It’s always been about “comparing yourself” to others, which is a human weakness. I hope your generation makes it more acceptable and welcome to share the struggles as well as the successes…

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