Facebook feed clogged with inspirational memes? Must be Monday morning.
The start of the working week sees endless encouragement to tackle the week ahead. To climb a mountain. To stare down a storm. To not judge a book. To stand out in the crowd. To stop whinging, to wake up early, and to smile at everything from inanimate objects to your underarm hair to the bus driver.
All featuring the cheery backgrounds of tropical sunsets, misty mountains, or dawn dew on a shiny green leaf.
Needless to say, it’s a lot to deal with before I’ve even had a coffee.
But this morning, one of these memes snagged at my pre-caffeinated mind. It was strangely…profound.
Take a look:
As someone who rejected the traditional nine-to-five in favour for a freelance lifestyle, it struck me as particularly poignant. I am lucky enough to craft my life with a balanced hand; incorporating regular exercise, normal sleep patterns, and reasonable workloads.
But I am an anomaly.
More and more, I am noticing people dropping out of the race. One minute they're running alongside you, complaining about the price of their morning coffee, and then BAM! They're trekking the Andes searching for inner peace.
There is no denying the rat race has sped up in the last 20 or so years. Standard pace on the hamster wheel has been bumped up from 'fast' to 'frantic', and days whizz by in a flurry of cereal at your work desk and express yoga classes at night. Forget stopping to smell the roses, no one can stop long enough to even find a garden.
It is proven that millennials are working harder and longer than any generation before us. We might not have a war to fight, but we've got a very real battle when it comes to our lifestyle: houses are unaffordable, saving is impossible, and if you're a woman, your wages aren't anywhere near where they should be.
It is little wonder that people are exhausted.
Social pressures are booming, too - thanks to the far-reaching power of Facebook, our generation is constantly bombarded with heavily curated insights into people's lives. Comparison is inevitable.
Tracy from high school is already on her second child, why aren't you pregnant?
Jack just got made account director at his agency, where's your fancy title?
Shane and Michaela just toured India on a meditation retreat, and you can't even manage a smile on Monday morning?
Add this to the endless listicles of How To Get Fit In Five Minutes and Top Ten Ways To A Happier Relationship; and your already busy schedule is now overrun with mid-week bowling dates and lunchtime sit ups in the office bathroom.
Everywhere you look, someone is ready to tell you that you're not skinny enough, not happy enough, not smart enough, not healthy enough. Little wonder we've all become spellbound by a quick fix, turning to fortune-cookie life advice to repair our apparent flaws.
One article I stumbled across was titled, 'Eight ways to tackle the life crisis you think you're having.'
Author and Gen Y flagbearer Dolly Alderton notes that 'almost half of the British public are going through a life crisis.'
" 'Why' is the crux of their general theme," explains Dolly.
" "Why am I still in my overdraft?", "why have I been single for four years?", "why did I spend all that money on drinks for that table of people I hardly know?", "why do I always have to prove to people at dinner parties that I know every word to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air rap? Why? WHY?" "
She then goes on to throw out some suggestions on how we can deal with these, er, 'life crisis'. Good lord.
From the existential ('marvel at something massive') to the practical ('log off social media'), Dolly lists her handy tips in surviving the chaos of modern living. All in all, it's a pretty depressing insight into how far removed we have become from good, old fashioned, happy living.
Dolly encourages her readers to go outside, drink less, help people, and practice self care. I mean, aren't these 'quick fixes' the basic foundations of living?
Watch the annoying habits of travellers below. (Post continues after video)
More and more we indulge our narcissistic obsession with our own imperfection, until finally, something snaps. At this point, people decide they simply cannot go on. They realise there simply must be more to life, and they decide to go hunting for it.
Peta Taylor, 34, left her corporate career in Sydney earlier this year in search of....well, she's not sure yet. But she's looking.
She's dubbed herself an 'Unpacker'.
"An Unpacker (as defined by me) is a person, typically in their 30s or 40s, who has found themselves at a crossroad in life and uses travel as a form of therapy."
For Peta, she reached a crossroad in her life where she needed to unpack her emotional baggage, and decide where she wanted to go next. Having made the decision not to have children, she wasn't content with her discontent. She wanted happiness. She wanted answers. She wanted to choose her choice and live her life. So she left.
"You see, I’ve reached a stage in life where I have ticked most of the boxes and I’ve got to tell you, it isn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be," explains Peta.
"I have a great job but it doesn’t fulfil me; I’m married to a gorgeous man that needs to send me meeting requests to schedule 1:1 time; I live in a lovely house in a community I don’t feel connected to and I’m at an age where I’ve lost most of my friends to motherhood (a life event I will never embark on)."
"It would be easy to just keep going this way – in fact, it is very tempting. But instead it’s time to unpack how I got to this point and where I want to go to next. So, I convinced my husband to put our life in boxes, press pause on our careers and dust off our backpacks to travel around the world for a year."
(You can read Peta's blog, The Unpacker, here.)
All the necessary essentials. And we're off! #travel #vegemite #careerbreak #unpacker #excited A photo posted by @theunpacker on Jan 22, 2016 at 3:56pm PST
It is a distinctly 21st century infliction, this discontented 'life crisis'.
Older generations scoff, and recommend that the younger folk just get on with it. Like they did. Right?
Well, maybe not.
Millennials are actually proven to suffer greater anxiety and stress than ever before.
According to Business Insider, "millennials (aged 18 to 35) and Gen Xers (36 to 49) are significantly more stressed than the “average” stress level, while older generations struggle less with stress."
(Source: Business Insider)
As the millennials clutch their chests and prepare for another day on the hamster wheel, the younger school leavers (Gen Z? Is that what they are?) are also feeling the pressure.
Thanks to increasing pressures in school to achieve a high score not only for themselves, but for their school's benefit, too; school-leavers are opting for a gap year to escape.
President Barack Obama's daughter Malia is one of them, with CNN reporting her decision to take a year off before beginning college in 2017.
"Malia Obama's year-long deferral before her first year at Harvard is a route taken by about 80 to 110 admitted students. Higher education experts tout the off-year as a way to travel, engage in a long-term special project or otherwise use the time in a constructive and meaningful way."
Not quite. It's a year to escape, you old fuddy duddies.
The truth behind the gap year isn't about 'special projects' or using the time in a 'constructive and meaningful way' - it's about rest. Dropping out of the race for a little while, and taking the time to ruminate on what their passion, their interest, their life goals.
...Not scrambling to cover rent, and affording University fees.
So no quick fixes here, or 'Ten Ways To Create A Life You Don't Need To Escape From'.
Just some good, old fashioned advice, sisters: go ahead and make your own rules.
They're the only ones that'll stick.