Written by: Amal Abdullah, Staff Writer
Here we are, in our 20s and in the midst of our university careers, ready to enter “the real world.” We emerge proudly sporting a cap and gown, a distinguished post-secondary degree in our hands — but still bare, vulnerable, and without even a single notion of how to survive once we leave.
How can we be expected to know exactly what to do with our lives so soon? We have an unspoken expectation from our parents and other older adults to get through life with as much speed as possible. They start asking us what we want to do halfway through high school, as if we learned enough in three measly years of education to figure out our future. We constantly get compared to siblings, cousins, friends who have their lives more together than us. They’ve already been accepted to graduate school, while you’re still in the process of switching your major.
Those who seem to be clearing life milestones — whether those milestones are finishing university, getting a profitable job, or climbing the corporate ladder — with the most rapidity are seen as the most successful. This puts immense stress on those who take a little bit more time to figure out their trajectory. It leads to what is becoming a new phenomenon of quarter-life crises, mocked by older generations but a very real and genuine issue for those who experience it.
There’s this lie that other adults feed us when we’re kids: the adults know WTF is going on in life, they have it all figured out, and they know exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Adults are 100% sure of what they’re doing, and so what they do is always “the right thing” because they have it all figured out.
I think adults let kids fall into believing this lie so as to make themselves feel better about having absolutely no idea what is going on, and even less of an idea as to how to figure it out. As kids, we believe the lie . . . and then we grow up and realize, wham, there really is no secret to be figured out here. We’re just as screwed on this side of the fence as we were on the other.
That leads to the fact that we have no idea what we want to do with our lives. Society — being almighty and all-knowing — expects us to have it all figured out. By the time you’re in post-secondary, and definitely when you’re nearing the end of it, you should know what to do.
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have so many options. It almost seems like there are an unlimited amount of routes one could be taking. Since we have so many options, we are constantly questioning whether the route we have chosen will culminate in success. We’ve all probably met someone who’s suffered through a quarter-life crisis. Personally speaking, I have so many interests that I don’t know which one to follow, and I imagine it’s similar with you.
It’s OK if you don’t know what is going on, what you want to do, where you’re going. It’s perfectly fine if you’re still figuring it out — know that you’re certainly not alone in this confusion. A degree earned after six years of study is still as much a degree as one that is fast-tracked in three years.
There’s no single destination that we all need to hurry to reach. It’s all about the journey.