Losing your mind? Hurry up and get over it

By Molly Lynch

Over the weekend I learned a valuable lesson: If I have free time on my hands, it’s probably not the best idea to Google “quarter-life crisis.”

I’m not really sure what prompted me to execute this search, but the results Google yielded were pretty predictable: self-help articles, commentaries from America’s seasoned social psychologists and a slew of blogs written by disillusioned twentysomethings.

So, in an attempt to prepare myself for the pending adulthood that lies ahead, I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for a class this semester entitled, “Marketing Yourself: Job-Seeking Strategies.”

I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the class. Friends and classmates have raved about it being one of the best classes at Columbia, providing them with endless resources and step-by-step processes on how to ace your first interviews, as well as crafting the perfect cover letter and resume.

I can’t disagree with what has been said about the class so far. Each week, I walk away from the two-hour-and-50 minute session with great insight, helpful hints and a strong certainty that it’s a class where I’m getting my money’s worth.

It almost seems unfair for me to admit that, despite all the positives of my learning experiences at Columbia, I can’t help but feel a sense of being burnt out.

All those things I thought I knew about myself, those qualities I tacked on to the mental bulletin board of “21-year-old me” and pulled out whenever some jerk at a family gathering or job interview asked me to “describe myself in five words or less,” feel like complete and utter lies. Now, I’ve been completely recast, transformed into

another character all together, without any clue as to what I’m doing.

It sounds dramatic, but I know I’m not the first college student who is about to embark into the real world and feels a sense of uncertainty with the future that lies ahead.

But what are the options for students who just aren’t sure?

With little to lose, most twentysomethings use their time right after graduation as a chance to find oneself, seeing what’s available and trying a lot on for size (does this mean I’m going to have eight different jobs by the time I’m 30?).

Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of taking time to lose my mind. Upon graduating from Columbia, I will not only be greeted by the newness of adulthood, but I will also be warmly welcomed with an astronomical amount of student loan debt to pay off.

What do I take away from all of this? Aside from feeling frazzled enough to the point of shoving Sharpies in my eye sockets more than once a week, life isn’t so bad. And if I have to resort to the tired cliche of living in the present to get me through the day, I just need to accept it and move on.

It’s not the easiest mindset to maintain when balancing school, jobs, internships and a social life. But it can be pretty freeing to wake up and actually believe that what happens to me today at work or school isn’t always the deciding factor in my personal happiness and fulfillment.

While all of these researchers and experts spend their time analyzing resumes and “ways to make the workplace more fulfilling,” no one ever admits that the solution to their problem exists purely in context.

One thing I have to give to my generation is that we are superstars at dealing with change. We’re constantly changing everything, on a regular basis: cities, countries, jobs, hair color, relationships, etc.

So, instead of plotting the least obvious and most efficient exit strategy from living in the real world, it’s time to leave my cave of Perpetual Anxiety behind.

True, personal responsibility for happiness can’t be carefully marketed or advertised with sexy subliminal images. If no one can produce it, package it or sell it to me, then what good is it, really?