Monday 19 August 2019

Do 20-somethings suffer from a quarter-life crisis? I'll drink to that

It's hard being a millennial, especially when we reflect on our lives and our relationship with alcohol, writes Ciara O'Connor

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Ciara O'Connor

Two surveys recently published results that were catnip to millennials: the first was about ''quarter-life crises'' and the second speculated about the different effects of different kinds of drink. They both played right into our obsession with self-analysis and endlessly speculating on our physical and mental health.

According to a study by LinkedIn, 72pc of young professionals have experienced a quarter-life crisis. The study pinpointed the average age that it hits: 26 years and nine months. Meanwhile, a global alcohol survey found that 18-24 year olds were the age group most likely to associate boozing with feelings of confidence, energy and sexiness.

Now, can it be a coincidence that the crisis hits us so soon after we lose our innocence, when nothing - not even drink - can make us feel energetic, confident or sexy? I think not. The quarter-life crisis represents the moment we realise that we're a bit rubbish, as humans. You're not as clever as your mum always told you, and you're not as charming as you feel when you're drunk. Such is the knowledge of adulthood that is crippling millennials like me across the western world.

The course of a quarter-life crisis can be marked with alcohol. LinkedIn's survey revealed that 22pc of millennials have handed in their notice without another job to go to - presumably they must have been rat-arsed. Many 20-somethings dramatically decide to change their consumption habits as part of a self-reinvention

Instead of going mad on tequila, we may decide to get drunk on moral superiority instead by announcing ''oh I'm not drinking at the moment, actually'' whenever the opportunity arises. God it feels good. The rush of saying ''haha I feel fine! Poor you xoxo'' in the group chat the morning after a night out is indescribable. We're done with ketamine and coke - this is the high we're chasing.

If we don't give up alcohol altogether, we'll place arbitrary restrictions on it, to make us feel like we have a modicum of control over our spiralling lives. The booze survey revealed that spirits are most likely to elicit feelings of aggression, while red wine is most likely to make people feel relaxed. Everyone knows that millennials love to self-diagnose (''Gluten makes me anxious'') and the survey has just added fuel to our neurotic fire.

I got it into my head that gin makes me mad, and so I've subsisted solely on beer for the best part of this year. Of course, it turned out that I was just drinking too much gin too fast; I found that drinking enough beer can make me mad as well. Ultimately, of course, booze is booze and all alcohol is a downer (yes, even tequila). But the survey was instructive in laying bare the stories we tell ourselves, and the ways we find to justify our choices.

The drink survey has given us snowflakes carte blanche to pull imaginary intolerances out of the air and endlessly theorise about ourselves - one of our greatest joys. The quarter-life crisis findings, of course, is a permission slip for a breakdown, another millennial passion.

Naturally, the pinpointing of 26 and nine months made me anxious. That was my age in April of this year and I can't recall anything other than the normal daily crises that make up my existence. Am I behind? Are all the other millennials having their quarter-life crises before me? Am I a late bloomer? I can only hope that the stress of falling behind my peers in quarter-life crises will induce a quarter-life crisis.

We all know the hallmarks of a mid-life crisis: growing facial hair, getting a fast car, leaving your spouse for a younger model. The quarter-life crisis, I think, is not dissimilar: you shave off your facial hair, buy a second-hand bike, delete/download Tinder.

While the mid-life crisis is born of having a nice home, a good partner and a stable job with no glimmer of change on the horizon, the quarter-life crisis is of course a product of having none of those things - with no glimmer of change on the horizon.

According to the survey, the top pressures that apparently come to a head 26 years and nine months into life are getting on to the property ladder and finding a career you're passionate about. We're less concerned about finding a life partner, presumably because we don't have anywhere to put one.

The further I got into the findings of the survey, the more I realised that we are in the midst of an epidemic of quarter-life crises. Everywhere I look I see people my age getting married, in a desperate bid for the security their lives so sorely lack. There's simultaneously been a rash of break-ups, university sweethearts together for years realising that they have not grown up at all in the last 10 years and probably never will. They embrace an alternative life. They start reading a lot about polyamory and sexual fluidity. They resolve never to procreate. All around me, friends are changing jobs and moving abroad, they are taking to house plants in a big way and going vegetarian. They are deleting their entire Instagram feed and starting again, with an aesthetic. Some of them are even swearing off social media in general. The third-sector ones are considering defecting to corporates and the bankers are going to find themselves in Bali for a year.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether I've spent my entire 20s in one long drawn out quarter-life crisis. If so, I can't see an end in sight. Perhaps it will just segue neatly into my mid-life crisis. I think I need a gin.

Sunday Independent

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