1. You go into cardiac arrest when somebody asks you “so what are you doing with your life?”
Err, what an incredibly perverse and insulting question? Look man, I was having a really good morning until you started pulling at that thread. I haven’t even had my second coffee yet and you have set me on a very dark path. Do you not think that question is already etched on an ugly billboard on the inside of my brain? When I shut my eyes at night that question blinks at me with sirens going off. This is why I look so tired, okay? At some point after graduating, the comment “you look really tired” replaced formal greetings at social events and job interviews. I’m now convinced that being told I look tired is a contributing factor to my exhaustion. Trust me, when I figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing you’ll hear about it. I will talk about it non-stop during coffee mornings, which we won’t even be having because I’ll be too busy doing it.
2. You frequently consider what life would be like if you had not gone to University.
Upon reflection, it just seems that those three years could have been put to better use. Sure, I made some amazing friends who I no longer speak to and I have a degree that perhaps counts for nothing, but at what cost? In the last three years I could have done two unpaid internships and included a full year of traveling. I have friends who eschewed higher education in favor of pursuing a living and they now do what I want to do without the ball and chain of student debt. On the flip-side of this: I have similar friends who are in rehab or work in retail. Life can be cold and unfair to everyone regardless of what choices they made when they were eighteen. I have a degree for better or worse and I don’t want to think about the “what ifs.” Retrospection is hell’s waiting room and it’s a bad place to hang. Stay in the present.
3. You self-medicate.
Obviously the annihilation of the economy has created a black hole of self-doubt that feeds off an infinite supply of collective anxiety. I don’t take xanax or klonopin because as someone who claims to want to be a writer it seems unfair not to feel all the things I am supposed to feel that are supposed to fuel good writing. But this doesn’t mean I don’t have a plethora of questionable coping mechanisms like chain-smoking and hosting personal whiskey parties in my kitchen at two am. I guess we are all drug addicts in our own way. In particular, actual drug addicts. I feel deep down that the incline of drug use is a generational reaction to a world that isn’t very accommodating for people who feel that employers aren’t really reading their cover letters.
4. You move around a lot.
I feel like I am always moving around but never moving forward, trapped on some freakish treadmill of my own making. I like to spin about in different countries for months, sometimes years at a time but I’m a human boomerang and I usually get flung back to where I started.
It’s a very specific kind of modern crisis, feeling stuck but not lost or feeling free but with no direction. You turn twenty-one and you get a compass or you get a map, but rarely are you given both. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a crisis. Generation Y is “why this” and “why that,” “why them and not me”. They should start giving out “under construction” signs to hang around our necks until things begin to improve, or until we do.