Quarterlife Crisis, a Conflict of Choice

Earlier today my personal essay about what quarterlife crisis feels like went live on The Bold Italic. I actually have some additional thoughts on the topic that didn’t fit in story so I thought I would share them here.

When we were little, we had our families to tell us what to do. Parents taught us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. In school, teachers instructed us what to do and provided grades as measurements of how well we were doing. We applied to schools using standardized tests and a pre-determined system. Then upon completion of our education, we are told by that the world is our oyster, go wild. The expectations from others remain, but no longer can someone else tell us exactly what to do when and how, step by step. “It’s your life,” they say—Indeed we have our three-fourths of our lives ahead of us. Married couples with children say they envy us for having no one to be responsible for except ourselves, “You are free to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.” However, these statements often terrify twentysomethings instead of making us feel powerful and liberated. Why? Because there are simply much more options to choose from than ever before.

This is termed the Paradox of Choice by a psychology professor named Barry Schwartz in 2004. He published a whole book on the subject and the main concepts are outlined in his TedxTalk. To sum it up, Schwartz points out that when presented with too many choices, one often feels paralyzed and unable to choose. And when we do finally make a choice, we can’t help but wonder about the other options we’re missing (FOMO, anyone?), thus feeling much less satisfied than if we had picked from a smaller quantity of choices. And when presented with a plethora of options, logically we reason that one of them should be the Perfect One, and when we realize or doubt that our chosen choice may not be the best, we start to blame ourselves for not having the foresight to choose better. It’s a vicious cycle, and Generation Y grew up in the midst of this culture of overchoice and information overload.

The examples Schwartz gave in the video were commodities—the insane number of salad dressings available at the supermarket and the dizzying different types of jeans to purchase. If deciding what to make for dinner and which pair of pants to buy are already stressful, imagine what it feels like to face that kind of anxiety every day about your own identity. That is quarterlife crisis in a nutshell, trying to navigate murky waters saturated with too many choices and conflicting information, and swim towards self-actualization. Twentysomethings worry about “choosing wrong” for which professional industry to pursue, which city to live in, which person to date seriously, whether or not to go to graduate school, etc. It feels like standing at a crossroads with thousands of paths that are obscured by thick fog— you know you can’t stand still forever but you are unable to see far down the routes, so you hesitate to take a step forward. It feels like having all the time in the world while simultaneously having so little time because there is so much that you could be doing.

Ten years after Barry Schwartz’s, Ruth Chang a philosophy professor from Rutgers University also spoke about choice on Ted Talk, although this time the focus is on how to making difficult choices. Her point is that certain decisions are only difficult to make when the options are different yet equal. Chang advises that instead of trying to compare the pros and cons of these options, it is better to think of each option as having different values and determine which values you can stand behind. 

For example, let’s say you recently have two new job offers. One is at a non-profit company supporting a cause you care deeply about, and one is a much higher-paying job at a huge corporation. Both paths have their various merits. Chang would suggest that you examine within and see if you care more about ideals and helping others vs. prestige and money (Obviously most situations aren’t as black and white as this hypothetical one).

She also reiterates this philosophy in a New York Times Op-Ed: “Instead of looking outward to find the value that determines what you should do, you can look inward to what you can stand behind, commit to, resolve to throw yourself behind.

No matter what kind of issues you’re going through—self-identity, location, career, relationships, family, etc— I think at its core, quarter life crisis can be boiled down to the conflict of making difficult decisions in the present world of overchoice culture

Hope all of this helps you as much as it helped me, 

Chin

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Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E6-E9

(Post about the season 2 premiere is here, the post about S2E2 is here, the one about S2E4 is here. S2E5 here. No, I didn’t write about episode 3, and I slacked off for 4 episodes. Stop yelling at me.)

Tonight is going to be the season two finale of the HBO show Girls, in order to honor Lena Dunham, I decided to finally stop procrastinating, hunker down, and blog about the last 4 episodes during my one-month blogging hiatus.

——————–

“Boys” Season 2 6th episode or #16 overall

Or the episode where you realize that Ray is a lot more screwed up that you thought before

(Official HBO recap video and “Inside the Episode”)

This episode is aptly named because just like none of the four central female protagonists have matured into real women yet, none of the male ones are real men either. They’re dudes, they’re guys, and they’re boys.

I love, love, love the scenes with Adam and Ray. When Adam randomly asks Ray for help, he was flattered that someone would deem him manly enough for “extra muscle type of backup.: And when Ray agrees, Adam awkwardly says “Ummm alright. Ummm thank you,” it’s so endearing but you realize that he is simply not used to expressing gratitude. When will our society stop pushing socially constructed gendered roles and instead encourage open communication in men, starting when they’re young’uns? I want to know.

Anyway, I think what happened is that before, Ray at least feels like he’s better than a few people in the world and that included Hannah, but now that Hannah might become a semi-legit writer, he feels the need to belittle her to feel better about himself. Ray tries to get Adam to agree with him, thinking it’ll be real easy to hate on an ex, but Adam surprisingly is very honest about the situation, which is that “everyone’s difficult” and they are both flawed.

LESSONS:

  1. If you have to barf in public, try to do it into a trash can– When Hannah gets offered an e-book deal verbally (…seriously, I would ask for that stuff in a legal document to sign and date), she gets so nervous that she throws up right outside a café, onto a tree by the curb to much of the other patrons’ horror. I used to get sick a lot when I was in elementary school, so I know from personal experience that you should try to master the skill of holding that in or run for the nearest dumpster, ditch, or toilet.
  2. Women and men have very different ideas about what outlines the steps mark the progress of a romantic relationship.- When Booth Jonathan asks Marnie to host a party at his house for him, both Shoshanah and Marnie immediately assumes that this means he thinks she’s girlfriend material when really, Marnie’s just a good PR hostess to him. I can totally see the ladies’ reasoning: “Oh I’ll be presented as the lady of his house to all his friends and party guests? I must be his girlfriend! Totes.” It is tricky to know whether someone introduces you to his friends because he likes you and wants his friends to get to know you, or if as soon as you go to the bathroom, he smirks and boasts to his friends “Yeah so I’ve banging THOSE great tits wassup?!”  Continue reading

Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E4

(Post about the season 2 premiere is here, and the post about S2E2 is here)

You may have noticed that I didn’t blog about the last episode “Just Say No” this past week. That’s because I felt like there wasn’t any cautionary tale out of it besides DON’T DO COKE, SERIOUSLY.

If you totally were bummed out by that, here’s this awesome Spotify playlist I found that features every single song featured on the show in chronological order.

Back to this #13 “It’s A Shame About Ray” episode. I have to say this was the most emotionally intense one so far. I cried during the subway scene because it was SO REAL. And I was depressed for about an hour after the show.

I knew that Jessa and Thomas-John’s marriage was doomed from the beginning but their fight was so vicious, and to witness Jessa, who seems to walk through life with a “eh, whatever ha!” attitude, break down so completely was heartbreaking. Hindsight is always 20-20 and I felt that she really thought this could work and it was the best thing to happen to her ever in her life, but now, she has to start all over again, and that sucks.

ANYWAY, onto the “lessons”:

  1. Don’t invite people to a party whom you know would have potential conflicts– Come on, Hannah. Exes don’t mix well especially with the current partner involved. Anyone with half a brain can tell there are still a lot of remaining feelings between Marnie and Charlie, and his new girlfriend is very volatile.
  2. Don’t invite unwanted people to events “out of politeness”- It’s your own goddamn party and they might just show up with your permission.
  3. The more you explain about a lie, the less likely people are to believe itI love you, Shosh, but you are not good at pretending. Stick to one-liner excuses only!
  4. It’s important to master the art of backhanded compliments and subtle insults– Don’t lie. You enjoyed watching the catty exchange between Marnie and Charlie’s GF, too. (It reminded me of the reading scene in Pride & Prejudice where Lizzie artfully made it clear to Mr. Darcy that Caroline Bingley is a pretentious cow.) Occasionally in life, we need to throw some shade to stand up for ourselves, something, or someone else. Remember that in an argument, the person who appears less mad is the winner, so work on your poker face and thinking quick on your feet to create incognito offenses such as “So where did you get your headband?” as in because that’s the only interesting thing about you.
  5. Choose conversation topics wisely and appropriately for the occasion, time, place, and participants– When in doubt, avoid the following because they’re controversial: sex, drugs, violence, religion, politics, and the right way to raise children. Jessa and Hannah covered most of these at the dinner tables. Continue reading

Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E2

(Read about the last episode here)

Episode 12 “I Get Ideas”

I would like to open with how while I think Hannah’s “colorblind” comments to Sandy were really stupid, they were also incredibly funny. They remind me of white people who tell me that they don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Asian fetish or Yellow Fever, and men who respond with “Well, there are a lot of female CEO’s now” when I complain about the fact that women still do not make as much money as men for the same jobs.

Hannah’s self-righteous proclaim to Marnie and Elijah about her breakup was hilarious: “Your rights happened!” Right, just because one socially conservative person is now without a girlfriend, women’s rights and gay rights are totally going to improve now. Uh huh.

(!!!FULL OF SPOILERS!!!)

  1. If someone cares enough, they’ll make the time and effort. – While it takes much less time to look at a painting and spew out some general comments than reading a piece of writing and then providing feedback, I do agree with what Jessa said: “If he’s not reading your essays, he’s not reading you.”  Sandy doesn’t mind watching the TLC TV show “Say Yes to the Dress” with Hannah, but finds her writing about her goddamn self boring because “nothing really happened”? Seriously? He basically just sent the signal of “Yeah I don’t care enough about you to know you as an individual, but hey, I like having sex with you.” Continue reading

Quarterlife Lessons from the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E1

First off the bat I would like to say that this is not about whether I think the show is good or bad, or if it deserves awards or not. It’s like what my Art History professor told us in our introductory class: “It’s okay to like something or don’t like something regardless of how famous it is or what experts say about it.”

Anyway, my point is that I like this TV show, and if you don’t, then don’t read this.

This was one of my many facial reactions to the HBO Girls season 2 premiere last night.

This was one of my many facial reactions to the HBO Girls season 2 premiere last night.

Episode 11 “It’s About Time”

Last night was the season two premiere of “Girls.” Truth be told, when this show first appeared, I watched from a very defensive point of view. Because I thought, with hands on my hips, “If this is supposed to be representative of my generation of women, then it’s making us twenty-something girls look terrible!” Yes, many a times I would declare to my friends that Shoshanna is the character who hasn’t done anything stupid or bad in my opinion.

One episode after another, I began to see sides of myself and my friends within the fictional girls more and more. I stopped telling people that I “enjoy it ironically,” and fully embraced loving it.

So I’m going to blog about the morals that I personally see from each episode. Some of them are brand new knowledge to me while some are precautionary tales that are good to remind oneself of.

So here you go, the life lessons from the first episode of season 2 “Girls”:

(!!!FULL OF SPOILERS!!!)

  1. If you’re a straight woman, don’t ever fool around with a gay guy sexually thinking you can be the one to turn him bi or straight. – Especially when the guy has a boyfriend! Marnie and Elijah’s half-sex session was so wrong. Even if the guy is very hot and super nice, and both of you are so drunk or on something, just don’t. It’s awkward afterwards for everyone involved and nothing good can come out of it.
  2. If you do see your ex at a party, limit communication to as nothing as possible and distance yourself physically. Oh and DON’T ask them about their dating life!– We’ve seen Marine and Charlie do the painfully awkward “oh let’s be friends even though we used to date” dance for so long that I was only a tiny bit shocked to see her ask to sleep on Charlie’s bed with him last night, and to have him agree to it! What about your current girlfriend, Charlie? And has Marnie forgotten that she has broken up with this dude TWICE already? Shoshanna’s cold shoulder to Ray was not pleasant but that is still WAY better.
  3. Don’t text someone a message only composed of emojis and then expect them to fully understand what you mean.– When it was finally revealed that Ray broke Shoshanna’s heart by ignoring her emoji-only texts, the only thought that went through my mind was “Oh that’s funny.” Wasn’t even mad.
  4. If anyone you date ever says that they don’t have to do something because they love you, get the hell out of there. Last night as Adam told Hannah “when you love someone, you don’t have to be nice all the time,” I heard the sound of sharp inhale of air through teeth from my female friends in my living room. Loving someone should not be used as an excuse. Continue reading