Why Generation-Y Avoids Decision-Making Like The Plague And Why It's Okay

by Elyssa Carr

Sitting in my New York City apartment, I should be engulfed in, and excited about, the world around me. After all, it is the city that never sleeps. Yet, somehow I find myself questioning my life. It’s terrifying.

For my entire life, the next step has always been pretty much planned out and expected. I knew my parents were there to help me through any challenging moments, like going to college or surviving grad school. However, through all of those moments, no matter what, a part of me knew I would make all of those things happen on my own…and I did.

After coasting through for 22 years, I now find myself sitting in an apartment I can’t afford, with debt I can’t even begin to start paying off and college degrees that will probably amount to very little. I’m more scared and unsure than ever, but I know I’m not the only one. My friends in grad school, law school, med school and even those who are lucky (ha!) to have found jobs straight out of college have all admitted to feeling just as paralyzed with fear as I do.

We’re scared of not finding the one to spend the rest of our lives with; we’re scared of slaving away at jobs we don’t love day after day, and we’re scared of living the rest of our lives as the crazy cat lady who haunts our thoughts. We’re scared of making choices today that could ultimately result in the failures of our lives tomorrow. Most of all, though, we are scared to make our own life decisions.

Until now, most of us have had relatively meager decisions to make -- if you consider choosing between one Big Ten school and another a real decision. Sure, we were faced with indecision frequently, but making the wrong decision about who to date, or whether or not to study for that final during senior year of college, was a lesson learned. After college, we still find ourselves learning and making mistakes here and there, but we are now faced with real freedom and real consequences.

Being a 20-something of Generation-Y is one of the scariest positions to be in, although older generations may argue that point. Our lives are fluid, constantly changing, and besides the bottle of wine in our fridge, nothing seems reliable. It’s unavoidable; it’s alienating.

It’s alarming to hear our parents talk about how the choices they made in their twenties laid the path for the lives they lead today. How can we live day-to-day scraping to get by, swimming in school debt or the shadows of our last failed relationship, and not worry about the decisions we are making?

And while, even as I type this I am frozen with fear, I think we need to start thinking of the daunting unknown as, sort of…empowering. So, fellow members of Gen-Y, I offer this piece of reassurance to you: It’s okay to be nervous about where these decisions will take us, and it’s also okay to not have all of the answers. After all, do you think your parents really knew they would end up where they are today when they decided to buy their first house, or take that first job they hated?

As 20-somethings, we feel this pressure to know all the answers, to have complete control of our decisions and emotions and most of all, to be confident in the paths our lives will take. We might sometimes talk about all the wonderful things we want to do with our lives, but in the privacy of our own homes, we cry on the shoulders of our best friends about feeling completely lost in life.

We put on this front of confidence, pretending to know exactly what path we want to take next. But, in reality, we feel panicked by the decisions awaiting us. We mask our fears with sarcasm and quick wit, all the while avoiding making choices of any real consequence.

Instead of facing our insecurities, we compartmentalize them in the back of our minds. We are so fearful of not having the answers that we fail to even attempt to internally work it all out, to ask ourselves what it is we want. We question why we are doing this or that, making excuses like it will get us to where we want to be. All the while, we’re ignoring relevant questions pertaining to the aspects of life that give it meaning. While these moments of introspectiveness are much easier to avoid than to actually address, where do we get by ignoring these questions?

So, as a 20-something, I challenge you to embrace the questions you so dutifully push away every day. Instead of thinking of all the questions and uncertainties as a grueling task to address, think of them as moments to take control, hold the world in your hands. It’s distressing to think of all the changes that could happen right now, but hey, maybe challenging yourself will leave you with something more reliable in your life than that bottle of red wine in the fridge.