Like many people my age, I am in the throes of an identity crisis. I am rapidly approaching the date marking my one-year anniversary of being a college graduate. I do not have a steady income or a job in the actual field for which I (or rather, my parents) spent thousands of dollars in training at a private university. Also, I don’t have a boyfriend (or god forbid, a fiancé), much to my extended family’s chagrin.
In short, I’m a little lost.
I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and to be honest, that scares me sometimes. I’ve always had a plan or known what I was going to do day-to-day because of school or my family. We all grow up with a safety net, and the minute we reach a certain age, it’s yanked out from under us. Once it’s gone, we’re in control of everything, and that is a lot of pressure to put on our shoulders. Sure, we’ve been preparing for that pressure our whole lives, but until you actually feel it, you have no idea how much it can weigh on you.
Psychologists and news commentators believe my generation is self-absorbed, whiny, and spoiled. They say we’ve been given more opportunities than any other generation and grown up with the latest technology, but we squander it by using our education and technology to complain about our lives and detach from society. We’re branded as lazy and ill equipped to do “real work in the real world” because we majored in philosophy or world cultures or acting – things that actually interest us – and don’t want to sacrifice our principles to work a job for the sole purpose of just making money (even though eventually, many of us do).
So naturally, all these psychologists and news commentators don’t think the quarter-life crisis actually exists.
But I’m here to tell you it’s very real. Though I’m about six months away from being twenty-four years old and thus, not a quarter of a century old yet, I still feel this aimlessness sinking in. Who AM I? What am I supposed to DO with my life? Which direction should I head? There are so many questions and never any tangible answers. No compass. No map. No schedule. I am the only one who can answer these questions and decide where I’m going and what to do, and that kind of controlled chaos is terrifying.
Though I suffer from the general form of quarter-life crisis I’ve been talking about, my real identity crisis can be pinpointed to the decision between film and stage. All my life, I’ve been training to be a stage actor, taking dance classes and voice lessons and acting classes, doing shows. I’ve always loved musical theatre, because it let me do everything I loved in one space of time: act, sing, and dance. It’s the best of it all.
But over time, my interest in film grew. I’ve always loved going to the movies, but as I got older, I became more interested in how they were put together, different directors and their styles, cinematography. I would study certain actors I liked and look for all their nuances. I started keeping up with what was in pre and post-production. I read about Italian and French cinema and watched every indie movie I could. I followed the awards season religiously and forced my family to play an Oscar prediction game every year. I basically began having a not-so-secret love affair with film, and that’s where the guilt began.
As you all know by now, I have a degree in music theatre from a rather prestigious, if lesser-known, music school. All throughout college, I felt as though I had to put my life and interests in a box. I was there to study music theatre, and that’s it. Though I had an excellent educational experience at my school, one I cherish, it was far from a perfect place. There wasn’t a lot of room for exploration outside your chosen field of study, and I certainly felt that if I committed to studying music theatre in college, I wasn’t allowed to do or be anything other than that. I felt like I had to be all about music theatre all the time and couldn’t be interested in anything else or I’d be branded a – GASP – traitor.
So I stuck to the plan: finished my music theatre degree and moved to New York City. I audition for stage projects (unsuccessfully thus far, I might add). My friends audition for stage projects (some more successfully than others). And the nagging guilt is still there. I want to do music theatre, I do, but I don’t know who I am in music theatre right now. Nothing seems to fit. And the only place I’ve been feeling a sense of belonging has been the few times I’ve filmed at NYU. I haven’t felt boxed in by how I look or what “type” I am; I’m just me playing a character and saying lines to a camera. It feels good and right. And that’s where I feel guilty, because I’m here in New York with a music theatre degree, and I think I want to pursue film instead of musicals. Even the idea of moving to Los Angeles at some point down the road doesn’t feel foreign or repulsive to me anymore; ME, the girl who has wanted to live in New York City her whole life, wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.
I’m so tired of feeling guilty about my own life. I’m tired of feeling guilty that I have a degree in one thing but I don’t necessarily want to pursue that right now. I’m tired of feeling guilty about hating open calls for a stupid chorus role or rolling my eyes when someone talks pretentiously about some obscure, brand new musical. I’m tired of feeling guilty about knowing more about what’s going on in the film industry than I do about Broadway. I’m just exhausted by all this guilt. It’s MY life, and I don’t know why I’m letting my guilt (or how I might be perceived by others) run it. I have to take control, because there’s no net to catch me, and the leap or fall is mine alone to take.
I don’t know who I am or who I’m GOING to be, but I have to trust my instincts and stop apologizing for or feeling guilty about them. I know who I’d LIKE to be, and I have to pursue that whole-heartedly and hope for the best, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to make me feel bad about it. I will not be boxed in anymore; I will not be categorized. I am not one thing, I am MANY things, and I will explore and develop all these things inside of me because that’s what life is about. Life is a series of identity crises and you have to get lost in order to find yourself.
So I’m lost. Big deal. I’ll find myself soon.