It’s Just a Year

This has become the mantra of Gen Y. It’s just a year, it’s just a year, it’s just a year. As we map and re map the path of our life, we dip our feet into different jobs and places and experiences, crossing off the bad and starring the good. But the uncertainty of how you will handle a new experience can make the task of stepping into a new pool of responsibility unnerving yet necessary. And there are the entry-level tasks and “resume building” keys we all need to have to open doors down the line. Doors that you don’t even know address to yet. But you don’t want to miss any of the necessary grunt work that might lead to your American (or International) Dream. So you bite the bullet. For a year.

It’s all I can say when talking to my friends about their I-don’t-get-no-satisfaction entry level jobs and when they get pink eye for the third time from their students. It’s just a year. Then something else, something better. Grin and bare it and make friends with the local bartender and you will survive. If you have something that you want in your future bad enough, I think patient is a virtue. Kate has been talk and dreaming about moving to Europe for a while now. She talked to her boss and they are situating her in the company in a place that could really make that come true. But before she jets off to Italy, she has to work in the agency’s corporate headquarters, a culture far different from the small boutique agency branch she loves and works in now. But it’s just a year. A year in the conservative ivory tower of corporate life that could lead to her dream job working in an international advertising agency, painting the Paris skyline from a bridge across the Seine, and having passionate and forbidden love affairs with tall, dark, and handsome European soccer players. It’s just a year.

Laura has the same relationship with teaching that I have with accounting. Don’t love it, sometimes hate it, but not ready to throw that bachelor’s degree in the trash just yet. She suffered through one year of student teaching and three bouts of pink eye, because, even though she was uninspired by her years of education courses, because she knows she needs to be a real teacher for at least one year, with her own classroom and her own kids and her own rules for one year, before really thinking about throwing in the towel. It’s just a year. Then she can reevaluate where she is and where she wants to be.

Even where we live in our 20’s is a hop scotch game from city to city, trying out all different lifestyles before making a commitment to settle down somewhere. Big city, small town, East Coast, West Coast, US or abroad. The possibilities are endless. For as long as I can remember I have known that I wanted to live in a big city. And I’m here and I love it. Living the dream now is making room for another dream to reach for once I’ve soaked up enough of the city to satisfy. I still take comfort in the fact that the only thing tying me down is my apartment lease.

They call this time in a Gen Yers life the “quarter-life crisis”. Where the proverbial midlife crisis is based on regrets of paths not taken in the past, the quarter-life crisis is stress over having too many options and paths to take and fear of taking the wrong path or missing one that could lead to a fulfilled and happy life. I don’t think anyone in our position is whining about how many choices we have, but the choices we face are decided by our character, who we are and who we will become. Too bad not enough of us have been out of the structure of academia to really know who we are or who we will become. I think part of the fuel behind the quarter-life crisis, a relatively newly coined phrase in 2001, is the commonality of the term midlife crisis. We’ve been hearing that term and the negative emotions surrounding it, our whole life (the term was first published in 1965). Instead of accepting our fate of regret when we are 50 years old, we are trying our hardest to leave no regrets in our past, to take every challenge we can, not to miss any passing opportunities, to do what we love every day. But its tough to do what we love every day when we don’t know what that is yet. So we want to try it all, we don’t want to miss a chance to catch our dreams and live what we love every day. It’s just a year, a year closer to that dream.

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One response to “It’s Just a Year

  1. Pingback: Now What? « Talkin Bout My Jeneration

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