Not along ago, I remember hearing the term ‘quarter life crisis’ used on national radio and it seemed to pretty much sum up the feelings of many people leaving education and entering the world of work. The current generation of young adults are facing perhaps the most daunting and uncertain adulthood in decades and the effects of this uncertainty are clear to see. A recent study claimed that over 80% of surveyed twenty-somethings reported suffering from severe stress or anxiety, and doctors surgeries up and down the country are treating young people in crisis before their journey through adulthood has really begun.
During the British summertime, alongside our obsession with the weather and moaning regardless of the results, the signs are there for all to see – a sometimes eye popping lack of clothing in public, too much complaining and social network feeds full of bright sparks celebrating their graduation from University. Whilst graduation is a huge achievement and should be celebrated, I wonder if the next pool of graduates is really aware of what awaits them on the other side. High unemployment, a dearth of skilled jobs for which their degrees will be suited, and huge rental prices spread across the majority of the country. Young adults up and down Britain spent their school years being told that if they put the work in they would be rewarded with a good job and the associated perks. Were they lied to?
Things that to our parents were perfectly normal and realistic aspirations, have become near impossibilities for us twenty-somethings: buying a house, raising a family and saving for a comfortable retirement. How are we ever going to be able to do that? We don’t earn enough and everything is too expensive. There are those of us getting dangerously close to thirty and still boarding with our parents, or others paying extortionate rates in small flats with no prospect of saving as utilities and council tax consume their monthly pay packet.
Is it any surprise that people entering adulthood find the whole process too daunting to comprehend and end up in crisis or, in some cases, see the only option as ending their life? Can we be surprised that mental health problems are rife amongst young people as they are faced with the task of navigating the roadwork spattered spaghetti junction that is the road of life?
I entered the world of real adulthood (you’re not really living as a ‘proper adult’ until you leave education, let’s be honest) in July of 2012, on a rainy day in the grey city of Leicester. I’d already cottoned on that life wasn’t going to be the fairytale that had been peddled during years at school. I was already suffering from depression and in all honesty, I was lucky to have graduated. My luck struck once again as I was offered a fantastic opportunity within a good company and off I went to Nottingham, with my own flat, my new job and my girlfriend. Perfect. Wait, that should have been perfect, shouldn’t it? I was one of the lucky ones; I had the job I was promised.
Then reality hit me like a brick in the face. My mental health had been diminishing for years and I was resisting people’s requests to speak to a doctor. Utilities, council tax and rent alongside my diminishing ability to work sent me into blown panic mode; what would I do if I was too ill to work? How would I pay for these enormous outgoings? Before I knew, it my flat was gone, my job was gone and I was living with my parents again.
Before I moved out and had to stand on my own two feet I had underestimated the pressure of running a house. Life is hard, and if you suffer from a long term mental health condition it makes it even harder. When the news is full of bleak economic predictions, record levels of youth unemployment and little sign of the situation easing, it’s no wonder that the ‘quarter life crisis’ is prevalent amongst young Brits. I’m now back living with my mum and working an unskilled job, but the lack of pressure is nice. I try not to think about the future too much and I’d recommend my peers try to do the same. If you think about it too much, it will drive you mad – trust me.
‘Don’t grow up, it’s a trap’ seems more relevant in the context of the present day than ever before.