Being enough

draft

I stumbled upon a a bunch of drafts that I thought I would share since I have no idea why they were left unfinished and unpublished. This was originally dated August 10, 2013.

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird the last few weeks (and loving it). This excerpt perfectly explains my thoughts about being a emotionally healthy goal-oriented person. It’s from her essay “Publication.”

“All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings, which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team. The coach is a four-hundred-pound man who had won a gold in Olympic bobsledding twenty years before but has been a complete loser ever since. The men on his team are desperate to win the Olympic medal, just as half the people in my classes are desperate to get published. But the coach says, ‘If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.'”

This is, adding to last week’s conversation, a key to dealing with/avoiding a quarter life crisis.

What are you waiting for?

waiting

Royce Bair (Creative Commons)

As an entry to the giveaway this week, I asked the question, “What was your most recent ‘in-between’ moment or most difficult time of waiting?” I’ve been really enjoying the responses. People are being so honest! I really appreciate that. Here’s what some of you are saying:

“Seeing the end of school and not knowing what comes next! But school isn’t quite over yet so I need to somehow stay in the ‘present’ while staying hopeful for the future.”

“The in-between is a place I feel like I’m forever in. I don’t feel at home no matter where I am.”

“I’ve been “in waiting” for a few years and didn’t really even know that this was something other people experienced!”

“I’m currently going through an in between time while waiting to see if and when I’ll be moving and what I will be doing when I get there.”

“Right now I’m at a stage where my one of my kids is out of naps and the other is still an infant, so all of our life is sort of wrapped around that – it makes it hard to get anything done educationally for my oldest, or get any projects or cleaning done around the house other than the bare minimum, or read/listen to (adult) music/catch up with the news… I’m looking forward to when they are both able to play together so they can enjoy each other’s company, and give us all a bit more freedom.”

“My most difficult in-between moment was waiting for my depression to lift.”

“I’m deep in the ‘in-between’! I thought finishing college would be the answer to everything, but it’s left me lost, confused and in debt. ”

“My in-between time lately has been waiting to become licensed for counseling.”

What are you waiting for? You can still enter to win a copy of The In-Between by Jeff Goins. Or if you just want to chime in and leave a comment you can do so as well.

My Quarter Life Crisis [Part 2]

quarterlifecrisis

[Read Part I Here]

“With professional athletes drafted out of high school and A-list singer-actors in their teens, we’re made to feel that if we haven’t achieved something monumental by the age of twenty-five, then we’re already over the hill.”

“Some adults — usually those in a midlife crisis— roll their eyes when they hear ‘Quarterlife Crisis.’ ‘Twentysomethings can’t be in a crisis!’ they say. ‘When you have your youth and freedom, you have nothing to complain about.’

“I try turning the tables. ‘If that’s your reason for dismissing a Quarterlife Crisis,’ I reply, ‘then how can you complain about a midlife crisis when you have a spouse, a car, a savings account, and a backyard with a pool?’ They are not amused. The generation gap grows fierce.” – Alexandra Robbins, It’s A Wonderful Lie

It didn’t take me long in my reading to identify with what these twentysomethings were talking about, but when I spoke about it with other people I found myself being met with laughter, scoffing and general mockery, just like the above quotation. People didn’t understand. This only made me want to turn even more into myself. Learning that this was actually a very normal thing for people my age, even if I might be the only one of my group of friends going through it, I was comforted. Later, I was able to talk to another close friend who went through a similar experience, just a year-and-a-half after I had.

My biggest questions at the time were “Who am I? What makes me unique? Where am I going?” Four years ago I struggled to respond well to these questions because I seemed to have and want all the same things that my friends from University did. We all mostly worked in the same field, had the same values etc. We didn’t all have the same likes and dislikes, but that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. “Where am I going?” was the scariest question of all. I had no idea. I was unhappy with my work situation, but felt trapped there because of my student loans. I fantasized about moving to Montreal and working at Starbucks, but that wasn’t a better option. I didn’t really want what I had. What I really wanted to was to marry a confident, ambitious man with a stable job who would love me and impregnate me and let me stay at home with our kids. But that didn’t seem like the right thing for a University grad to want right out of University. I felt guilty for having a degree and wanting to not use it, especially when my mom’s biggest life regret was not getting a degree.

I felt like (and was?) the biggest ungrateful whining spoiled child ever, and still couldn’t change how I felt.

My friend Amanda

Maybe you can identify more with Amanda. Her crisis came a year and a half after mine.

Like me, she graduated from Queen’s University with a (similar) degree in Geography/Women’s Studies. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life (read: career) but knew she didn’t want to do her Masters and that would be the level of education she’d need in order to use her degree practically. She had a significant amount of student loan debt and knew she couldn’t go back home to live with her parents because it just wasn’t an environment conducive to growing up. I like to say I convinced her to move to Montreal, but I’m pretty sure she’s an adult and came to this conclusion on her own. She came to Montreal and stayed with some generous friends while she tried to find a job. After weeks of looking, she managed to get a job at Second Cup — far from her dream post-undergrad job. She started looking for a church while trying to figure out her way in a bilingual city, knowing no French.

She hated the question, “where do you work?” because she graduated from Queen’s, well known for grooming snobs (I can say that because I am one) and she resented the fact that she worked at a chain coffee shop. As she started spiralling down into her own quarter-life-crisis, having no plan for a career because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. I tried to remind her of a few important things: she had her faith, friends, family (at a distance) and was working on paying off her debt. These are key things in growing up! But I knew, having been in her position, that this was probably not as encouraging as it should be.

Growing up is hard to do

It was an extremely uncomfortable time for us, especially doing it alone. We were letting things about our lives define us instead of who we were and who we were becoming. We didn’t know who we were becoming and we weren’t sure if we were going to like us!

Were we still the same person we were in High School even though we haven’t achieved any of the goals we thought we would by now? “Who am I without having achieved anything significant?” we wondered.

But four years later, I’m doing more than OK. So is Amanda. Our life isn’t turning out how we expected it to, but we’ve come to terms with that. It’s OK.

What’s the solution?

As I was chatting with Amanda about publishing this post we agreed on this: this time was essential in developing our character. We learned what hard, thankless work meant and that lesson is invaluable. We learned more about our own faith and the truth of where and who we were putting it in.

I wish I could say “just do X” or “believe Y” to make the difficulty of the Quarter Life Crisis go away. I can’t. There’s no magic answer. It’s simply an awkward second puberty that only happens to some people. We struggle awkwardly in growing up. It’s hard. We learn we can’t base our identity in circumstances that could change like marital status, career possibilities, even family. Crisis happens, even when we know it’s rooted in our entitlement and spoiled-ness, which makes it even more frustrating.

We become, and years later we are still becoming. This is both scary and hopeful.

My quarter life crisis , 4 years later. [Part 1]

This summer marks the 4 year anniversary of my Quarter Life Crisis. I realized what was going on a year after I graduated University. I didn’t know what was happening to me I seemed to be the only one of my friends who was experiencing what I was. After some time on Google, I realized that I was probably having a quarter life crisis. I had never heard the term before. At the time, Wikipedia listed the following traits*:

  • realizing that the pursuits of one’s peers are useless
  • confronting their own mortality
  • watching time slowly take its toll on their parents, only to realize they are next
  • insecurity regarding the fact that their actions are meaningless
  • insecurity concerning ability to love themselves, let alone another person
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
  • lack of friendships or romantic relationships, sexual frustration, and involuntary celibacy
  • disappointment with one’s job
  • nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
  • loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies
  • desire to have children
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you
  • frustration with social skills

I didn’t identify with all of them, but I was feeling the loneliness and missing University, I had the burden of $30, 000 in school loans, I was painfully single, I wanted kids, I was feeling like a failure because the place I was in my job was not at all as planned, and I was facing the fact that the world was not my oyster like I had previously thought. It was like growing up in the Shire and then being ushered into downtown Toronto where the cold hard buildings block out the sun and people are barking at you to get out of their way. Or at least, that’s how it felt.

The real world didn’t seem very pleasant.

After looking up ‘quarter life crisis’ on Wikipedia, I thought about checking to see what kind of books there were on the topic. I found a book called 20 Something, 20 Everything that explained it even more to me. The author had experienced what I had. She done some research and found out that this was fairly normal, especially for young female college grads. Here are a few quotes from other young women who were describing this time in their life:

  • “All of a sudden I feel lots of pressure from society about what a woman should be.”
  • “I do not feel like a grown-up because I’m still learning about myself.”
  • “I immediately start pursuing what I think I want for a profession, then change my mind and start over. It is a time of dating, living with others, breaking up, and establishing independence from my family.”
  • “I feel conflicted, knowing I need to break away from the security of my parents but not knowing how to do it and, quite honestly, not really wanting to.”
  • “This is a time of much needed self-discovery and tough learning experiences.”
  • “Being independent for the first time is scary, dramatic, lonely, complicated, and harsh, yet at the same time, empowering, educational, and exciting.”
  • “This is a time where I want to figure out who I am, what I want, what my purpose is in life, but I seem to spend more time learning how much pressure I can handle.”
  • “I am still searching, trying to figure out what makes me tick and what my voice is in the world.”
  • “This is a time for everything at once, with a feeling like there is no room for error.”
  • “I experience misplaced energy from a weak sense of self. A lot of ‘two steps forward, three steps back.’”

I kept reading through this book and found so much comfort in the fact that I was one of many people who were going through this very same thing.  And then came the check-list that might confirm it for you as it did for me:

  1. Do you feel a need to “have it all”?
  2. Do you feel older for the first time in your life?
  3. Do you feel pressure to grow up and get your adult life in order?
  4. Do you often feel depressed, overwhelmed, lost and maybe even a little hopeless?
  5. Do you ever feel that time is running out when you try to figure out your career and decide whether you want to get married and/or have children?
  6. Are you stressed out by choices that seemingly will affect the rest of your life?
  7. Do you feel that you have failed because you don’t know what you want to do with your life?
  8. Do you over-analyze yourself and your decisions?
  9. Do you ever feel guilty for complaining about your life when you’ve lived only about a quarter of it?
  10. Are you embarrassed that you have not figured out or accomplished more?

Though I had said yes to all 10, I started to feel some hope. I was somewhat relieved to hear that other people did too. [To be continued…]

*The list is no longer there, but I kept a copy on my computer.

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