‘Young and healthy’ smiled the forty-something year old Swiss nurse looking down at me from my hospital bed. There I was, a concoction of anxiety (I’m terrified of needles) and agony awaiting my shot to prevent blood clots as my foot was, and still is temporarily out of service due to torn ligaments. One single action lasting seconds caused my foot to snap, resulting in weeks of immobility, moments of frustration and fundamentally, a tonne of reflection time. Young and healthy? How could I feel that way when I’m bed ridden, yet only moments ago I had been running to catch a tram in the city without a care in the world? Still, I smiled back at her, gave a small nod and most importantly, kept my cool. No one is to blame here. Not me, not the elderly woman who fell on my foot, nor the friendly doctor about to stab my leg. These things just happen.
At 23 years old, this was not my first encounter with the unexpected. During my twenties I have had my drinks spiked, been in numerous fights, lived on antibiotics for what seems like an eternity, and seen members of my social circle pass away when no one was ready for them to.
These issues, albeit shitty, simply come with our age group, no matter what time period. They also tend to catch us off guard, reminding us of our fragility.
Fundamentally- we’re not invincible, and life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. But there’s more! What about the additional problems that only millennials (those of us in our twenties and thirties) have to deal with?
For starters we are the most qualified generation on the job hunt, University fees (especially those acquired in the UK, USA for example) leave us in crippling dept, gender roles are in limbo for us, and we basically invented the quarter life crisis. Before we can figure out how to deal with these issues, let’s elaborate on them.
Millennials are the most educated generation in recorded history, and are the largest generation (just overtaking baby boomers). Most of my friends have Bachelor degrees, many have their Masters, with some even attaining PhD’s. A degree is no longer a safe choice for job security- it’s a necessity. The job market is full to bursting point with qualified candidates, but with far fewer spaces.
With regard to gender rolls, women now have the luxury of choosing a career, and/ or a family. A look into the lives of my settled friends shows me how the dynamic has changed in parts, but remained conventional in others. Of these couples, there are two partners with equal income, one male breadwinner, and three female breadwinners. My issue here is not with gender, simply the role of said breadwinner. In all but one of the above relationships, the women do most, if not all of the housework, even though they work 9-5. Also there is still a lot of pressure on men to be providers, so it can be difficult to tackle respecting work loads for either partner, with traditional perceptions peaking through the cracks.
Lastly, our mental health. A survey conducted by the Varkey Foundation found that British millennials have the second worst mental wellbeing in world, with Japanese millennials in first place. According to the Business Insider, we are the most stressed-out generation to date. This is connected to unhealthy coping mechanisms (drug dependencies, addiction), with ties to general and mental health issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Dealing with any of this can be daunting, especially given that we have been raised in the age of information, where the prior coping strategies of previous generations simply don’t apply anymore. Our need for instant gratification can be a real bitch here, and brushing things under the rug no longer suffices.
Now we’ve figured out what our problems are, how can we deal with all of this?
My short answer- it’s simply different for everyone. Accepting support from others and not neglecting my problems has made a huge difference to how I deal with things. Those suggestions may seem obvious to you, but how many of you twenty- thirty year olds apply this in your daily life?
Young people are credited for our short attention spans, with very little acknowledgement of the fact that we are constantly balancing two active social lives – online and offline- and we are the first generation to do this. The internet and its accessibility has disrupted the social fabric of our daily lives, and sadly, those of us in our twenties are essentially the guinea pigs for it’s effect on society. Staying focussed on reality and being present helps us connect to the world around us in a healthy way, thereby also helping us deal with our very real issues.
A few years ago I decided things needed to change for me. I now read more non-fiction, I hang out with friends, and when I can, I take time away from technology (this I cannot recommend enough). I’m well aware that a life completely without technology is simply unavoidable for a functioning member of society, and as a young adult, my smart phone, MacBook, tablet or iPod are never far from my person. While I fully appreciate that this is easier said than done, just looking away from your screens and living in the moment at least once a day can really make a difference. My main restriction is with my smart phone, which is essentially all of the above devices combined. My friends would probably say I’m hard to get a hold of, as I have got used to ignoring my phone and taking in the moment. To them I say, thanks for being patient with me! But my mental health is pretty happy about it. I see more sun, have more time for hobbies, and allow myself time to be pensive.
Along with my new social presence came confidence. I don’t make apologies for my opinions anymore, or feel guilty for enjoying myself. I prioritise my comfort and well-being, which is something I can’t sell enough. Perfectionism is a plague for our age range, where enjoying yourself can be a one-way guilt trip to I’mnotworkinghardenoughtown. Contrary to popular belief, time spent enjoying yourself is not time wasted.
It’s all about you. Accidents, embarrassment, failure, reflection- they are all a part of life, no matter when you were born. Negative emotions are crucial elements to our happiness, even though it never seems that way. It’s up to you how you prioritise your energy. Allow yourself to be happy- do things you enjoy doing and don’t make excuses for it. Also allow yourself time to heal, if something is bothering you- face it. Since we are so stressed- use it to your advantage! It is not simply negative; it can be your biggest motivator.
As for allowing support from others into my life, that took, and still takes a lot of courage. Being perceived as weak or vulnerable is not an easy feat but it gets easier when you surround yourself with people who care about your well-being. Create friendships that will last- ones that you can talk about anything, help one another grow and be there for each other. This time in your life is when you start to see the solid difference between ‘nice’ and ‘good’ friends. Being nice is all very well, I have met many nice friends. But good friends are the ones you can trust, and that stay in your life. Not sure how good your friends are? Next time things get rough, keep them in the loop. Those who stick around are keepers, and those keep their distance are useless.
I am lucky enough to say that my family is incredible, but I have always been private about things that truly bother me- only now realising that no one can see when something’s wrong with you, no matter how close they are, if you don’t actively show it. For example, my mother would describe me as horizontal, because in her eyes I’m incredibly laid back. However, my boyfriend knows I’m a frantic worrier and have a tendency to overthink absolutely everything. It’s a matter of perspective, you control how you are perceived by others.
To conclude, we actually have a lot to complain about, and starting the conversation is a step in the right direction. Also remember it’s not all doom and gloom, we also have a hell of a lot to be happy about. We’re ambitious, politically aware, critical thinkers who not only have a much healthier attitude towards sex and gender, but also to other races and communities.
My advice on dealing with the shittiness that is adult life? Communication. Not just with others around you, but also with yourself. What’s really important to remember is that we are all going through this adventure head first with no training- no one is expecting us to get it right all the time, or to be constantly happy. Although it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, you really are not alone.
If you suffer it is because of you, if you feel blissful it is because of you. Nobody else is responsible – only you and you alone. You are your hell and your heaven too.– Rajneesh