QLC: Part One

You see them now and again; driving down the M4 in their shiny new Jaguar (with cream leather interior, doncha know?), shades on, shirt unbuttoned to reveal a slither of silver hairs…Or women with red talons fresh out of the nail salon, slipping her wedding ring into her new Louis Vuitton handbag en route to Exclusive Restaurant whilst poor Jeremy is slogging away at the office. Or you get the real ugly side where a woman drowns her body in Leopard prints, dons her knee high, patent boots and sits on poor Simon’s lap where she screeches in his ear over another repeat of Rihanna “I’ve got a son just your age!”

In all its glory; The Mid Life Crisis…

Well fuck that because there’s a new, younger crisis in town…Introducing The Quarter Life Crisis (QLC.)

The QLC is a little more under the radar than the Mid Life owing to a general lack of confidence and general uncertainty that comes with your Twenties. Also, having not had enough lifetime work experience resulting in a strong financial position, there’s no bargaining with the car salesman for that new Lambo. No, our options are limited and slightly more tragic. The financial repercussions of the QLC will undoubtedly hit when we reach our Thirties – those hundreds of pounds worth of purchases from TopShop bought with the Overdraft, or the late-night splurge on the YSL handbag you needed which you put on the credit card. Long gone are the student loans, but long live the spending habits.

So, how does it start? Does one just wake up in the morning in a cold sweat and mind racing with unanswered questions? Nay, a little more subtle than that…The QLC begins with a little confidence knock somewhere. Working life, relationship, family…Whatever. Your heart gets bruised and, actually, that hurt a lot more than it should have. It’s like a little sand grain in the oyster…small but bloody irritating. This confidence knock soon becomes moments of self-doubt and, sometimes, days of pure self-loathing. “I used to be better than this!”
It’s true. You probably were.

That’s when you become swamped in self-doubt and start recalling the ‘Good Old Days.’ Whatever these were for you; College, school (and, for the record, whoever said school days are the best days of your life were fucking lying or went to Hogwarts), or university. What starts as a trip down memory lane starts to turn into a fight for survival in no-mans-land as the nostalgia panics you and you’re dodging the “What if…” “Remember when…” and “If only…” bullets.

“What if I’d actually taken *insert other degree here* instead?”
“Remember when we used to go out on Wednesday nights and, ya know, have fun?”
“If only I could go back and do it all again with what I know now!”

Oh the freedom you had! The world at your feet and what did you do with it?

The one question you cannot answer. Because you’re too busy trying to work your nine-to-five at Too Big To Care bank. Your manager is an arsehole and you need to be at the office 10 minutes earlier than 9 because they want you to start work at 9 on the dot (True story.) You’re scared to call in sick when your nose is running faster than Usain Bolt because Kathy on Admin has three children, broke her arm last Tuesday and she still came to work. What’s your excuse you healthy twenty-something son-of-a-gun?

Next thing you know your parents are suddenly demanding something called ‘Board and Lodge.’ They’re also expecting you to cook for them at least one night a week – didn’t they know that the most you stretched your culinary muscles as a student was that time you mixed the Chicken and the Bacon SuperNoodles together to form one, giant, soggy feast?!
What’s worse is Instagram. Bloody hell. 4 x 4 squares of your old University/College/School Friends suddenly looking like they’re living on triple what you make in a month. Lucy enjoying her holiday in the Maldives with those how-the-fuck-did-she-get-those-abs…and you find yourself scrolling through her upload history to see if her boobs have always been that big. (They haven’t. She had a little help from Dr Harley Medical.)

And then there’s Gareth. Gareth who graduated by scraping a 2:2, despite the numerous missed deadlines, all nighters, and sleeping with half the cohort of the Athletics team, whilst you were busting your ass studying for half the evening and barely making a wank before falling asleep.
Gareth ended up travelling across half the world, settled in Australia, and became a hot shot at his new company (bonus at Christmas.) Some people always land on their feet. Why couldn’t I be one of them?

And all the while your mind is reminding you that, only a few years before, this was not what you wanted to be. You hadn’t even heard of a five year plan but this was definitely not on the list.

Let’s talk about those few years for a moment, shall we? Because those few years were the stepping stones of where you are now and, very much, one of the reasons for the QLC.

For those who went to university, I think there was a small minority that actually knew what a five year plan was and had it figured out career-wise. For the rest of us, it was pot-luck and passion that got us enrolled. I’ll be the first to admit that University wasn’t on my radar until my Dad suggested it and tentatively said “Well, I’d like it if you were to go…” (Just to note, there was no pressure from either of my parents. I just lacked the self-belief at that point to think that I’d ever be worthy of going.) Whilst my friends in college were busy getting buried in prospectuses and trying to suss out the next four years of their life, I was getting busy with Heat magazine and ‘holy shit what was she wearing?!’ So, come the second year of college and applying through UCAS, I was very much in the ‘what am I doing’ category. The subject to take, let alone where geographically I would choose to study said subject, was more or less guess work. I chose Sociology because, well, I guess I enjoyed it…and I chose Warwick because they had a CD sale on the open day and I bought a Radiohead album. Well, anywhere with good music was good enough for me. (I was Seventeen years old, remember that.)

Everything was already pre-determined and I had a script to follow. Everything does at that age. There are certain expectations or rites of teenage passage (aside from your first joint or when you lost your virginity) that one usually goes through. You’re safe to explore the world inside these boundaries.

School…
A Levels…
Uni…
Job.

Well. In a very simplified form, anyway.

Then they say in the final year, mid-way between a hangover and your late essay, “You’re entering the big, wide world now!”

And how we scoffed! We ran the world, didn’t they know?! We have potential unlike all you lot! (Yes. I turned into one of those arrogant, awful human beings in university. My only saving grace was that I didn’t pretend to know more than I did through skim-reading The Guardian and starting political conversations.)

And besides, it’s only a job. We were assured time and time again that 80% of graduates go on to full time employment…
What we were not told was exactly where; although perhaps that Psychology degree does provide some insight into why your Morrison’s customers are absolute dickbags though, right?

Oh yeah, we thought we knew it all. But we literally had no fucking idea…

Don’t worry…it’s not all doom and gloom. Part two is coming soon…

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