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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

It’s All Downhill From Here

I recently turned 20, and I don’t recommend it. It’s not so much that it’s 20 and that feels old and scary and my bones have started creaking and I think I need glasses (although that’s definitely part of it; can anyone recommend an osteopath?)—it’s more that the second you tumble out of the bewildering maze of adolescence, people start saying things. Things like, “When are you getting a job?” and, “When are you moving out?” and “Have you really thought about your career options?” (Never, never, and no.) For some reason, they get a perverse glee out of pointing out that the looming spectre of adulthood which plagued your entire life up until now has passed from looming to being actually right fucking there: just hanging out, standing next to you, sitting on your goddamn face.

Seriously, I’d been 20 for less time than it takes Fiddy to say “it’s your birthday” before, like a bad Medieval morality play, two of my closest friends and venerated elders popped up beside me to impart their words of wisdom. “This night was literally the highlight of your entire life,” said the first one cheerfully; “everything is downhill from here.” “Oh darling,” sighed the other, “your hangovers are going to get so, so much worse.” Then they cackled the cackle of the over-21. The next morning, when I put my sunglasses on before I left my bed to grope blindly for some Panadol, I had to wonder if they might both be right.

It is hard to feel like my 20s are going to lead anywhere: I’m broke, living at home, and doing an English degree. My chances of making it big before 25, or 30, or 40, are slim at best. I don’t even know what I would want to ‘make it big’ IN. And I feel like we’re mostly all in the same boat (the Titanic): the job market is shit; Tinder is our one hope for the future of the species; and people writing for Thought Catalog keep telling us to be successful by 25, which seems a bit rich coming from Thought Catalog.

You hear about friends of friends getting engaged to people they’ve been dating for a few months, and acquaintances moving to Australia and the UK for crazy-fancy jobs; but also people working in hospo for decades and being perfectly happy with that, and it’s hard to tell what you should be doing, or whether you should be doing anything at all. The temptation to just stop and wait for something—anything—to ‘come to me’ is sometimes too great to withstand, but my University career so far has been less about ‘finding myself’ than all-nighters and bad decisions, so I don’t like my chances.

Hence, the quarter-life crisis. Or, in the nature of a society which increasingly praises youth, where everything is starting younger and younger, the quintile-life crisis. Except that implies that I’ll live ‘till I’m 100, which, with my current rate of liver degeneration and lack of sleep, isn’t likely. Oh God; 20 might be a quarter of my life. That’s concerning. Frankly, I don’t have much time left. Should I just suck it up and attempt to make money and take Law instead of English? Should I become a young entrepreneur? Should I ‘contribute to society’ and ‘do something valuable’ and start voting National?

No. Because despite the fact that when my mum got married at 24, she already had a failed PhD under her belt, and in almost that same time I’ve completely failed to have any meaningful relationships and/or attempts at (higher) higher learning, it’s okay to be young and stupid. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life, because almost everyone either gets into their chosen profession sideways or completely changes their career at least once in their lives. The rapid expansion of technology is regularly creating and destroying professions; by the time you’ve graduated and assembled a halfway decent CV, your degree may be redundant. We need to stop this quarter-life-crisis discourse before it results in everyone getting Commerce degrees and/or anxiety disorders. Especially since the only people who are truly successful at 25 are dickheads, tech geniuses, or baby-faced day traders on coke (see also: dickheads), and who wants that?

It doesn’t really matter what you do in your 20s, because you’re in your 20s so you’re bound to fuck it up anyway. It doesn’t really matter what you do at any point in your life, as long as it’s good or feels good (and isn’t harming anyone). It definitely doesn’t matter that you’re not famous by 25, or a millionaire by 30. Yes, a tiny number of people like Lorde and Race Banyon are making better music than I could ever make in my life, and I’m racking up thousands of dollars of debt for a degree which is largely ornamental, but Julia Child didn’t know how to cook until she was 40, so I’m one up on her.


Alexandra Hollis is a second-year English and Media student who has fallen asleep in the library 17 times this year. She writes about books in Salient and types with too many consonants on Twitter (@alexlhollis).


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