The Generation Gap  – how and why do expectations differ?

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‘Life begins just outside your comfort zone’

For a twenty- or thirty- something in today’s society, there are a heck of a lot of pressures and stresses which seem only to have transpired in the last 10 years. Is it technology? Feminism? The economy?

As I have spoken about in ‘You can’t do it all’, women are expected to be and do lots of different things, all to a high standard. Yet we can’t do all of these things – at least not all of them very well. None of us are superhuman.

When I look at my parents and speak to them about their own experiences, I see stark differences worlds apart from even the chasm between their generation and that of their own parents.

In the 1980’s (which wasn’t THAT long ago), women still trailed behind men considerably in the workplace and in education. In schools, there was still a tendency to encourage girls to do subjects such as home economics and boys to do woodwork. Whilst many shunned the norm and set us on a path to where we are today, many women did just as their own mothers had done; met someone at school, had children, bought a house and became a housewife.

Nowadays, women (and men) of our generation are told they can ‘be whoever they want to be’. We are all talented, we can all do whatever we wish to do – we just have to believe and work hard and we will succeed. An increasingly materialistic society has only been encouraged by social media, upon which we are assaulted by an onslaught of photographs depicting luxury resorts, fast cars and millionaire beach houses.

What’s the problem with this? Well, it’s unrealistic. We can’t all be successful. There are always people at the top of the pile, people at the bottom, and people in between. Telling people they can all be successful and have potential if they work hard is really an untruth – hard work doesn’t always equate to financial abundance. There are other factors such as luck, economy and skill, and of course what you choose to go into.

If a woman is seen to be dependent on a man, or looking for a man to ‘settle down with’, she is looked upon with a certain level of disdain by today’s society. Where’s the ambition? How dare she expect a man to share his fortunes with her? Why can’t she or doesn’t she have her own?

I myself am fiercely self-sufficient, and I often find myself harbouring the same views on other girls who tell me it is their ambition to ‘find someone rich to marry’. Yet I also find myself struggling to afford the lifestyle society tells me I should have (and am entitled to) as single woman. If I focus solely on my career, I can’t have an amazing body because I have no time or energy for the gym. I can’t go out every week because I am knackered. Yet if I don’t focus on my career, I could keep up an unsustainable party lifestyle on a low wage for an inordinate amount of time but then where would that leave me? I’d have all sorts of memories, but I’d also be 30 and still living with my parents. Something I very much wish to avoid.

‘Life is for living’, yes, but how? And isn’t that often motivated by what we want but dictated by what we need? A difficult balance to achieve, if you ask me.

I think the important thing to remember is that whilst a lot is expected of us from many different parties (parents, friends, partners, work, society), all that really matters is our own personal happiness. Your instincts and personal preferences dictate what you really want in life – and even though it’s scary to take a leap of faith (especially when everyone is categorically telling you it’s a bad idea) regretting not taking a chance is much worse than ‘failing’ (as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as failure!) The best things are apparently ‘outside our comfort zone’ – yet our comfort zone is exactly that – a protective bubble which we place around ourselves for a reason.

This is something I am convincing myself of at the moment. I think we all are! I know it is true – but risk-taking really is scary and I understand that.  Watch this space as I travel out of my comfort zone to see what’s really out there and prove it’s not as scary as we all think!

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Why are more of us having ‘quarter life crises’?

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It’s a term that’s being banded around a lot lately – ‘Quarter life Crisis’. A variation on the well-known ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ suffered predominantly by males (which I’m told involves running off with women half your age and buying a sports car), it seems to now be a phenomenon afflicting the 20-30 year olds of the first world.

But what exactly constitutes a ‘Quarter Life Crisis’? Surely people of this age shouldn’t be experiencing any sort of anguish – they should be too busy having fun, right?

But that is just one of the pressures and expectations laid on youngsters by society which makes this time a difficult one. Conventions and socially acceptable practices are changing rapidly, but are also shackled by old-style mentalities. For example, women are expected to go to university and follow a decent, respectable career, to be independent. Yet if a woman is living alone and not married by 30, she is whispered about and constantly reminded of her ‘biological clock’, however successful her career is. We are all obsessed with material things and competing in futile desperation to be ‘the best’ at life – but only by society’s standards. In the back of our minds, our own values and dreams remind us occasionally of what we really want, but cannot bring ourselves to break from convention to obtain.

Not only should we be having fun in our twenties, we should also be building a solid career and saving for a house and for the point at which our lives suddenly become full of unavoidable responsibility. Fresh out of university or battling your way through the dark, unforgiving forest of employment, it’s enough just to pay rent, council tax and heating bills, let alone save for a deposit and mortgage on a meagre wage AND have money to spend on copious amounts of alcohol and expensive holidays .

As I touch on in a previous post, you can’t do it all. And I think that’s what a Quarter Life Crisis is all about – feeling as if you should do it all, and simply feeling like a big fat failure when you’re understandably unable to do so. That added to the confusion of not knowing what you want to do or how you want to live your life – and the pressure to have it all figured out as your twenties start to fly before your eyes.

This blog covers a lot of my tips for surviving this strange era in which we live, such as living more simply and rationing social media. Watch this space – but in the meantime take a look at the following posts which I hope will make you feel a little better! Realise we are all in it together, and nobody really knows what they’re doing, even if they look like they do.

  • Procrastination – the thief of time (and sanity)
  • You can’t do it all
  • Good things are just around the corner!

Suggestions for alternative posts? Send them in!

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