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A millennial paradox

When I was young girl, I couldn’t wait to grow up! How exciting adult life looked on the outside, as my youthful eyes watched the world around me with idealism and wonder. My childhood was replete with fantasies of adulthood – oh the places I would go; the person I would be! I looked forward to it and before I knew it, I was there. My mid twenties hit me- and how! I read somewhere that the age between 25-35 is probably the lowest or most difficult period in one’s life. And it is absolutely petrifying to think it’s just getting started.

This phenomenon - let me call it my quarter life crisis - is characterised by insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression. It may not happen everyday and it doesn’t necessarily creep in on you in middle of the night when you’re alone. But it can hit you in broad daylight, when you’re at your workplace or home, when you’re with your friends, when you’re drinking a pint of beer or even when you’re traveling on a local train.

I also want to share that this is probably not a unique experience. I feel a lot of my peers will resonate with this feeling of being completely and utterly lost. Feeling lost at work, in a relationship or just life in general. And if not literally, then at least in ourselves. Almost like gliding down an existential abyss. I wondered if this feeling was depression, but that feels like such a heavy word.

At this point I don’t know where my life is headed. I am not young enough to pass off as a kid or ‘naïve’ anymore. I feel as if everything I do and say defines me and I am judged for it. I feel pressured to act mature and pretend that I have got it all ‘together’. On the exterior, I pretty much keep that up. But deep down the feelings of insecurity and being lost exist as heavy as a rock and creep up on me often.

People would describe me as an outgoing, jovial 24-year-old with lots of friends. I am someone who has a knack for books and the road - I have even lived abroad for a year and love exploring new places and trying different things. I am presently working at an eminent financial firm and from the outside, my life probably looks as good as it gets, thanks to social media and my carefully curated posts. However, on the inside, it doesn’t feel good or perfect.

I am surrounded by friends but I am hit by bouts of utter loneliness. Something holds me back from going out as much so I end up feeling isolated again. I have a desire to explore the world so much more but I can’t (thanks to reality) and I experience major withdrawals after every trip, longing for it to last longer, dreading coming back to the grind. On paper, I work at a major financial firm but is this what I want to do my entire life? I don’t know! I don’t have a roadmap, I am constantly chasing something, but I don’t know what it is! I feel engulfed in these thoughts with a societal pressure to know where I am headed without knowing who I am.

The most difficult thing of all is being single at this age in India. There are times when I wish I had that one person I could be completely irrational with, take them for granted at times because I know I can, share everything under the sun with them. This, coupled with the phantom pressure of arrange marriage looming around, fear of being rejected, fear of ending up alone, fear of being the last one to find that someone special in my friend’s circle, is indescribable. To hear about/witness dream proposals and engagements is like the icing on the worst cake ever. I make excuses for feeling lonely, tired, sad. But deep down, I know those excuses are not real.

Social media is providing us with the unfortunate opportunity to realise how much we are NOT doing. Vacations to exotic locations, promotions, marriages, IVY Leagues etc. everything is confusing the crap out of me. Instead of being happy for someone, I end up envying them, questioning the routes I have taken and get drawn to the other side even if I don’t think that’s what I would ever want!

What helped me initially was talking to friends and realising I am not the only one. It makes you feel better for a while, it truly does. Closing doors to feelings or people won’t help. We may feel lonely at times but that doesn’t mean nobody cares. Then comes acceptance. Accepting that I have made mistakes, accepting that maybe my life isn’t perfect but then no ones is, accepting the fact that everything looks fancy and great from the outside. I am not saying doing/thinking this will completely wipe out all your feelings of being lost or lonely, but it will probably offer you more perspective on things.

The idea of this article is to bring out that fact that it is normal to feel ‘low’, ‘lost’, ‘depressed’ time and again. It is okay to be insecure and vulnerable too. Everyone has different coping mechanisms and I hope that reading this will make you feel less alone and a little better – just as writing it made me feel.

*Ananya Sethi is a pseudonym used to protect the writer's confidentiality.

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