[Modified excerpt from Chapter One of the Twenties BeatDown™ Book]
“I just want to do the right thing, but I don’t always know what that is.”
Connor is a very insightful, intelligent 22-year-old, in and out of community college still living at home with his parents. Connor graduated from high school, got a job at a grocery store and began community college. He tested out of one class and dropped a couple others eventually pulling out of community college altogether. Four years have gone by and he has bounced around various meager retail jobs with some periods of unemployment and lots of frustration. His dad, a self-employed professional, would come home and find Connor playing video games and get on him about finding a job, while mom would nag him about being indecisive.
He describes himself as lost and without a plan. A friend asked how he was doing, “Oh I’m fine.” Then realizing that was not entirely true, he recanted, “Well, not really . . . I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life.”
He hated his situation and wanted out, but he did not quite know what to do or how to articulate his frustration.
Connor was beat down. But why?
When I met Connor he was unemployed, had no direction and was feeling exceedingly frustrated and stuck in life. I asked Connor to make a list of all of his frustrations; not knowing what to do with his life was at the top of his list. He continued to tell me about not having any drive to go out and find something. As I allowed him the space, he dumped a whole list of frustrations from parents to financial worries. Yet what became evident was his frustration with himself as he confessed his lack of self-discipline and ambition confirmed within his sighs of disappointment and relief. “It’s an internal problem,” he stated bluntly. He did express some excitement for a few possible life directions yet extinguished those by saying, “but my interests are always changing.” He continued to elaborately beat himself up, saying he tended to talk himself out of opportunities when they did arise. So in addition to feeling frustrated and stuck, he also felt guilty.
Connor was consumed with circular logic.
On one hand he would complain about having to pay his phone bill and car insurance. Then he would frustratingly blurt out, “I should be the last person to complain about money,” citing his privileged upper middle-class status and parental support. He felt a lot of conflict about living at home and not contributing, yet, he was clearly irritated by his parents badgering him to get his life moving. “I mean, they’re very supportive and I know they love me, but,” he continued through clenched teeth, “they bother me, they just don’t understand!”
“They don’t understand what?” I asked.
“They just don’t get why I don’t have a plan, why I don’t have discipline, or drive,” he said angrily.
“Maybe you don’t understand why you don’t have motivation or drive. What do you think?”
With some amount of relief he said, “Wow. I guess you’re right. I don’t know why.”
“So what’s your response to that?”
“I just get frustrated and overwhelmed. I don’t want to think about it, so I just do something else like play video games.”
“So what would you like to know that would help to alleviate some of your frustration?”
I wanted him to think about his answer more intentionally, so I put a blank sheet of paper in front of him to write down his answers. This is what he returned:
What are my strengths?
What should I do with my life and career?
What do I value?
Who am I?
I asked Connor if those are things he would like some help finding the answers to.
Instantly, with much relief, he said, “Yes! That would be awesome!” which initiated a productive coaching relationship.
Left to his own devices, Connor’s questions and thoughts swirled around in his head endlessly like water down a drain. He concluded he had an “internal problem” as if something was fundamentally wrong with him—but I don’t think that’s the case at all.
It’s not just you.
There is whole sea of twentysomethings in similar situations as Connor. Somehow or another they feel stuck or beat down in life, not getting much traction and not too sure how to get moving forward. Often this is accompanied by feelings of anxiety, anger, depression or even guilt and shame. Some are like Connor, still living at home, while others are seemingly very successful in their respective fields yet unsure of their chosen path.
Perhaps this is more of a reflection of how society has raised a generation.
All of Connor’s questions revolved around personal identity and purpose. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with him as he internalized. He didn’t know who he was, what was important to him, what he valued, or what he was good at. Nothing in society ever really helped him confront these questions in a systematic way. He was just taught how to get to the next step, yet what was the direction? How could he possibly make major life-decisions and commitments if he didn’t know what was important to him and why?
Do you relate?
That was a couple years ago; you’ll have to wait for the book to find out what is going on with Connor* now. Do you think this is solely Connor’s problem or might this be a reflection of society?
I invite you to share your personal story with me in writing or video firstname.lastname@example.org. (*Connor is a real person but not his real name).