The Mid-Twenties Crisis

Argh. What the hell am I doing?

I have spent the last four nights fidgeting in bed, unable to get comfortable no matter what I do. And after failed flailings and grumblings, I have resigned to lying on my back, listening to my boyfriend snoring, and thinking. Or, like now, getting up, drinking wine, and writing nonsense.


Horror of all horrors. Thinking, pondering, and worrying, about a million different things. I have then woken, knackered and stressed, and headed off to work.

Now this is not an uncommon scenario, and I don’t expect any sympathy. Many people have the same experience, and with much more regularity than me. And I’m certain they have pondered problems with a lot more gravity than mine. However, the thing that worries me most, aside from all the practical considerations, is the big question. The one big question that has foxed me. ‘Aren’t I too young to be thinking this much?!’

And so starts the mid twenties crisis.

For Gods sake! I’m young, I’ve not got a heroin addiction, I’m not living on the street, I’ve not got any illegitimate children to raise all on my own. I’m not married, or divorced. My boyfriend doesn’t beat me. I’m not out of work. I’m in good health (relatively) and I have good friends. I studied philosophy and so should have a good handle on life. I read proper literature (occasionally) and enjoy other people’s perspectives on life. I’m in debt, but so is everyone. It’s Labour, it’s a recession. It’s expected. And besides, I’m not the sort of person who gets stressed.

And what does all this positive rationalisation grant me? Guilt on top of panic! I haven’t even earned the right to get myself into this state! I can just hear my mother in the days I lived at home saying ‘what on earth have you got to be stressed about? Wait till you get to my age…’

And before any of you start…

Yes, I am young, and I have plenty of time to ruin, (ahem) achieve my hopes and dreams. But, you old and you wise, think on. And I say this because I have often been advised. The wisdom you impart is grown from the mistakes you have made. And, from my always-eager-to-listen experience, many of the mistakes you have made occurred in your mid twenties. The mistakes you make in your teens are just the inexperience of youth, easily dismissed. The mistakes you make later are (whether you really believe it or not) passed of as faux pas; things you knew were wrong, things that despite your better judgment, you did anyway. Wryly and knowingly you laugh at yourself when things go tits up. At least later problems can be classified by others as ‘proper’ problems. Mortgages, divorce and the like. But what about that segue, that limbo between blind hope and regret? The middle bit where you’re neither taken seriously nor taken with a pinch of salt.

I haven’t got married or had children. I don’t want to right now. But should I want to? Lots of my friends have. Many of my friend’s parents had by the time they were my age. Will that desire kick in? Maybe it won’t. We’re in an age of equal opportunity. Should I feel bad because I haven’t felt that desire, or should I feel bad because I’m worried that I haven’t? I went to uni, and I wanted to be writer. I wanted to make a difference, to have a job that is unique to me. Should I feel young and naïve because I’m still clinging to the dream despite no tangible signs it will work out? Should I just a get a job that ensures I can pay all the bills and be done with it? Am I drinking and going out too much? I should have be acting like an adult by now. Or, maybe I should be doing what I’m doing and enjoying my youth. I’ve only just managed to secure a job that pays an average wage, and I’m really pleased that I can afford the rent, and some booze on a weekend. My mother is upset that I have a degree and she’s disappointed that I’ve not done better. Is she right? Am I being practical or defeatist? Should I scrape by and add to my already massive student debt in the hope I can do better, or should I take what I can get? Should I be proud of my degree or should I talk in dry and cynical tones about the fact that in the real world it doesn’t mean much? Should I keep my options open, or commit to the moment and build for the future? When people at work, who have been in the job much longer than me disagree and patronise, should I assume they are older and wiser, or should I challenge them despite my youth and inexperience? I love the man I’m with right now, should I think of that as forever, or should I think of it as fleeting mid twenties fun?

And that is just a small selection of the questions that my supid sleepy brian poses at night.

I’ve only got a few more years until I’m thirty. That’s when you should know where you are, you should have the career, that relationship, the family, the plan.

Unless, I suppose, you’re being spoken to by someone who’s forty. Then you’re still a kid.

That is, unless you’re forty and being spoken to by someone who’s fifty. Obviously.

I suppose the only conclusion I have to draw, from philosophers to parents to children to husbands to friends, is that none of us knows what the fuck we’re dong, despite the wisdom we impart. I think it just makes us feel better to have someone to impart that wisdom to.

But, despite that, I’m still in debt, and I’m still a woman getting older and uglier saggier and running out of time to build a successful career, whatever that is. So I’d better stop this panic, put down the wine, and try and get a good nights sleep so I can do my best at work tomorrow. Even though I hate the job. Besides, I’d better keep the boyfriend happy, he’s sober and in bed now, and he might be the one. I’ll keep trying at what I really want to do, but quietly, and on the sly, because it’s not as endearing a dream as it was when I was sixteen. It’s a bit embarrassing to say you want to be a writer out loud at my age, unless you’ve anything to show for yourself that is.

But with all the other commitments, it’s hard to find time to fit it in. Never a minute to myself. Well, it doesn’t do to complain. Just get on with it, keep your head down, think of the pennies…

Oh Shit. I sound just like my mother.

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