One of the most popular readings I assign in my spring semester Higher Education practicum courses is from The Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenge of Life in Your Twenties. Although the cultural references within are somewhat dated, the concepts still resonate with their audience just as strongly. It seems to uniquely capture some of the feelings that young college graduates face as they reach towards the next phase of their lives and the uncertainty that lies ahead. You can see some of the students’ reactions to the reading from a previous semester, here.
Late last year, a new book, Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? was released that tackles some of these concepts. Although I have not had the opportunity to fully read the book, I was struck by this passage it quoted from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
2013 is the 50th Anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar and yet these words seem just as relevant today as they were in the 1960s. In light of this, I wonder:
- Is the “quarterlife crisis” new? Or has it always existed?
- Does it look different now then it did in the past?
What are your thoughts?