I frequently suffer from a quarter-life crisis. Yes, this thing really does exist and a lot of people from the age of 23-29 will agree with me. I experience emotional melt-downs at least twice a year, wondering what I’m doing with my life, feeling insecure in my abilities and frustrated with not having reached my goals. There has been one too many nights were I’ve found myself seeking solace with a tub of Ben&Jerry’s only to discover I don’t feel any better, just guilty for consuming all those calories. I know it’s my own fault as to why I often feel this way, I put too much pressure on myself and many of my peers do the same.
The ‘millennials’, a group of people born between 1982-2004 that are depicted to be the digital generation that would be filled with promise. They would grow up in a world that was being transformed by globalisation, new technology and innovations, and where education was becoming more accessible. Everything looked so bright and shiny.
In high school, we were sold a tale that described how we’ve never had it so good and that it was possible to be anything, and to do anything we wanted. I very much bought into this fantasy and with me being a goal oriented person, I made endless lists in sixth year of the things I wanted to do and the places I wanted to see. Getting into university was a must – everything else would fall into place from there. Fast forward 10 years and I’ve barely scratched the surface of any of these things. Maybe it was my naivety or just that life was a lot harder than expected, or perhaps societal factors had gotten in the way? It could very well be a combination of them all.
Youth unemployment has been at pandemic levels in Europe for quite some time. Statistics show as of December 2016, the overall EU rate of youth unemployment was at 18.6% while specific countries, such as Spain, Italy and Greece are experiencing rates of over 40%. Belgium’s rate was at 20.4%, whilst the UK has a rate of 12.6%, Ireland 14.5% and Northern Ireland ‘s rate (between April-June 2016) was 13.9% (Source: Statista).
If we somehow manage to find ourselves in employment, it is expected that we will earn 20% less than that of the baby boomer’s did when they were our age, despite the fact that millennials are better educated. Therefore, our net worth is half of that than the older generation. Furthermore, our student debts are higher and rate of home ownership is much lower. For many decades, financial security within the world economy has been declining which had partially resulted in the 2008 financial crisis and impacted the future of millennials the most.
Job security and working conditions are also half of that of the baby boomer’s and generation X. Having to complete multiple internships with very little to no wages is nothing short of labour exploitation. Additionally, the UK’s policy on ‘zero hour contracts’ leave many young people and others with little job security. They are only a means to obscure the true nature of employment rates and allow for employers to abuse their positions.
So the picture does appear to be quite bleak; however, we need to remind ourselves that it is not all doom and gloom. Globalisation and technological development has provided us with many opportunities. With the opening up of borders, myself and many others have been able to live and study abroad with ease within the EU, and travelling on an international basis is becoming increasingly more affordable. More and more people are online which has enabled for the sharing of information and it has been a gift for allowing us to expand our horizons without even having to leave our bedrooms.
The millennials are sometimes stigmatised has being lazy and entitled – this couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are a generation full of ideas, energy and innovative talent. We are conscious of what is going on in the world around us, we are far more braver than the generations that have preceded us, and we are willing to work hard for the things that make us passionate. I don’t need to look farther than my own circle of friends to feel inspired and encouraged. Young women and men who graft tirelessly to reach their goals and ambitions.
When the quarter-life crisis hits again and it most certainly will, I need only to remind myself to re-read this article for strength and clarity, to let myself know that it most certainly does suck sometimes but nevertheless, my only limitations are those that I allow myself to have. Hopefully then I’ll be able to avoid drowning myself in cookie dough ice-cream. #YOLO