With colleges becoming increasingly expensive and the flaws in the system shining ever bright; on top of also slaving away during the night, working jobs you hate to keep your head tipping just above the water, it’s easy for the mind to become clogged, and to forget what it is we’re doing or why we’re doing it.
There’s a growing phenomenon amongst twenty-somethings; a crisis emerging that’s becoming more obvious every day. Young Irish students and youths just don’t seem to be satisfied or happy in their college lives or in the direction they’re heading. We seem to be so focused on getting a place in college – any place – that we’ve started forfeiting our hopes and dreams to secure one. And thus we have a predicament which seems unique to our generation of post-apocalyptic Celtic Tiger survivors, a quarter-life crisis.
We make choices that we believe will make us money, satisfy our well-intentioned families, impress our peers and impress ourselves. It seems in today’s climate, achieving our dreams isn’t something we can afford to spend time concentrating on. So what’s the result? Masses and masses of young people, draining themselves of energy to get that degree to secure that job; only to find that when they get there – if they get there – they’re blooming miserable.
So you’ve done everything ‘right’, you’ve got the course you studied for or you’ve achieved the degree or made it into the better paying job, but you’ve found yourself slipping in and out of excruciating bouts of inertia and self loathing, engulfed and swallowed down the slimy throat of working life in a cannibalistic society that is ruthlessly willing to resort to any measures to survive, just as you are. Whatever you’re doing right now, wherever you are in your life presently, can you see yourself still doing it, still being there in thirty, forty years time?
Wouldn’t it make more sense that a society of happy people would achieve more of a positive impact or produce more creative ideas and solutions than a society of melancholic robots churning out money at the cost of their sanity?
A couple of years ago I was travelling down this exact path. I jumped into a course which I didn’t research or, to be honest, I didn’t really care about in the hopes that some magic spark would set off inside me and I’d somehow, by the grace of God, end up in any kind of paying job, not really thinking too much about what that job would be. But a couple of months and half-hearted assignments later I was back sitting at home not knowing what to do or what route to take.
Something inside me was nagging at me; I knew I had a purpose, something I was supposed to be doing somewhere. I had a huge zest for life tangled inside me not knowing which direction to shoot in. I needed to stop, I needed to listen to myself.
And so began my year on the dole. My year of experimentation and my year of re-enacting the movie ‘Yes Man’. I followed my gut without restriction and I accepted every invitation. I faced the humiliation of the dole queue for one year and lived off pennies; experienced social stigma and inferiority. I succumbed to my fears and let go of the safety net of college and the race to success.
It has been to date, the best decision I’ve ever made.
When you start using your heart and your tummy as a compass, you don’t just have lots of fun and make lots of (awful, AWFUL) mistakes; you remember things about yourself buried deep under the layers of debris left over from the inevitable collateral damages we all suffer during the trials and tribulations of adolescent and post-adolescent life.
As I had no responsibilities to speak of and all the time in the world cupped in my hands, my adventures led me back to places and things I’ve always loved. I rediscovered talents I’d let fade into obscurity and past-passions I let gather dust.
So when Lauren’s Big-Year-Of-Fun-And-Questionable-Decisions had to come to an end, I was mentally more energised and in tune with myself. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel pent up and restless and like a weary pensioner.
I made the choice to go back to college and chose a course that made my tummy do a little flutter, rather than the a course that looked favourable to my wilted bank account. I chose something intellectually nourishing – to me – and which supported what I was doing every day in my free time anyway – writing.
I’m now in my 2nd year of the only academic pursuit I’ve ever flourished in; I make time for writing as a hobby and I volunteer tutoring kids on how to write and feed what they’re already good at. I’m not earning a whole lot of money yet and it took a lot of tears and failures but my happiness and deep well-being has made me more productive in society than I ever would have been with a degree with no heart behind it.
My nugget of unsolicited advice to anybody lost and sinking further into a horrifying brain-clog crisis is this: follow relentlessly any obsession, love or passion that’s been with you like a best friend as far back as you remember. Make sacrifices, push yourself to your absolute limits until they break, fail, work hard and sweat; do only what makes your heart feel full and relieved. After happiness, abundance and money will find it’s way and follow you. An interesting and more flavoursome life will reward you with all the wealth you could ever dream of.