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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Struggling with the struggle of being 20-something

    The plight of being 20-something is wrapped up in phrases like “emerging adulthood” and “delayed development.” Being a 20-something now means you are broke, you are aimless, you are driven but you don’t know where you are driving to. At 20, 25 or 29, you lack decisiveness but not ambition.

    Or so everyone says. No one ever says, “You are 20, and it’s OK to not know where you’ll be at 30 and 40 and 50.” Instead, you’re having a “quarter-life crisis.”

    Admittedly, at 21, I am perhaps a little too early in my 20s to be much of a critic. But I’m pretty sure I learned what “boring” is as a kid, and this is it. The notion of a “quarter-life crisis” is boring, and it’s time for everyone to get over it.

    Two years ago, the New York Times committed 10 pages of its Sunday magazine to the biggest question of our time: “What is it about 20-somethings?”

    It wasn’t the first time the question had been asked, and it hasn’t been answered since, despite numerous attempts.

    There’s the book “20 Something Manifesto,” a collection of essays in which “quarter-lifers speak out about who they are, what they want, and how to get it.” The same author wrote “20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction.”

    Full disclosure: I’ve never read either book. I have read pieces on Thought Catalog with titles like “Should You Always Say ‘Yes’ In Your 20s?” and “On Losing and Finding My 20s.” I’ve browsed the Tumblrs of one-liners and .gifs dedicated to illustrating what you feel during class, when you’re working, on Monday, on Friday, at the bar, at the club, in your house and on a boat. (Maybe not on a boat.)

    The Tumblr “Fuck! I’m in my twenties” became a book released this month, likely to be read by people who watch HBO’s “Girls” and think, “This is my life.”

    But, in direct response to “Fuck! I’m in my twenties” and every blog like it, who gives a fuck?

    There’s an entire series by the Huffington Post on the quarter-life series, written by people like Taylor Cotter. Last July, Cotter penned an essay titled, “A struggle with not struggling,” in which she asked, “What about the struggles that I see on ‘Girls’ and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren’t these the things that really make you 22?”

    Navigating the ups and downs of meaningless hook-ups and frightening romantic endeavors, job-seeking Thursday morning, partying Thursday night, eating ramen, eating oatmeal, eating cold leftovers at 4 a.m. instead of just going to bed. Anxiety over debt. Anxiety over unemployment. Anxiety over moving in with your parents after graduation.

    In the last few years, these experiences have become trendy fodder for hipster social networking websites, HBO, The New York Times and brain-imaging studies by neuroscientists.

    Yep. Research examining the brains of thousands of young people says postponing all your major questions about your future is actually good. Your brain is still evolving into its adult shape into your 30s.

    “Until very recently, we had to make some pretty important life decisions about education and career paths, who to marry and whether to go into the military at a time when parts of our brain weren’t optimal yet,” said Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, in a Wall Street Journal article last month. “It’s a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time for self-discovery.”

    But why does anyone need a neuroscientist to say it’s good that your 20s are a time for self-discovery? When did leading the least glamorous life become so glamorous, and such an exercise in narcissism?

    Your 20s are just stories you tell your friends over hangovers and brunch tomorrow or 20 years from now. And they’re totally normal. And you shouldn’t need brain-imaging studies or The New York Times or TV to validate them.

    You are a 20-something. You’re not having a crisis. You’re just becoming an adult.

    — Kristina Bui is the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @kbui1.

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