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It was once a period in time that we faintly dreamed about and looked at through rose-colored lenses as a setting for ourselves when we were “older.” Bill payments, rising the corporate ladder, getting married, having children. These are the things we chatted with our girlfriends about secretly on Friday night sleepovers, movies and popcorns. We whispered to them in hallways, masked with giggles—“Oh, when I’m older I’m going to marry him!” “I want to be a pediatrician when I grow up.” “I’m going to have my first baby when I’m 27.”

But then, suddenly, we look up at the clock, and see that time has raged quickly past us like a mad man on rollerblades. 20-somethings gasp at their surroundings, their bodies shaped by the passage of time, minds evolved, names elevated to higher statuses, yet consciousness still stuck in awe, and wonder over what they have become. It’s hard for young adults to see how their expectations have suddenly become reality. And soon, the feeling becomes all too uncomfortable. Welcome, to the “thrisis.”

Mid-life crises are no longer for the faint-hearted, or the parents wrestling with their lives when the last little birdie leaves the nest. According to a recent poll, and perhaps due to the current economic climate, 85 percent of college seniors planned to return home after graduation. That means that that road to accepting adulthood and becoming real “grown-ups,” for some 20 and 30-year-olds, seems like a long one. Turning 30 is rough for some people—or shall we say, turning the big 3-uh-oh is rough for many. It’s because your 30s appear to be a strange time in life. You’re at an age where 30 does not quite feel young but it’s not quite that old either. It’s a grey area, that many try to finagle through, avoiding more responsibilities, yet still taking a claim to those ravishing days of dark nights, city streetlights, pumping fists, and club noise.

Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, authors of Your So-Called Life , a book that mixes humor with advice for women heading towards their 30s, told CNN that one of the major reasons why entering the late 20s and turning 30 is such a shocking transition is because social media has forced us to live and document our lives and aging process more publically than in the past.

“Thanks to social networking and other forms of digital dishing, not only can we spend hours navel-gazing online, but we can also gaze at each other’s navels via social networking sites. Now you can log onto Facebook or Twitter and find out that your younger cousin is pregnant (again), your best friend got a promotion, and your college roommate is engaged. It’s easier to compare and contrast our friends’ life trajectories to our own and then blog, tweet, text, and instant message about it.”

That comparison and contrasting, those para-social relationships, cause the burgeoning generation to size themselves up. The measure of comparison equals a measure for perfection, and that can be a extremely stressful, especially when, as a late 20-something, you have yet to get married, yet to have children, and you’re sitting in your apartment wondering why in the world you can’t get a date.

And let’s not forget work life for the aging young professional. Turning 30 in a certain position and field in our new realm of generation next equals hard work and perfection, high status and new positions. For those who work fervently, the thirties become a time of anxiety and stress. After working so hard for nearly a decade to achieve dreams and aspirations, some corporate workers, lawyers, and government officials seem to experience burnout. To solve this issue, they look to other jobs, adopt new hobbies, and change relationships—just so that they feel that they are not leading their lives into a monotonous, stagnant  and non-progressive work-life pit.

What we must remember is that there is nothing wrong with re-thinking our stages in life—we just can’t let it get us beat down and depressed. These crises—or more positively said, self-reflective periods—are a rotational cycle in life, as growth and development does this to humans all the time. Remember when you first turned 16? The shiny, new whip or later curfew hours made you feel all grown up, and you thought to yourself, “Wow, I’m getting older. I got so much responsibility.” Or how about the reality check post high-school graduation? Leaving your parents for a college far away, left to fend for yourself at the age of 18? That really strengthens the spirit, but also calls for reflection.

Then there’s 21. You can do just about anything—and, chuckling, you’re still debating what it is you want to be when you grow up. It’s a moment in life when you realize the world is all too real, and you want to return to the days of playing hide-and-seek in neighborhoods twice moved from, or to the days when you were small enough to curl up into that warm spot under your mother’s bosom.  The fact is any of these points of self-reflection, also known as “quarterlife crisis, thrisis, mid-life crises, etc.,” are normal aspects of life. As we grow, we are always reevaluating ourselves, checking to see if we are staying on track with the blueprints we built for ourselves at the tender ages of 13. Lavinthal and Rozler would agree.

“While the thrisis isn’t exactly fun, there is some good news: You’ll realize that part of being an adult is understanding that ‘figuring it all out’ is a lifelong task even for the biggest grown-ups among us, not a goal that must be reached by an arbitrary birthday,” they said. “You’ll also gain a lot a more out of a thrisis than you’ll lose—good stuff like maturity, self-awareness, and perspective.”

How are you feeling about your late 20s? Or turning the big 3-0? Sound off!

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  • Jencendiary

    I turned 30 this year – still single, no kids. And I’m glad. If I had those burdens, I wouldn’t be able to make plans to leave my job and start studying in a completely different educational field without disrupting the delicate balancing act families are.

    If those things come along, great. If not, I’ll have a great life without them.

  • Turning 30 was the best thing that ever happened to me…I am loving the 30s!!!

  • Gem

    I am 26 and to think that my 10 year high school reunion is next year and 30 is approaching is shocking. I am actually looking forward to my 30’s; the 30’s seem younger than ever before.

    I’ve been married for almost 4 years and from late teens/early 20’s I would have thought I’d have kids by now, but I don’t. I am seeing the benefits of waiting until closer to 30. I don’t own a house yet, but am finally starting to look toward that. It just seems like my generation is using their 20’s to really grow and find themselves. Some feel good about it but I have my fair share of friends who are freaking out because they are missing one or more of the Holy Trinity of man + house + babies.

    I’m just enjoying the ride…