Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quarter Life Crisis Symptoms:Feeling Left Behind

               So I’m sitting here on Facebook (because that what us quarter life cristers do with most of time) passing the time away and I noticed how massive my friends list is. Since I graduated high school five years ago I live in 2 different states (and visited several others), enrolled in 3 different schools, live in 8 different cities and had about 13 or 14 different addresses. It’s no wonder I have such a huge friends list! I've encounter so many different people. So I decided to see what’s going on in all my old friends’ lives.

               Boy was that a mistake! As I’m browsing profiles and timelines I see former classmates in pictures in their graduation cap and gown holding their degrees, statuses on what grad school they’re in now, wedding pictures, pregnant friends, friend’s with families, friend who are actually doing what they set out to do when we graduated high school or when I last saw them. Don’t get me wrong I’m very happy for my friends, and it builds my faith to an extent but at the same time I get the sense that I’m missing out on something…

               You know, that feeling like the world is passing you by or you feel like you've been left behind like the fat kid in the cross country race that everyone will clap for because he came in last and didn't stop because he was hungry? Now, again, this is not one of those blogs where I want people to feel sorry me. Trust me, I feel sorry enough for the both of us so the last thing I need is more sorrow. What I need, is to figure why do I feel so left behind and figure out if that feeling based on truth. Like, maybe it’s not that I've been left behind but that I’m just a late bloomer. That’s an optimistic way of looking at it huh? J  

               So why do I feel left behind? It probably has to do with some of the choices I've made in the past. Regret will always lead to sorrow. You get those thoughts like, “Maybe I shouldn't have moved here..” or “I would have been better off if I would have done that instead of this” or just feel in the blank with whatever question you ask yourself that can get you to look at and sometimes live in the past. It also may deal with the fact that you haven’t met your personal goals as timely as you would have liked. For instance, coming out of high school I was for sure that I would definitely finish my degree in 4 years, 4 and half tops. But now five years and two transfers later and according to the phone call I just had a conversation with my Academic adviser  it’s going to take another two years to complete my degree. Needless to say I am not happy about that.

               So now that I understand why I feel what I feel, now the complicated question comes, are my feelings based on truth? Well, that depends how you look at it. If you take all 400+ of us who were in my graduating class, maybe half to 60% of us went to college straight out of high school. Now most of these people that I don’t know or keep in touch with but of the ones I do know, most of that 60% has graduated or well on their way to graduating or found something they really enjoying doing and are doing it. So if I compare myself to closest friends from the past then yeah, my feeling are based on truth, I am being left behind. These people are advancing in life faster than I am. However, comparison isn't always the best source of truth. Plus if I wont to broaden my scope and compare myself with all 22 year olds in the world, the fact that I can put together a sentence makes me far more ahead in life than most 22 year olds in the world.

               So, are my feeling based on truth? I guess it’s all about perspective. It’s all depends on how you look at it. As with most things in life, the glass of water can be half full or half empty or you can just take action fill the rest of the cup up and chug that bad boy! Like I said I (you) could be a late bloomer J  

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dreaded Grey Zone pt. 1: Young Enough to be Be Cool but Too Old To Have Swag

               At my church I do a lot of work in the high school and middle school ministry. I first got in to this when I was 19. It came naturally to me. I could relate to young people because I myself was still considered to be young. We all listened to the same music, and pretty much had the same hobbies. The only difference between me and them was that I was a little bit older so I could offer some life advice that their parents or older adults could not.

               See, to the young people I was sort of like a role model. Someone they wanted to be like and many different ways. I had the look, the style, I could dance, kind of sing, I had swag. Older adults had, and still have, no idea what this means. My pastor tried to use the word swag in a sermon of his a few months ago… yeah about that… Let’s just say it was a little awkward o_O. So for lack of better word they said I was cool.

               You see being cool is different than having swag. Swag is particular to the person. Only you can have your swag. Swag isn't necessarily flashy but makes you stand out from everyone else. However being cool is like being an excellent all around person. You’re up to date but you don’t necessarily stand out because of your appearance. Cool people can make other people cool or at least feel cool. Both are a form of charisma just expressed in different ways.

               Why do I bring this up and what does this have to do with having a quarter life crisis? Well one of the ways I knew I was having a quarter life crisis was that I figured out that I no longer had swag nor was having swag a priority of mine’s any more. When we are young, we want to be hip and up to date, fresh and current. We care about the here and now and we want to make sure we are a part of it. We are concerned with questions like, “Am I cool?” “What do people think about me?” “What am I going to do today?”

When we get older, we no longer care about the present as much as we care about the future and what kind of life we will leave behind. I mean, I’m not completely void of what’s going on in pop culture today and nor am I completely without style, but now different questions are beginning to come to the forefront of mind. Questions like, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” “Am I ever going to get married?” “What kind of life am I going to leave behind?” Questions that have to do more with the future rather than the here and now.

The grey zone is the time period between being a teenager with the world at your fingertips and being in your twenties and having the pressure of the world weighing you down. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate ambiguity. I like for things to be clearly defined and have a role. So the fact that I can’t make sense of my own life right now is killing me. I hate being in the grey zone!

But here I am, in the grey zone. Still young enough to be cool, but not quite young enough to have swag. Like I said though, having swag is not that important to me right now. But getting out of this stupid grey zone is of utmost importance. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Letter to my Grade School Teacher

A Letter to my Grade School Teacher

Dear Grade School Teacher,

Hi! It’s been a while since we last talked. What, something like 13 years? Well I just wanted to let you know that you’ve had an everlasting impact on my life. It wasn’t what you me taught in your class because I don’t remember an ounce of what you taught me. It wasn’t any of the stupid movies you made us watch or how you let me go back for a second cup of popcorn during the movie. It was a question you asked me that forever changed my life as I know it:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

               You are a sick and evil person. What kind of person asks such a monumental question to a 10 year old? How in the world am I supposed to know at 10 years old what I want to do with the next 50 years of my life? Like a good little boy I gave you the typical answers. “A doctor” or “a lawyer” or “The First Black President” I would tell you. Did you really think I knew what I was talking about back then?

Why would you put that kind of pressure on a 10 year old? The biggest decision I should have to make at 10 is Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops, not what socioeconomic bracket I want to be for the rest of my life. What did I do to deserve to have that kind of pressure put on me? And why did you ask me in front of all the kids who apparently had a career development seminar that I wasn't invite to? They all knew the answer to the question before if came out your mouth. Thanks for putting me on blast like that.

Well 13 years later and you know what? I still don’t know the answer to your stupid question. And by this time, I've wasted 5 years, 99 college credits, and about $17,000 in loans trying to figure it out and all I got is this blog. But don’t worry I've already got 21 page views so I’m sure I will make a ton of money off of this! -_- (you see that? ß yeah that right there à -_- that’s my Asian sarcastic face. It means I'm really really angry at you after all these years and it’s hard for me to see so I have to quint)

But maybe it wasn't your fault. Maybe they made you ask us that question as part of the curriculum. Just like they made you make us watch those stupid School House Rock videos. Btw I still don’t know what a conjunction is but thanks for leaving that obnoxious chorus in my head. I’ll be sure to share it with my kids. That is, if I ever get married and have any children. No one wants to marry an underemployed blogger going through a quarter life crisis.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that after 13 years, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. And the fact that it has taken me 13 years to end up where I started, makes me feel like an even bigger failure. So thanks a lot! When I do figure out what I want to do, I’ll be sure to let you know write you another letter/blog entitled: “I Figured It Out: No thanks To You!!”

Love always your former favorite student now disgruntled adult,
Gabe – Blogger and Professional Human Being    

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Underemployment: A Source of Bitterness

               We usually know we are in a quarter life crisis when we feel underemployed. Underemployment is different than unemployment. When you’re unemployed, you don’t have time for a quarter life crisis because you need to figure out where your next source of income is coming from. Underemployment is where you feel your current worth doesn't match your value.

Worth is the cost of production or the greatness of a person. Value is the importance of a person. For instance, I currently work at Jamba Juice making $8.00 per hour. Jamba Juice has fixed worth for every employee who is hired as a Team Member. Whether you are the best Team Member or the worst Team Member your worth is $8.00 per hour. Most hourly jobs you pay base on worth not value. Doctors get paid by value. A trip to the doctor may be $2000. That’s $2000 whether they heal you or not or whether it takes 5 minutes or 2 hours, it’s still $2000. Why? Because that’s how important doctors are to us.

Now money isn't everything and you can still have a quarter life crisis even if you get paid a lot, but the point is that underemployment can be a great source of bitterness can sometimes trigger a quarter life crisis. When I first got a job at 15, I was paid $5.40 per hour and was absolutely fired up about it! I didn't care how little it was. I was just happy to be receiving some sort of income. I didn't get bitter about it until I saw how much other people were getting paid who doing the same job I was. That was when I first started to understand value.

Everyone wants to be paid according to their value and not their worth. There's a point in life when we start thinking we should be getting paid based upon our value and not worth and that's when the seeds of bitterness start get planted in our hearts. If you think about it, all that time we spend in college is being invested into increasing your value. That’s part of the reason we feel underemployed. It can be discouraging to invest so much time into making ourselves valuable and then get out into the real world not being paid for our value.

Underemployment is probably something everyone will experience at some point during their life. Even people who now get paid for their value were probably underemployed at some point during their life. So you don’t have to settle for underemployment. But at least you know what you’re value isn't.  Don’t let underemployment be a source of bitterness during your quarter life crisis but rather a source of motivation to get out of this thing as soon as possible. 

I Never Had The “American” Dream

               (Real quick before I get started: You ever noticed that usually immigrants are the ones who have the American Dream. Interesting….) So I’m sitting here on my couch trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’m asking myself all these deep questions that will hopefully lead me in the right direction. Questions like: What are my dreams? What legacy do I want to leave? Where do I want to be 15 years from now? Who do I want to be with 15 years from now? What am I going to make for lunch? Is there any way to eat without getting off the couch? I wish my refrigerator had legs……
               Aside from those last few, you get what I mean though right? Dreams motivate us to work hard. They inspire us to persevere when times get tough. I thought about this concept of the American Dream and I realized that the American Dream, although maybe flavored differently depending on the person, basically consist of three things: Security, Happiness, and Freedom. Happiness so that we enjoy life, freedom to do what we want to make us happy, and security so we don’t fall from this place of success in our lifetime. When you strip away all the glam and sparkles, that’s basically what we all want. And that’s probably why I never had the American Dream.
               The package it came in was too flashy for me. The life of the celebrities and superstars never appealed to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like money and pretty women, and fast cars as much as the next guy, but I always felt that there had to be something more to life than just that. Plus I think we see so many people chase the “American Dream” and end up not being satisfied with it that we are reluctant to do the same.
               With that being said, having the wrong dream is better than having no dream. Deep down no matter how selfish a person is, no one wants to believe that world begins and ends with them. Striving to obtain something greater than ourselves is what makes up better individuals. We may act like it sometimes, but no one really wants to be the center of the universe. So dreams, even if they are self-seeking sometimes, are healthy for personal development. Like the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit nothing every time.”
               The quarter-life crisis is a perfect time to reevaluate or evaluate what you want in life. Maybe it’s not as flashy as the American Dream but I’m pretty sure it will revolve around those three key foundations: Freedom, Happiness, and Security. We all want to be successful. No wakes up and says, “Today I’m going to be mediocre” Or you never hear a child say to his parents, “When I grow up, I want to be average!”. We need dreams maybe it’s time for me to go to sleep, so I can have some dreams of my own. I know it’s at least time for me to get off this couch and eat because no matter how many times I look at it, my refrigerator will not grow legs and come to me. Maybe in my dreams it will though. Yes! In my “American” dream my refrigerator has legs. I’m already inspired to chase my dreams! 

How Did I Get Into A Quarter Life Crisis?

               Personally I blame the education system (and that’s not just because they’re my default scapegoat for most of society’s problems). Our education system, in America anyway, is horrible at preparing children for the real world. For 13 years I wasted my life learning “Social Studies” and “History” when I could have got some serious counseling and direction on what the real world is like. You know, things like budgeting and home economics. And maybe I just have a weird living situation, but on a daily basis I find I need money and food more than I need to know who was the 12th president of the United States or where Istanbul is on a map. (Both of which I do not know btw)
              No seriously all jokes aside, it’s no secret that our education system sucks in America but you can’t really blame anyone for your quarter life crisis. There are too many factors involved. It just sort of sneaks up on you. One day you’re a young teenager trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life and then next, you realized that those same questions you had 14 still haven’t been answered yet and it’s almost been a decade!
               If you really think about it, American culture lends itself to being the perfect atmosphere for the quarter life crisis. With divorce as high as it is now, the concept of a nuclear family is sadly becoming a thing of the past. Family, which is supposed to be the cornerstone of society, is supposed help guide us to our destinies but with so many of us (myself included) coming from broken homes, it’s no wonder that we hit this part of life bewildered and unprepared.

               Also this concept of adolescence fosters the quarter life crisis. Back in the early 1900’s there was no such thing as a teenager. You were either a man or boy. A woman or a little girl. Now we have this grey area in life “adolescence” where you take time to “figure yourself out”. We allow young adults to have more freedom but not give them responsibility. But if you do that they will just use their freedom to please themselves in the present, instead of making responsible choices that will build their future. There has to be a healthy amount of both responsibility and freedom in every person’s life because responsibility without freedom is communism but freedom without responsibility is anarchy. Young people need a healthy balance of both in order to make quality decisions that will progress their lives

               So how did you get in your quarter life crisis? Well maybe we can say there were seeds of a quarter life crisis in your life this whole time that was outside your control. Like I said we can’t really point to any one person. I mean, if you really want to get technical, it’s our fault that we’re here for not planning our lives much better. …but I rather blame the education system because that’s more fun than blaming myself. If there is one thing that lacks during a quarter life crisis, it’s fun! Besides at the end of the day, it’s not important how we got here, it’s important that we figure out how to get out of this ASAP! Otherwise we’ll be 27 doing something drastic.

What is a Quarter Life Crisis?

               Where the heck did this come from? A few years ago I was 18 ready to take on the world. No scratch that, I was ready to take over the world! I had dreams, goals, plans, aspirations, hopes, and now next month I’ll be 23 and I’m stuck in this “Huh?” phase. Now I don’t want you to feel sorry for me at all, but it just hit me the other day that I may be having what they call a “quarter life crisis”.

They say a quarter life crisis doesn’t happen until your late twenties (25-35 years old), but that’s complete garbage. If I’m still in this “Huh?” phase by 27 I’m taking extreme measures and doing something drastic. So drastic I can’t even tell you what it is because I haven’t thought of it yet. But if in 4 years from now you here about 27 year old African American male doing something drastic in the news (like that doesn’t happen every day -_-) just know it’s me “overcoming” my quarter life crisis.

When I first heard about a quarter life crisis in some class in college that I don’t remember what grade I got in, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. I thought it was sounded stupid. How anxious about your future do you have to be to have a quarter life crisis? And then sure enough a few months later, here I am in the midst of my quarter life crisis.

So what is a quarter life crisis you ask? It’s the weird phase in between adolescent and adulthood that no one tells you about in high school. Where you are still trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. You remember in grade school when the teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up but you didn't know the answer? Well a quarter life crisis where your grade school teacher asks you what are you doing now that you’re grown and you still don’t know the answer.

Scientifically Erik Erikson said that is the conflict of young adulthood associated with Intimacy v. Isolation. After taking high school and couple semesters of community college to establish your identity, you now want to develop deep relationships. But what happens when you still haven’t established your identity and you’re going on 23 or 24 or 27? This is why I believe the quarter life crisis much earlier than the guys with PHD’s do. But then again I’m still trying to figure this thing out. That’s basically what a quarter life crisis is. You’re still trying to figure out this thing called life. So this is my journey through the quarter life crisis all documented, some more retrospectively than others, but hopefully it will give you hope as you wander through your quarter life crisis. Or maybe it will just be entertaining for the both of us. J