The cursed stages of life, kindergarten, middle school and high school, are marked by one primary obligation: finding your purpose. Five-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds train themselves to predict who they’ll become before knowing who they actually are. Society praises those who presumably pursue their passions, but leaves behind those who don’t belong in a shaming spiral.
On the other hand, college is a time of grief, marked by melancholy for remembering the past and dreading the future. The media propels a toxic image of “enjoying your 20s,” which only solidifies the mortification of having natural growing pains.
The most consequential decision, however, has yet to be made – graduation feels less like a finish line and more like a starting point. As Gen Z students open the metaphorical door of adulthood, they’re shocked to witness what’s on the other side: nothing.
Institutions protect students during their academic journey with somewhat stable fences. In each phase, barriers grow sturdier, instilling a false sense of safety. But at the most critical moment, they crash.
What’s left for young adults is then a term we could call “PCSS” – Post College Stress Syndrome. Every single expectation or dream has now been burned to ashes by the painful and cruel fire of reality, that life isn’t perfect and that the road to success is much murkier and crooked than expected.
But young adults also realize that society constantly sends messages to seek external validation. This feeds their insecurities of not being good enough. Because the fences have never been genuinely reassuring, redefining success becomes a highly personal decision; stripping unrealistically high expectations means accepting the inability to perform the assigned role set by society. It means stepping into one’s own authenticity, honoring each feeling along the way.
Gen Z young adults are traveling an extended road where the destination is unclear. But moving forward with their imperfect selves is key to a well-lived life. Feelings of rage, sorrow and desolation characterize this moment of grief, young adults are indeed grieving for someone they loved: their past selves. How can they face this intricate chapter of their lives, especially when not knowing what the future holds? By stepping into a secret power, the knowledge of not knowing.
The scary but universal truth that society has tried to bury for too long now comes to the surface: no one knows what they’re doing. At their core, humans convince themselves to have the answers because the alternative of not having control is too unbearable. The bad news is that no one has control. The good news is that no one has control.
The choice of living an exciting and out-of-the-box life depends solely on Gen Z young adults; and while PCSS is a phase that will come to an end, the liberating notion of not knowing will forever be a saving grace.