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LAce Posted Monday, July 12th, 2004
The State of My Life 2004
Jenny R. Sawyer

A Short Treatise on What it’s Like to be an Early Twenty-Something

I’m itching to do big things. This very minute. Really big things. I don’t mean momentous things like founding my own community non-profit organization and heading up the next major grassroots revolution – although that would be nice. I mean physically big things, like swinging my arms through the air in a wild frenzy, or stretching out to my full length and twisting and thrashing about while screaming at the top of my lungs. Socially unacceptable things.

If I had my way this corner of the 14th Floor would become my own personal playground. I frequently imagine climbing up on the desks to chat with my fellow co-workers over the short, padded, makeshift walls. It is about all I can do to stifle my continuous urges to dash past the filing cabinets lining the door to my cubicle and fling myself into a handstand against the wall, or go cart wheeling down the hallway. The best I can suffice are stretches and yoga postures and people still look at me funny.

Once a dance teacher of mine said she felt her best when she was able to invert herself at least once a day. Odd, I thought at the time. But lately I’ve found I tend to feel rather sad and unfulfilled at the end of the day if I haven’t spent at least a small part of it upside-down. I realize I am now totally in her camp: a total convert, a whole hearted believer.

Being a dancer at heart, my happiness lies in my physicality. Yet the things I yearn to do are socially unacceptable. At least in the office. And honestly, socially unacceptable is pretty much how I’ve been feeling lately - like an outcast. Not that you’d know it to look at me. I don’t look much different from my funky, female, urban, liberal arts sort of counter-culture counterparts. I’m nice and polite, and I smile and laugh a lot. People don’t run from me in the streets. But since I graduated from college my internal motivations have rarely felt compatible with my outward activities. Many of my personal wants and needs directly conflict with what I perceive as external and adult expectations. My life just doesn’t seem to be fitting together right, and I’m discovering this awful feeling is the shared plight of almost all the early twenty-something’s I know.

The other day my friend Lucy mentioned a book to me over the phone. The book discusses someone’s theory which hypothesizes that the way the planets align in the sky during the time a person is in their twenties is the reason why that period of life tends to be so tumultuous. Knowing her not to be the sort of person who generally looks to the stars for answers, I asked her why she brought it up. She responded, “Maybe it’ll explain something. I hate this. This really sucks.”

It’s seriously gotten to the point where normal vocabulary used to qualify emotional status doesn’t even apply anymore. Even though Lucy told me she had been feeling pretty confused and depressed lately, when my mom asked about her, I told my mom she was doing fine. Fine? Then when my mom asked about my friend Foster, who has been forced into withdrawal from his psychological medication at least three times in the last six months due to health insurance problems and has had to resort to becoming a total pot-head just to make it to class in a semi-functional state in the morning, I told her he was okay. Okay? Surviving maybe. Simply alive is more like it. And I could go on.... for all my friends. But the point is that “okay” now means barely making it through each day in one piece, “fine” now equals consistently crappy, and “good” is experiencing a tiny promotion to one slightly less torturous level of purgatory in this twisted, contemporary, early-adult version of Dante’s Inferno. Apparently, there’s a new buzzword out now, naming this unpleasantly pervasive social phenomenon the “QLC” or “Quarter-Life Crisis”. Though this does give me a sense of validation in knowing that I am not crazy or alone, it is still little comfort that so many of us recent graduates feel the way we do – over-qualified, unfulfilled, and misdirected – without having any idea what to do about it.

Why is it like this? I’ve had many an older adult tell me they don’t envy my position and are extremely glad they aren’t my age anymore. Is it that after a period of adjustment, adult life begins to improve as one gets older? Or do you just get used to how much it sucks?

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Tracey Gentry [ doxieslove@AOL.COM ] on Tuesday, July 13th, 2004 at 1:07 PM
Jenny, You have written a wonderful piece. It expresses feelings and thoughts that many are or have gone through but can not or will not share. Some of us have even surpressed those feelings and thoughts for so long we have lost touch with ourselves. Even if it is in your own mind stand on your head and fling your arms around wildly until you can be in an "acceptable" place to physically do so. Be who YOU are and know that you are truly special. Tracey

Posted by Burnley Hayes on Wednesday, July 14th, 2004 at 4:34 PM
The lessening of life's suckiness is in direct correlation to the amount of time spent hanging upside down...DO IT! Furthermore, flap, flop, fly, cry, flail, wail, kick and spit your way through...

Posted by Fawn Pattison on Thursday, July 15th, 2004 at 1:23 PM
The Unbearable Lightness of being the overpriveledged Middle Class. It hurts! I recommend doing the handstands, reading Dave Eggers, and smoking less pot. And of course, keep writing...

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