The Truth Will Set You Free

2009 July 22

It has come to my attention that we are a generation of closet cases. The idea of the quarter-life crisis is ubiquitous enough to power an entire subgenre of Hollywood films, but no one will actually cop to being in the throes of one, unless, perhaps, you know them well enough to ask point blank or they’re of the type who are inclined to spill their guts to the relative anonymity of the internet. Otherwise, no one wants to publicly own up to the ennui or to admit that they’re A) not interested in upward mobility and B) not sure they could even achieve it if they were. We’re all lying awake at 3:00 AM fretting about jobs, relationships, money, the meaning of it all, but we’re not talking amongst ourselves about any of it. The lock-step social pressure to appear to have your act together trumps the less glamorous reality every time.

closet

Photo by perszi

It’s stubborn pride that prevents us from admitting that we don’t have it all figured out, that we don’t know what we should be doing today, tomorrow or for the rest of our lives. And I’m just as guilty of faking it as anyone else. I have a graduate degree, a job that sounds rather lofty on paper and affords me my own office and the ability to see parts of the world I would never have cause to visit under other circumstances. I don’t particularly worry about money and I travel as I please. I have shiny hair and a sharp sense of humor. And yet…. I also spend every Sunday night with an anxiously churning stomach as if it’s junior high all over again. I typed the first draft of this on my couch while wearing mismatched pajamas and watching the Evil Dead trilogy on my laptop. This is far from a  rare occurrence*.  I’ll even admit that I worry about the prospect of dying alone, but not enough that I actually force myself into doing much about it, like, say, “meeting people” or “putting myself out there,” of course.

And you know what? Not only is this okay, it’s completely and utterly normal.  The world isn’t the same as it was for our parents. It isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago, or  even 12 months ago. There is no one path to follow, no fail-safe strategy to guide us from snotty-nosed teens to upstanding, productive suburban members of society (and no clearly-defined alt route for those who don’t want to make that leap). There are no guarantees. And that’s scary as hell. Scary enough to keep us pinned to the safety of our couches. Scary enough that we’re not talking about it, lest we find out we’re the only ones living in fear. But talking about it is exactly what we should be doing. We should be discussing, brainstorming, supporting and consoling one another. We should be fistbumping, high-fiving and buying the first round. We’re all in this together. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get our heads around it.

Ambiguity, uncertainty and feeling adrift are all unpleasant states, but they aren’t dealbreakers when it comes to staking a claim to your own happiness. They aren’t an excuse to hit pause and refuse to engage until we get the all-clear from the universe (newsflash – It ain’t comin’, kids). We’re a generation of closet cases, but we’re also a generation that’s been spoonfed affirmations of our unique, talented, can-do-no-wrong natures ever since we crawled out of the womb. It’s time to realize that all of the parental ego boosting in the world doesn’t actually cushion us from failure, but that’s fine, because failure isn’t the real enemy, anyway (newsflash part deux – that would be paralyzed inaction and isolated navel gazing, FYI).

It’s time to finally come out of the closet, get off the couch and start talking about our collective dirty little secret.

* Okay, that’s a bit of a lie; normally, my jams match.

Ready to admit that you’re a card-carrying member of the quarter-life crisis set? Come clean and we may publish your confession in a future post.

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