The Roaring 20s: time of your life
or a crisis?
By Kelly Marcella
WE ARE WE ARE, THE YOUTH OF A NATION.
Twentysomethings all over the world are facing many new
challenges in today's fast-paced world.
"Welcome to the casino: the confusion and helplessness
that strike millions of twentysomethings soon after graduation
is frequently the result of the feeling they are about to gamble.
Often. On their lives." The casino that authors Alexandra
Robbins and Abby Wilner are describing is something they've
coined as the quarterlife crisis -a phenomenon which strikes
twentysomethings with feelings of overwhelming confusion and
helplessness about the future course of their lives.
In their book Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenge of
Life in Your Twenties, Robbins and Wilner describe this phenomenon
as "a response to overwhelming instability, constant change,
too many choices and a panicked sense of helplessness." The
authors note the crisis manifests itself through feelings of
confusion, depression, panic or simply the sheer fact of feeling
This newly defined crisis lurks in the shadows of the better-known
and well publicized mid-life crisis, which is the focus of
ample studies, articles and even movies; most notably in American
Beauty, when Kevin Spacey's character Lester Burnham quits
his job, buys a sports car and resumes smoking weed after turning
However, for most twentysomethings, making positive changes
in their lives isn't that simple. According to Robbins and
Wilner, the problem of the quarterlife crisis isn't the "doomed
sense of stagnancy" of the midlife crisis, but the fact
quarterlifers face too many choices and lack the guidance,
focus and initiative to make these important life decisions.
These decisions loom particularly large for people on the
cusp of graduating from post-secondary programs. Facing the
work force, choosing a graduate program and even deciding where
to live are all life-altering choices that carry a lot of weight
and many people have a difficult time facing the pressure.
"There is always some degree of stress when students
go out into the 'real world' after leaving the structured environment
of post-secondary education. Some just have more open personalities
and are better able to deal with the challenges they face," says
Sharon Lee, the recruitment co-ordinator at Western's Student
According to Western's ombudsperson, Frances Bauer, while
she's never heard specifically of the quarterlife crisis phenomenon,
she does not believe it is something new. "When someone
comes in with a problem, I take it seriously -I don't think
'Oh this person's just having a quarterlife crisis'" she
"I think the hardest part of the 20s is having to decide
on whether you hang on to your dreams or you compromise -and
you know there will be compromises," said York University
sociology professor Rob Lawrence.
"The longer you stay in school, the more stress you eventually
face about the job market. A lot of students feel the pressure
to get a job equivalent to their education and the job market
is very competitive," Lee explains. "People wonder
if they have enough education or if they need to go on and
get another degree or go to a professional school."