You hit your late twenties and everything you’ve been working towards doesn’t turn out the way you envisaged. You thought you had it all figured out and then it all comes crashing down, like when you’re older sibling destroys you in a game of Monopoly. You tried to play the game and the game ended up playing you. Or, worst of all, you’re fired so quickly that Donald Trump would even pause for consideration. These events can cause what many young are now experiencing – the Quarter Life Crisis.
I’m sure if you’re a middle-aged reader then you’re having a good ‘lol’ (laugh out loud) at my generation’s expense. But before you turn back to a re-run of Midsomer Murders, have a read about the plight of the formerly ambitious Gen-Ys that are moping around your workplace (assuming they haven’t been fired). The generation that have been told that ‘you can have it all’ and that we’re ‘unique snowflakes’ are spinning out as they stumble through the adult world, like a bunch of extra-annoying Prince Hamlets with smart phones. Unfortunately, Gen-Y’s don’t have the luxury of buying a boost in the ego sports car, because they’re still trying to get a middle management position so that they can spin out again when they reach their mid-40s. Some of them can’t have an affair with secretary because they don’t have a secretary or even a girlfriend.
Look, I know Gen-Ys are annoying. I’m one of them. I look back at some of my behaviour (particularly during my early 20s) and cringe. I was like a spoiled Vaucluse brat, stomping through Toys R’ Us demanding to have the world’s biggest, fluffiest teddy bear, a choo-choo train set made of gold and so much candy that I would be forced into a diabetic shock. An ‘I want this now!’ attitude is something that is within my generation, but I’m not surprised considering that we’ve been force-fed with advertisements for Transformers, Hubba-Bubba, McHappy Meals and Air Jordans for as long as we can remember. We believed we could be Batman, crush the Joker and get the girl without any of the crippling factors that come with power, influence and responsibility. Essentially, we’ve been consumers our whole lives and we’ve eventually believed the lie that we’re customers that matter to the relevant purveyor of things we don’t need. Please don’t think that I’m blaming the Baby Boomer parents for our gold-fish attention spans and addiction to ultra-repetitive video games, this is the world we hurled into and it’s no-one’s fault, we just have to make some sense of the endless series of conflicting flashing lights. So, when you hit the ¼ Life Crisis, it isn’t really that much of a surprise. You can believe you can fly, like R.Kelly told us in Space Jam, but you may be stranded on the tarmac by the time you’re 28.
Above: R.Kelly clearly lied to us. I believed when I was 12 and broke my leg when I jumped out my second story bedroom window.
This experience is not unique to me. I know this because there are others that I’ve met in my travels who’ve gone through (or are still going through) their QLC. A friend of mine that I went to uni with, Lucinda, worked in a industrial/graphic design firm for a number of years. She was really good at what she did (I don’t exactly know what she was doing at one of those industrial design studios/firms that had a cool sound acronym) and she was getting handsomely remunerated. Lucinda was seriously cool. She dressed well, went to cool parties and met a lot of interesting, quasi-famous people in Sydney. For all intents and purposes, she was living the life. Somewhere in her late 20s she got fed-up with the vapid nature of her design job (probably the entire industry, too) and kicked it in, moved to Canberra and re-trained as a statistician. Strange, right? Well, she told me that the ‘numbers made a lot more sense’ and that the design world was ‘full of meaningless bullshit’. She did a complete 180’ and went into the most boring industry I can think of. She changed, too. No more rooftop parties in Potts Point or conversations with people who appeared on Offspring or The Secret Life Of Us, but she was happier in crunching those numbers that gave her an answer to a solution. She found solace in an Excel spreadsheet. Lucinda transformed (like Optimus Prime) and made it through her QLC before she was 32.
I don’t really chat with Lucinda anymore. It’s not the result of anything momentous, she’s busy with her numbers and I’m still wandering through the forest of my QLC. Speaking of my QLC, it led me to an unexpected place, a dingy room in a pub in Glebe and a microphone on a stage; too cryptic? About a year ago I started going to open mic nights. I suppose I felt that I needed a creative outlet; sometimes you ignore parts of yourself when you’re working hard at getting better at something new, like your first career. Throughout my teens and early twenties I played in bands and did bit of theatre. Then I thought to myself that it was time to ‘grow up’ and start a career.
Above: A photographic representation of the most daunting thing that I have ever attempted.
In the broader context of those going through their QLC, I’m one of the lucky ones in that I still enjoy my job. Maybe I’m just hungry for new experiences and challenges? Like when you start a job for the first time and you’re learning everyday, trying new things and seeing what works (and what doesn’t). For me, comedy’s been a nice distraction and more recently it’s led me to this blog (again, I’d like to thank my five readers), as I don’t have as much time to venture into the city for open mic nights since my daughter was born. Performing at an open mic, in-front of anywhere between fifty or five people hasn’t yet given me an answer to the QLC, but has given me an opportunity to test myself in a different forum. (Perhaps that’s my answer?) The nights can be long, as you wait your turn for your four minutes of comedy. The MCs are usually really accommodating, they let the guys (and a few girls) who have to get up in the morning for work at or looking after the kids go on in the first bracket (usually before 9pm). More than anything, comedy has provided me with a challenging environment where you can learn a new craft on the fly and have a bit of fun. I’ve got some laughs here and there*, but I’ve tried some material and totally ‘bombed’ up there. That’s all part of the experience, though. It’s extremely daunting, but really rewarding, too. Getting some laughs from the audience is amazing feeling. It’s as if you’ve had liquid victory mixed with a shot of ecstatic joy injected straight into centre of your heart.
*When comedians get laughs they ‘kill’ (or are killing). This concept may get a little confusing for a serial killer who performs at open mics.
Interestingly, I met another young man, Bernard, who was going through his QLC. Like me, he had decided to try his luck in front of other sociopathic, wannabe comedians and random drunks. And sort-of-like Lucinda, Bernard had some experience with ones and zeroes. Bernard was a Financial Planner (I don’t really know what he did), but he did something with numbers and money. I get the impression that his job was more interesting but less demanding than Lucinda’s. Bernard, who is 27, had been ‘let go’ in one of the seemingly routine purges at the financial institution where he worked. He was searching for some way to explore his creative side, so he’d gone ‘all in’ with comedy. This involved doing multiple open-mics per week and receiving some financial assistance from ‘Centa’ (aka Centrelink) and dressing up as super heroes at kids’ birthday parties. Bernard was a good comic and if he’s still doing it now, I’m sure he’s probably even better. I haven’t been to an open mic for quite a while and people seem to come and go from the local scene. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who are trying to ‘find their voice’ and also ‘find themselves’ on the stage.
Unlike Lucinda, Bernard had his QLC forced on him. But rather than dusting himself off and having a crack at another investment firm, he’d decided to take the ‘road less taken’ and spend his nights working out his shtick (his comedic theme/edge). Bernard’s only a bit younger than I am and part of me admires his bravery. He’s intent on recreating himself, something quite common with Gen-Ys.
Both Lucinda and Bernard seem to have figured out their answer to the seemingly omnipresent QLC (my bet is that Lucinda has probably found a more effective answer). At times I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus, trying to find China, but in the process finds something else. Perhaps this QLC is simply ‘growing up’? I look at some of the Gen-Xs and Baby Boomers at work that have ‘hung in there’ and forged good careers and it’s doubtful that they had some sort of magic elixir to give them everything they wanted. Maybe we Gen-Ys need to shake the instant gratification facet of our nature and go with the flow and see where life/careers will take us?