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The quarter-life crisis: It's a thing. Lena Dunham had one, Britney Spears had one and now I'm having one.
A few weeks ago I turned 25, and assuming I make it to 100 I have lived a quarter of my life; 25 cents of the dollar I expect to spend. I can make one crappy call on the pay phone of my life (a metaphor I can use because I've been around long enough to remember pay phones).
With this milestone, I find myself wondering what I have to show for it: a thousand Facebook friends, an impressive tolerance for alcohol and a cracked iPhone screen? Gone are the days of being the youngest in the room, the cutest at the bar or the flip-cup champion of my friends. These are the days of salad instead of fries and red wine instead of green-apple vodka.
Every morning I wake up to the heartache of my recent breakup paired with the anxiety of seeing others' Instagram accomplishments. And I wonder, as YouTube sensation David did after the dentist, "Is this gonna be forever?"
When does it fall into place? I can't possibly be alone in this feeling that every decision I make now affects the rest of my life, that I'll never amount to anything impressive (unless you find loneliness and unemployment impressive, which unfortunately my parents do not).
But when I log on to Facebook, all I see are updates about new apartments, exciting jobs and adorable couple photos. Where is everyone getting this exposed brick and flattering lighting all of a sudden? How do I stumble into it? How did Frat Bro Bob become Accountant Robert? And when did everyone get into grad school?
Four years ago, armed with an all-girls-school education, a general arts degree and a copy of Tina Fey's Bossypants, I entered the twentysomething work force determined to what we now call "lean in." I'd applied for every internship under the sun, and got a nice one at a company that eventually hired me on. Great! A real job! #Winning! (This was a more topical reference at the time). I graduated on a Saturday and started work that Monday, ready to take the company by storm.
In retrospect, having studied drama and writing in university with much larger dreams of becoming a film and television star (or at the very least an Internet sensation), I'm not sure how I thought working behind a desk would turn into that. But who cared? A paycheque! And tons of time for updating my Twitter account with witty anecdotes while pretending to work.
Naturally, with this level of job focus my popularity at the company had ebbs and flows, but despite my inflated sense of self they were very good to me. I worked full time for a year before the panic of "Is this gonna be forever?" set in. Was this my life now? How long would I do this? Would I die at this desk? (That last thought was a bit theatrical, but did cross my mind. I have a degree in theatre, so what do you want from me?)
I quit – determined to find happiness and fulfilment in the flexible world of shift work. Yay! No more 9-to-5! More time to work on creative projects! Karen from accounting no longer controlled my anxiety level.
And this was great for a while. I had time to travel and write, time for kissing boys and laughing with friends. No song unsung, no wine untasted! Until I woke up one 25-year-old morning, looked in the mirror and thought … "Is this gonna be forever?"
It's something my friend Emma and I like to refer to as "chronic dissatisfaction." We didn't coin the phrase – Woody Allen did in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It's what Penelope Cruz says Scarlett Johansson has when Johansson's character (spoiler alert) breaks up her threesome with Cruz and Javier Bardem, leaving them alone to have beautiful children and controversially support Gaza.
Chronic dissatisfaction is one of the most dangerous symptoms of a quarter-life crisis (in addition to general neediness and bangs).
If you are thinking, "When I was 25 I didn't have chronic dissatisfaction," well, good for you – you would have been the subject of my Facebook nightmares. I've only met one of you, and I'm really hoping her food blog goes under in the next year. But for the rest of us, it's a real thing.
I often think it comes from our low attention spans. Our generation will watch a YouTube video for no longer than two minutes and hold a relationship no longer than two years. Whether we spend our time in coffee shops writing screenplays or on the 19th floor of KPMG analyzing data, we're all wondering what immediate changes would make us feel more fulfilled.
I've been on both sides of it: I've had the job, the pantyhose and the quinoa salad, but I've also gone 13 days without washing my hair, on a diet of Oreos.
That being said, the knowledge I am not alone in these moments of panic and frustration brings me comfort. Life is full of highs and lows, peaks and valleys, Jennifer Anistons and Angelina Jolies. The only thing to do is take a deep breath and realize this is temporary.
David, we must remember, was high on anesthesia after the dentist, and was also 7. This too shall pass. This is not gonna be forever. See you at 30.
Ruth Goodwin lives in Toronto.