Culture

Why Does it Feel like We Live in an Age of Anxiety?

Dear Woroni

In short, it’s because we do. Although, I must take care to point out that I’m not talking about the permeating and prevalent problem that is mental health. I’m talking about an anxiety epidemic amongst millennials Re: Our Futures (capitals intentional because, well, it’s a big fkn deal okay).

For our entire lives we have been painted as the luckiest, most educated, and most prosperous generation to ever grace the earth. Arguably, the age of the internet and increased education has meant that opportunities for success are presented to most of us on a gold platters that simply weren’t being passed around in the pre-2000s. Think careers on Youtube, the ability to make a living as an Instagram influencer, the fact that with one click of a button we can form connections with future employers on Linkedin etc. This should be a good thing though, right?

Well, not exactly. This privilege comes at a cost – our identity. It’s ironic really; too much freedom can actually become overwhelming and serve to restrict us. Us millennials seem to be facing an identity crisis. A series of cascading questions serve to haunt and debilitate us: What next? What career path should I pursue? Who am I? What’s my purpose? When will these dreams of mine come to life?

Although these questions are painfully cliche, they represent an identity crisis pandemic that is so much more than a just reflection of the new technology age we live in – it is an anxious cry for help. Markedly, recent studies by psychologists have indicated that many millennials are actually facing quarter life crises. Bearing all the hallmarks of the notorious ‘mid-life crisis’, this phenomenon adequately sums up the feelings of desperation, insecurity, anxiety and loneliness that so many of us sometimes face. Mainstream media carries around our golden platter of ‘dreams’, of the perfect lives that seem so almost tangible … if we work hard enough.

This ‘dream’ is championed by commercial advertisements that sell a picture of achievable great-looks, expensive cars and high-ceilinged apartments, all aimed at millennials. They tell us to ‘create first, question later’ and to ‘Make. Inspire. Do’. We are so aware of all these things – both tangible material products, and intangibile, immaterial ideals, values and life trajectories – we are supposed to have, but in some sort of huge irony-ridder contradiction, the very possibility of these aspirations coming to life has been robbed from us. The rising price of the housing market, limited job opportunities and the cost of living day-by-day all exist in stark contrast to the idea of us getting that grad job, eventually buying a family home, and going out for brunch along the way with our stylish significant-other and Cavoodle in-tow that is fed to us on our golden platter. This imposes a lot of pressure on us, and leads to much unrecognised and stagnant anxiety amongst millennials.

To make the problem worse, exposure to the life we ‘could have’ on social media serves to heighten these feelings of anxiousness. We are always striving for something bigger, better and brighter, our lives always appearing as dull in comparison to others. Social media appears to be our kryptonite. It is no surprise that a correlation between the rise of social media comes hand in hand with this new anxiety ridden ‘quarter-life crisis’ phenomenon.

Personally, I find myself using self-gratification as a relief. Splurging on expensive cocktail nights, designer clothing and unnecessary uber rides provides me with a superficial feeling of satisfaction with my life. I believe I am living my own dream. However, my priorities are completely warped. In order to sustain a lifestyle like this, I also need to work hard at uni and get good grades. My fear of failure – to get that grad job, earn enough that I can live off, and enjoy life while doing it – has seen me adopt the lifestyle of a hedonist. I emulate an ethical system in which immediate pleasure ranks as the highest form of good. At least when I live this way I can temporarily continue to avoid answering the questions I mentioned above. But, in itself, this lifestyle exists as my greatest source of anxiety.  

So what next? Outlined below is some help (obviously sourced from the internet, because what the hell do I know – I’m a serial spender who silences stresses by swiping a credit card) on how to overcome your anxious tendencies and work towards getting over your quarter life crisis:

One: Stop comparing yourself.

This is stating the obvious, and we all know it, but seriously, spending valuable time comparing yourself to someone else’s successes and downfalls, unsurprisingly, does nothing to help you get where you want. The more you start focussing on your life, the more of a chance you having in finding out what you want.

Two: Don’t live by a ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ attitude.

A life reminiscing on regrets is just painful. If you don’t know the famous poem by Robert Frost ‘The Road not Taken’, look it up pronto. It gives a pretty accurate representation of life’s choices, and he makes a fair point in saying that there is no point looking back because the choices you have make are yours and ‘make all the difference’ for the future. Own them.

Three: Talk to Someone

Again obvious, but if you’re feeling a bit lost no harm can come from telling a friend. They are probably feeling the same as you.

So, there you have it, some advice on how to overcome a quarter-life crisis from someone in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. Not very convincing? Well, I guess the other way you can look at it is, at least we’re not shelling out for Harley Davidsons or having an affair with Michelle from the office who wears way too much chemist-bought perfume, and still uses the term ‘hip’ in a non-ironic way. Does that make you feel better?