in defence of quarter-life-crisis-itis
In approximately three weeks time I will turn twenty-one. I will be waving goodbye to my idyllic childhood and stumbling drunkenly into the Brobdingnagian adult world. This is probably a milestone I should be excited about right? It’s an excuse to throw a party, gorge myself on canapés, and drink expensive champagne. Everyone has to be nice to me for the day and write corny things on birthday cards like ‘it has been a pleasure knowing you’, ‘all the best for the future’, and ‘best friends FOREFFA’ (yes, I am ashamed to say these are things that I have seen/written on birthday cards). Despite all that fun and hilarity, the prospect of turning the big two-one terrifies me.
I’m suffering from what doctors call ‘quarter-life-crisis-itis’. Symptoms include frequent existential crises, a general malaise, indecisiveness, difficulty establishing personal identity, and an overriding feeling of mediocrity. I’m turning twenty-one and what have I got to show for it? Not much. What have I achieved in my twenty-one years? Nothing astounding.
I’m sure a lot of people have experienced that negative epiphany, that rude shock when you suddenly think to yourself ‘Crap! What have I actually achieved?’ For me it happened in three stages:
Stage One – The Olympics
I was comfortably ensconced on the sofa watching the diving and cradling a packet of Mint Slice. Sixteen-year-old Brittany Broben had just pulled off an excellent two-and-a-half somersault with one-and-a-half twists and some other impressive stuff on the side. She won the silver medal. As she stepped up onto the podium and represented her country, what did I do? I stood up and shook out the biscuit crumbs that had fallen down my shirt and into my bra. Yep…it was a proud moment.
Stage Two – Kirsten Stewart
When the news broke that Kirsten Stewart had cheated on hunky Robert Pattinson with the equally hunky but married-with-kids director Rupert Sanders I couldn’t help but be impressed. At only twenty-two years of age she has managed to become a household name, build up a nice fortune, have a long-term relationship with a pale but adorably English actor AND have an affair with a man twice her age. Naturally I don’t condone her behaviour but I will say I am impressed she has managed to fit it all in. What have I done in my twenty-and-a-bit years? I am still living with my parents, still at university, still working as a casual employee and still yet to hold onto a boyfriend for longer than four months. Thrilling stuff.
Stage Three – Fifty words or less
The final stage of my quarter-life crisis was particularly brutal. It happened on Monday 13th of August at approximately 9:45pm. I was putting together a bunch of short stories I had written and half-heartedly submitting them to magazines and journals. Some of them asked for an author biography of fifty words or less. Most writers say what their day job is (because very few can live by their pen) and where they have been published previously. All I could manage was ‘Coco McGrath studies Journalism, English Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Queensland.’ Fourteen words. My life only amounts to fourteen words.
I know I shouldn’t let it get to me. I should stop beating myself up because I haven’t managed to bring about world peace or cure cancer before hitting twenty-one. Very few people can say they’ve achieved great things in their early twenties. In fact the majority of us are mediocre and that’s just fine.
The netball team I was in last year lost every single game (this was partly due to our lack of sporting prowess and partly due to the fact that none of us knew the rules of netball). But we decided to adopt a positive outlook. We embraced the idea that things are defined by what they are not. Winners are defined because they are not losers therefore we helped the other teams win by losing. Without mediocre people there would be no such thing as great people. So, in a roundabout way, all the mediocre people out there have contributed to the success of great people. The argument is a work in progress but let’s roll with it.
So when I turn twenty-one in a few weeks time I’m going to drink away my quarter-life-crisis-itis and celebrate being mediocre. Maybe one day I’ll achieve great things but until then, pass the expensive champagne and bring me a packet of Mint Slice!