Initially, this post was meant to be a mid-life crisis thing, but someone somewhere wanted we do a post about an age we can directly relate to. It’s been a minute though!
He fidgets on the 3-seater sofa, which floats in the middle of the single room shack, a few paces from the Kangemi bus station. He can hear touts slapping buses and screaming at the top of their voices. His bed is still unmade, with a grey blanket lazily kissing the floor on one corner. Above the bed, just below a small portrait of him and his siblings on his graduation day, is a bottle of half drank cheap liquor. It stands tall and proudly like an unwanted pimple. A large Australian cockroach strolls across the room, headed for the dishes he had used the previous night. He reaches for the pesticide bottle at the bedside and blows the content towards the roach, which only hastens its stride and vanishes into the pile of unwashed dishes in a yellow basin. The room leaks of disappointment, hopelessness and leftover kale from the previous night.
His phone rings, and it’s a new number.
“Ha – hallo”, his voice is shaky, he looks at the half empty liquor bottle and silently curses.
“Am calling regarding a job you had applied for.”
“Yes, yes, I did.” Having dropped a million and one letters, John has no idea who the potential employer would be, either the IT firm looking for a graduate with a specialization in Programming and some experience in Python, or the classified he had seen in the papers and applied for the position of gardener with no experience needed. He instinctively slaps off the small FM radio on sitting on the arm of the couch he sits on.
“We went through your resume with the board,” he now listens carefully with a pen in hand in case he is needed to scribble something like an address or a contact name. The lady with a voice calmer than a sunset chews on, “Unfortunately, we feel you are a little bit overqualified, but we will keep your resume in our database in case an opportunity meets your qualification. We are very sorry and we wish ……..” He holds the phone away from his ear, looks at it for a moment and hates it. He then places it next to the old stereo, and reaches for the bottle. It now looks reassuring, and the burning sensation it causes caresses his hurt. The phone’s screen lights up and then goes off, as the lady decides to hang up on the realization that she is conversing alone.
Below his bed, he feels it’s presence, his college degree certificate, collecting dust in a neat brown envelope on the outer pocket of his suitcase. Engraved are the wordings “Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science”, words that have eaten him to bits since he graduated three years ago. The smell of optism from the certificate has since died down, and in its place a noisy emptiness. He has a deep urge to rip it into pieces but manages to control himself. He takes a huge swing at the vodka and almost empties it. The throbbing in his head reduces.
At 26 years, John has jumped from one casual job to another, the most recent doing deliveries for a courier company. He was never a drunk in campus, or even a few months later, but he had slowly gone down, after a phone call one rainy morning from a girl he had met on his graduation after party, and all she wanted to tell him was ‘Am pregnant, and it’s yours and we are keeping it’. The call had surprisingly sprung him out of his comfort zone, he was to be a daddy, and he had vowed to be the best he could. He had dropped dozens of application letters, attended interviews till his only suit faded, and the shoes had more cobbler sews than the original lining. The more the months passed, the more his light seemed to fade, and the more he sought comfort in the bottle.
Nine months down the line, the girl had given birth to a baby boy, named the kid after her own father, and shipped him to her parents in the village once she believed he had had enough suckling. John had protested, but his arguments were met with, ‘will you take care of the bills?’ ‘Do you think I want my kid to live here?’ The battle was lost. He would have no say in her son’s life.
At 26 , John has already lost the youthful confidence he had back in college, and in its place a jobless detached figure, who feeds on frustration for breakfast and depression as a midday snack. Due to his drinking, his boss has given him an unpaid leave, to ‘go figure your life out and set your priorities’, as it reads on the letter he angrily tossed into a dustbin at the local bar. Society sees John as a loser, who can’t take rejection and lack of employment in the shin like other men, and most of his friends who have jobs are always ‘in a meeting’ or ‘driving’ whenever his call shows up.
If you ask the society, John suffers from depression and is slowly running into lunacy. In the spirit of being human, his peers now regard him as the graduate who gave up in life, oblivious of the many battles the young man bears. In family gatherings he takes the tasks others regard as demeaning, like squeezing shit out of a goat’s intestines during ‘mutura’ barbeques, and his opinion won’t be held with such high regard, taking a back seat in serious matters. Everyone will still laugh at his jokes, like they did when he was younger, though he gets a feeling they might be taking advantage of the chance to laugh at him direct to the face. Quarter life crisis is what John and many other Johns out there suffer from, a condition common to youths in the transitional years between their early twenties and early thirties, or fondly slammed as millennials.
During the mid-life crisis, millennials are slapped with a load of transitional requirements, from getting a job, sustaining the same, early pregnancy, balancing night outs – early morning meetings at work – early mass on Sunday after a Saturday night out and trying to hold a relationship in place. There is always the risk of over indulging, with the keenness to fit into society’s requirements. If the millennial gets a job, he will try to live the life of his peers who have better paying jobs, which will make him hate his job and life, since he can’t attract the kind of girl cliques his friends do. If, on the other hand, he can’t nail a job or sustain one more than four months, society will use him as a walking prop representing failure and the ‘effects of poor planning’. They won’t ask why he can’t get a job and try to help, they will ask ‘how’. The ‘John’ will hate society, and will seek a shelter from those ‘bad’ people, which he will find in alcohol, or hard drugs, the two catalysts for more doom.
Quarter life crisis doesn’t circle around a single crisis but depending on the subject and the conditions fate and society decides to slap him with, it can take as many forms as matter itself. Our millennial’s quarter life crisis may fail to revolve around employment struggles, – maybe he cleared college and his rich uncle made a few phone calls and managed to hold his hand into a dream job, – life in cahoots with the society and peer influence may decide to slap ‘John’ with sexuality problems. He will want to try stuff, and his good salary will remind him how much of a fool he was for staying a virgin through college, and he will get himself a girl, then two, since he thinks they are picked like groceries. In other extremes, our guy won’t know who he likes more, between boys and girls, and in a bid to ‘discover’ himself will decide to innocently experiment. Society will call him spoilt, and amid sneers, word will spread fast, and his relatives will avoid him like plague. Village folk, the most judgmental people on earth, will meet and discuss him on roadsides and near tea collection centers like they do the tea prices each year,
‘Have you heard about John?’ One will ask.
‘John the son of so and so …?’
‘Yes that one, the one who graduated the other day.’
‘What has he done now?’
‘I hear he was seen with so and so and it’s highly suspected they were doing this and that.’
‘Serious?’ The other will ask, making a face as puzzled as that of a newborn dik-dik. ‘No wonder he cannot get a job in the city of lights.’
They will chew on and on, and mention him so many times, that our subject will bite himself severally that day.
Mid life crisis is not depression, but it can lead to depression if allowed to drag on. Psychology in a bid to tackle the condition describes the QLC as a duration in a human’s life (between twenties and thirties), where people feel insufficient and stressed out by the cards fate slaps them with. This is the transition from childhood to adulthood, and it can take well over three years. It is the time millennials need a listening ear even when they scream for privacy.