We hear a lot about the "mid-life crisis" and more recently, as people my age are having a harder time finding meaningful work, the "quarter life crisis."
Older generations might scoff at the idea of this "quarter life crisis." After all, they say, what do young people like me have to worry about?
The truth is: a lot.
I would argue that people who are 26 like me (or slightly younger or older) have quite a bit to be concerned about these days.
Not only does this age group encompass recent college graduates, but they also include people who want to get married soon or are newlyweds. It includes people who, just a few years ago, were dependent on parents but who are now trying hard to be independent. Many of us are putting off getting married until our careers are secure. We are putting off having children until we are "really sure" we can actually afford them. We don't know when we will be laid off. Or, worse, we don't know when we'll ever get a job. We've had to move back in with parents, and we've had to pay back astounding amounts of student loan debt.
Then, to make it worse, the world stereotypes our generation. They call us lazy, unfocused and materialistic.
The truth is, the world has changed dramatically in the past few years. No longer do the normal "rules" apply. Our generation is creative, resourceful and more determined than ever to fight our way through troubling times. We might do things differently both at home and in the workplace. Yet, we also have good ideas, and we are striving to be heard.
I would like to encourage people my age to see this not as a quarter life crisis but a quarter life opportunity.
Here is what I think would make us, as a generation, stronger:
1. Work hard, harder than you ever thought possible. Take on side gigs. Make extra money. Fight the recession by finding unique ways to support yourself. Think outside the box. Don't feel constricted by the traditional 9-5 job. It's not the only way to attain success. If you have a good idea, run with it. Start something all your own.
2. Along that same line, don't be lazy. Don't let the stereotypes be true. Use technology but understand that technology doesn't necessarily have all the answers. When you don't know something, look it up with a reliable source. Realize the world is not like buying things online. Sometimes, results don't happen quickly or the way we want them to. Expecting instant gratification both in work and in your personal life will lead to unhappiness. Remember, nothing worthwhile comes easy.
3. Take the time to understand your strengths. You can do this by being introspective but also by taking quick assessments like the Strengths Finder or the Myers Briggs Personality Test. Understanding your talents and tendencies will prevent you from wasting time pursuing careers or goals to which you are not naturally suited.
4. Pursue the career that you want. Don't go into a particular profession because your coach, your parents or your friends think it will be respectable. Seek out the advice of others, sure, but ultimately the decision is yours. Be prepared for others not to support you at first and recognize they might not initially understand your vision. Set out to prove them wrong and win their support along the way.
5. Lastly, can we get over the materialism already? It is so exhausting to try to keep up with everyone else, and it's no fun to feel like you are being crushed under a mountain of debt. Let's focus on what matters and try to make the world a better place instead of trying to buy things we can't afford. Set up a budget. Stick to it as best you can, recognize you might make mistakes and plan for the unexpected. It's time for us to quit wanting and start doing. You don't need a designer bag to be successful. You need good old-fashioned hard work and a lot of guts.
Ultimately, I truly believe that if we follow the above, this generation -- our generation -- can be what dreams are made of.
Remember, if anyone can it figure out, it's us.
Follow Catherine Alford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BudgetBlonde