I’m suffering from a mid-millennial life crisis of sorts.
You see, I’m in my twenties, and I’m panicky. I did the whole ‘take Year 12 seriously and go to uni to please my parents’ thing. I did the internships. I followed the path. I got a stupid LinkedIn account. I stopped signing off (most of) my emails with ‘xxxxxx’. I grew older and very marginally wiser.
And for the majority of the year, I feel just fine with what I’m doing and where I’m headed.
Every few months, like clockwork, this feeling of dread and listlessness creeps up, telling me I’m falling behind, that I need to chase that next career milestone, or that I’m in the wrong career entirely. It cruelly reminds me that a large chunk of those 500 contacts on LinkedIn are, you know, complete and utter strangers who have no relation to me or my job at all.
I begin to feel that I’m stagnating, that I’m a LinkedIn sham, that I’m just… not where I should be whatsoever.
“I’M MOVING TOO SLOW,” I proclaim. “IN THE WRONG DIRECTION… IN THE WRONG LIFE.”
“I should quit my job and move to a faraway town in Peru!” I decide mid-way through a 20-episode binge of Love Island. “I should open a bakery… even though I don’t know how to bake! Become a personal trainer, even though I loathe exercise! I should become a lawyer! A doctor! A fireman! An avocado farmer! A con artist! A criminal! A vet! A masseuse! A stripper!”
(At this point I tend to open a red bag of Doritos and weep, which doesn’t bode well for my stripping prospects.)
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team deep dive, on why it is millennials are kicking off their midlife crises in their late 20s. Post continues after audio.
Of course, in the midst of my tri-monthly millennial career crises I always make the grave mistake of logging onto Instagram and Facebook, the very places my anxiety thrives: Oh, lookie here! A 22-year-old who owns a bespoke bikini line. How delightful! A 16-year-old who has just penned their fifth novel. Footballers who are branching off into watches and hats. Breakfast television personalities who entered the media when they were foetuses. Actual foetuses who have already founded tech companies.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha kill me.
How does anyone else DO this? How do people just decide on a career path and stick to it, without jolting awake in the middle of the night every three months to think: “Oh god, what if my true destiny was to become a phys ed teacher?”
We millennials have it tough when it comes to career pressure – tougher than our mothers, and their mothers had it. I blame Zuckerberg.
The successes of those around us are thrust in our faces every single day. There are the box gaps and ripped abs and stupid detox teas, but those are so saturated they’re just white noise now. The sh*t that affects us more? The aspiration culture; the boasty career stuff, the photos in front of bubble-free ‘sold’ house stickers, the ‘just got my 10th promotion’ posts, the ‘going on my fifth holiday for the year I’m so grateful’ captions.
We look at this overwhelming, linear, lucrative success, and all we can think is: What if I never make it? What if I never reach my full potential?
It’s something Leandra Medine, the *cough* 28-year-old founder *cough* of U.S. fashion website Man Repeller discussed in her advice column ‘Ask MR’.
“To some degree, we all fear unfulfilled potential,” Medine wrote this week.
“We call it various things: fear of not becoming who we are meant to be, escaping the stereotypes of the identities imparted upon us or relentlessly attempting to succeed, but the crux of what we’re saying when we talk about these synonyms for self-improvement is entirely imbued with this notion that we could always be better, that we’re not doing enough to be the best — that unfulfilled potential is gently knocking at all of our doors.”
“… Here’s the other thing, though. It is wildly uncommon that someone who worries about not amounting to anything actually ends up amounting to nothing.”
My fellow millennial colleagues and I spent a good half hour at our desks this week discussing the concept of ‘unfulfilled potential’; how it so aptly describes what we fear so viscerally, how we will feel disappointment and sadness if our careers trail off into an abyss of pipe dreams and wasted ambition.
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Perhaps Medine is right. Those who will float away into that chasm are those who give little thought to these things; those who aren’t stressed about ‘being on track’ or ‘being in the right place’ at all.
So maybe, just maybe, you and I are going to be just fine in feeling these things – the anxiety and fear show we care, and that we won’t let ourselves miss the opportunities that eventually present themselves.
And if I’m wrong, and we’re both totally doomed, I invite you to share some of my red cheesy Doritos any day, pal.
If you want to weep with me, join me over on my Facebook page, right here.