As if on cue, my quarter life crisis has come.
It seems that everyone around me is locking horns with the reality of their twenties. Almost all of my close friends have partook in some kind of extended unpaid leave or premature resignation. Myself included. Meanwhile, our parents look on and wonder how we could already be tired of working. It’s only been four years.
The truth is that real life is a lot more disappointing than we thought it would be. We’ve spent 12 years of school imagining what life outside the bubble of government mandated education would be like—the offices we’d work in, the mature and tantalizing adult experiences we’d have, the financial freedom we’d revel in. But then we turn 24 and realize that we’re supposed to wake up at the same time every day to an obnoxious alarm so we can trudge into our workplace and feel an overbearing resentment for our employer and the social constructs that force us to continue with this charade.
And this is supposed to be for the rest of our lives?
I am financially independent. And yet, I don’t feel financially independent. I feel financially dependent on a steady income because of all of these bills and commitments I’ve made in my quest for true and fulfilling adulthood.
I feel far from justified in resenting my stable income and job security. I am aware that I am sitting around in my relative privilege, enjoying my non-conventional lattes and bulk proofing sourdough loaves, wishing I could be more free, more liberated than I already am.
I have been reading the memoir of a woman who worked as a cleaner for minimum wage while being a single mother and relying on food stamps to feed her child. I have been reading about her poverty, her desperation, and the discrimination she faced while being on my 10 weeks of voluntary unemployment because I just… felt like it.
Here I am, caught between feeling guilty for this privilege I have and feeling entitled to it.
In between feeling upset that I now have to work and provide for myself, I spend time feeling upset that I don’t know what else to do with myself.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working five out of seven days, sleeping, waking up and doing it again, morose and regretful. But there is something undeniably comforting about that monotony. It gives us purpose and direction. And if I wasn’t working, what would I be doing anyway?
Did our grandparents battle with this? Or did they just fight wars and have children and toil fields and then get dementia and die? Did they have silent existential crises in their minds that they didn’t dare express because they were living through horrible financial and physical desperation and it would have been uncouth to say such things while people were starving to death around them?
No one is starving around me right now. I mean, somewhere there are a lot of people starving and dying from preventable diseases, but in my close vicinity, everyone is happily fed. All of this luxury seems to signal to my youthful brain that I must want for more. We are not wanting for food or clean water anymore. Most of us have reliable accommodation, parents to bail us out, some kind of stable future already mapped out for us. Now we want more, but we don’t even know what that is.
Those people who work four days weeks, people who I imagine drink Soylent and still use Twitter, what do they do on their three days off? Do they all have incredibly fulfilling recreational ventures that have allowed them to reach a higher level of Zen? Is there something we’re meant to be doing if we’re not doing that thing we’ve been learning to do for the first 20 years of our life?
Maybe this voluntary unemployment was a bad idea. Now it’s just me and my thoughts. I no longer have the distraction of feeling indignant that I have to work for a living. Now I feel like a retiree patiently awaiting my demise.