I found this picture of balloon girl on one of my very favorite websites, pinterest.com – a kind of catch-all for everything amazing on the internet – and immediately control-saved it to my desktop.
When I was in my junior year of college, I mocked an acquaintance (behind his back, of course – I was raised right) who had graduated and was in the midst of what he called his “quarterlife crisis” – a phrase that takes its name from a 2001 book entitled Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. I mean, come on. A “quarterlife” crisis? I was pretty sure that this was yet another pop psychology term designed to soothe an anxious populace by defining and diagnosing its every miniscule problem.
And then, I graduated. And I was going to get a job right away, of course. Because this 4.0 overachiever, this full-ride scholarship winner, this real-life Hermione, beloved by teachers and students alike would conquer the “real” world just as she had her most difficult classes. I mean, sure it might take a little more research and dedication, but ultimately, the equivalent of my typical “A” would be earned. Yup, nope.
Full-time jobs, part-time jobs, internships: nope, nope, and nope. And the kicker is they don’t even send you a rejection e-mail! It’s like going to a bar to pick up a man/woman and trying to figure out when exactly the point hits at which you are probably not going to get lucky. Because you don’t want to wait until last call – then you just look pathetic. And you certainly don’t want to stand on top of your table and scream, “Hey, anybody like what they see?!”
Reading through Liz Funk’s Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, in which she speaks about the difficulty young women have post-college, I came to understand that the problem with navigating the non-academic world is its lack of concrete rules. Your prospective job (or one-night stand, to continue the metaphor) is completely at the whim of a myriad of nebulous, indefinable factors. This does not sit well with a Type-A personality (especially a Type-A with an anxiety disorder to exacerbate the situation). Hence, the “quarterlife” crisis.
So, back to balloon girl. Reader, you are familiar, I believe with what the kids call “the Facebook?” Well, as a post-grad, I like to call Facebook ‘my little technological torture tool.’ (If you read my intro blog, you know this about me. If you didn’t read it . . . why not? What else are you doing with your life? Curing cancer? I thought not.) When friends and acquaintances are winning internships, making moves, and getting engaged/married, the green-eyed monster invades my body (well, not so much on the last one). I try not to let “comparison steal my joy,” but it’s harder than balloon girl would have you believe.
During my, let’s call it a ‘sojourn,’ it sounds classier, from gainful employment, I’ve been transformed into quite the housewife. Recipes are being drooled over in their online form and then replicated in much messier fashion (hey, they still taste good – that’s all that matters), the downstairs floor of the house I live in with my parents is being converted into an apartment for my use and I’m practically feverish with decorating ideas.
I love these activities, but when there is no other way to mark my accomplishments, when something goes wrong (which, as anyone who cooks knows, is often) the blowback is intense.
If, for example, one puts banana squares in a square 8’x8’ pan instead of the instructed rectangle 9’x13’ because at the time it seemed like it wouldn’t make a difference and then, after cutting into the perfectly-brown top crust, your knife comes out full of uncooked batter, one may end up curled up in bed with one’s mom crying, “I can’t do anything right! This is all I have!”
The truth is, what I have is a lovely, lucky life. I may be in the midst of this “quarterlife” crisis, trying to find my place in a brand new world, but I’m also at a point in my life where “what else am I doing?” isn’t a question I ask myself when I’m feeling pathetic, but rather an excuse to free myself from all my excuses and fears and go exploring it.