They say that college, or the late teens/early 20s are the best time in your life. The times that you'll look back on from the lofty age of 40 and wish you were there again. I think "they" are talking complete bollocks.
Yet another fellow 20-something has revealed themselves to be recovering from a bout of depression that has lasted at least 3-4 years. That means that almost everyone I know of my own age has now had some form of depression or anxiety problem in the past 5 years. For some it's an ongoing struggle, and for others it's a "bad patch" that only lasts a few months in response to a specific incident in their lives. I've not quite figured out which I am.
Is it that we are a generation of weak willed whiners? Or is it that we are brought up expecting so much of life and of ourselves that the occasional dance with depression is utterly unavoidable? I find that my strongest fear is that of somehow messing up. "What have done now?" "I'm going to fuck this up" That kind of happy stuff. When I sit back and think about that it makes me wonder what image of life I'm trying to adhere to that I'm so afraid I'll get it "wrong". I'm not trying to be President, nothing of the kind; my honest goal is to be self sufficient and able to be useful to others more often than I am a burden to them.
Life is faster paced now; we have more knowledge stuffed into our heads by the age of 20 than our parents' generation did. Not just book learning, but seeing the reality of life in a way that was impossible 50 years ago because there was censorship on television programs. I'm not saying that our parents are uninformed mind you, but how many of them were shown images of people dying of AIDS in Africa to scare them off having sex at age 14?
In so many ways my generation has grown up in a war zone. Even those in peaceable nations. We are surrounded and bombarded with images of war. Children starving, political prisoners of conscience with terrible torture scars, terrorists blowing up a subway station or a shopping centre. An ordinary civilian can now see almost as much as the soldier on the front line. Of course it lacks the immediacy of direct experience, but it is harrowing nonetheless.
If you refer back to my response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th , I talked about how commonplace horror has become to us. However, a couple of hundred years ago, there would have been dead and dying homeless people lying out in plain view right outside my former university, and we would have walked right past. We put a higher value on the individual's life now, and the price we pay for that is to expect much from every individual. On the surface it seems as though we are destroying ourselves with technology and information, but if the internal struggles are a symptom of every single life being irreplaceable and important, making us feel pressure to excel in some unique way, I think it's not so bad after all. As long as we know that it's more unique and outstanding to be a peaceful, contented person and raise a happy family than it is to lead a country or invent a new weapon.