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Life at 25

Lacey Igo dreaded her last birthday. The Fargo woman usually starts a countdown months in advance and tells everyone how many days are left until her big day. But not this year. Not when she was turning ... gulp ... 25. "It was scary turning 25,"...

Lacey Igo dreaded her last birthday.

The Fargo woman usually starts a countdown months in advance and tells everyone how many days are left until her big day.

But not this year. Not when she was turning ... gulp ... 25.

"It was scary turning 25," said Igo, whose birthday was in February. "It means I'm closer to 30. I think I set goals early on in life that I haven't exactly accomplished by this time in my life yet. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself."

Igo isn't alone. The pressures faced by Generation Y have made turning 25 a tough milestone for many in this age group.


Societal expectations weigh heavily on today's 20-somethings, who grew up with everything and are expected to flourish.

As a result, some find themselves paralyzed with fear of failure as they enter life after college and feel they haven't accomplished enough by now.

Others are so afraid of making the wrong choices. They have no idea what to do in life.

Some just feel old.

Welcome to Generation Y's quarter-life crisis.

Crisis more prevalent

The term "quarter-life crisis" has been around since the 1980s, but is more widespread now, said Christine Hassler, author of "20 Something, 20 Everything: A Quarter Life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction."

Although women tend to put more pressure on themselves, men also experience quarter-life crises.


The phrase applies mainly to 20-somethings, but those in their early 30s may also experience quarter-life crisis symptoms of anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity.

"The reason why it's on the rise is because society has just become a pressure cooker more and more. There's just more expectations on young 20-somethings," said Hassler, 31, of Los Angeles.

At the same time, the world is expanding in possibilities, making it overwhelming for 20-somethings to choose one path, she added.

Overall, men and women are also waiting to get married until their late-20s, creating a transition time between college and marriage.

Many 20-somethings don't know what they want and feel guilty for not knowing or for taking time to figure it out, said Alexandra Robbins, author of "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis."

"Our generation is not slacking off. This isn't about slacking. This isn't about being lazy," she said. "This is about having a different set of choices and living in a completely different landscape than our parents' generation did."

In the 1970s, people jumped into a career or marriage in their 20s, and "that was it," Robbins said. Thirty years later, that generation is facing a midlife crisis, getting divorced or changing careers because they aren't happy, she said.

"We don't want to make the same mistakes," Robbins said of why Generation Y hesitates to make life choices. "We're sorting ourselves out before we make those leaps."


Besides seeing the mistakes of their parents, Gen Yers also feel pressure among themselves. There are more 20-somethings graduating from college, leading Gen Yers to feel like they need to work harder to stand out, Robbins said.

At the same time, many are dealing with skyrocketing student debt, she said.

"It really weighs on the shoulders of young adults," said Robbins, 31, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Hard being an adult

In Igo's case, not even her Generation X friends understand what she's going through.

"I feel stupid that I had a hard time turning 25, especially since a lot of my friends are older than me and they kind of look at me and laugh," she said.

But growing up in Coon Rapids, Minn., Igo had never thought of life past 25, let alone planned for it. After graduating from Concordia College, she left for California with dreams of working in the fashion industry.

About a year later, her bubble burst when she realized she couldn't afford to live there and was swimming in debt. She returned to Fargo-Moorhead with the knowledge that being an adult isn't so easy.


Being born into a generation used to immediate gratification also makes things difficult.

"We want to take on so many things and be successful right away and we take on too much," Igo said.

"The other thing is the fact that I've always been so dependent on my parents and turning 25 was like, 'cut the ties,' and, 'I have to do it all on my own now,' " she said.

Aaron Hill of Fargo, who states his age as 24½, knows what Igo is talking about. He turns 25 in February and will then be under his own insurance instead of his parents'.

He cringes that his friends now have discussions about car insurance. He doesn't even want to think about turning 30.

"It's a weird transition," Hill said of being in his mid-20s. "It feels like we're caught in that middle. We're not that college party group anymore, but we're not quite that old married with kids yet."

Like Igo, Hill struggled to find his way after college and feels burdened by student debt. He originally intended to be a lawyer, but realized he didn't like the field and had no idea what to do next.

After spending some time bartending, he now works as a bank teller. He's still trying to figure out what he wants to do in life.


"There's just a lot of stress to succeed and to do well," Hill said. "You just start to feel so old ... I get these flashes: 'What do I have to look forward to?' "

Still, Hill says he's not "freaked out" with his situation.

"I'm not married. I don't have kids. I can be poor and take time to figure out what I would like to do," he said.

Just a crossroads

Staying rational is key to dealing with a quarter-life crisis, Hassler said.

"If you have it all figured out in your 20s, you're in the minority," she said. "Crisis ... just means crossroads. It doesn't mean catastrophe, necessarily."

Older generations can help Gen Yers by listening to them and offering wisdom instead of telling 20-somethings not to worry or criticizing, Hassler said.

Gen Yers also shouldn't be afraid to reach out to each other, Robbins said.


"If you talk about it enough, you'll realize that your peers aren't necessarily as together as they seem," she said. "A lot of people are experiencing similar issues."

Tips for dealing with a quarter-life crisis

- Don't feel like you have to settle every aspect of your life by the time you hit a magic number like 25 or 30 because then what are you going to do for the rest of your life?

- Treat this time as a journey and a period of trial and error.

- Don't compare yourself to other people because people's lives usually aren't what they seem. Generation Y is good at putting up false fronts. It's an image-conscious generation.

- Realize it's normal to have a quarter-life crisis, and your life isn't falling apart.

- Find books or Web sites on the subject to learn more and get help.

- Think about these three things: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?

Source: Authors Alexandra Robbins and Christine Hassler

Who are today's 20-somethings?

- The average number of jobs a person has in his or her 20s is now 8.6.

- The average age of marriage has shifted from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to 25 for women and 27 for men now.

- Before age 17, one in three of today's 20-somethings saw their parents divorce.

- Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of Americans ages 20, 25 and 30 who were still enrolled in school more than doubled.

- According to a poll, most Americans believe that "adulthood" begins at age 26. According to a poll of college-educated Americans, being "grown up" begins at 28 or 29.

- About 40 percent of 20-somethings say they feel significantly pressured or "almost more stress than they can bear."

Source: Quarterlifecrisis.org

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560 Life at 25 Teri Finneman 20071028

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