By Anna Murphy
New York, NY, USA
On a recent trip back home, my dad popped a time capsule into the car cassette player. I listened as my toddler voice chimed out colors.
“Lello” two-year old me warbled.
“PURPLE! So CLOSE… YAY Anna! GOOD JOB!” My mom applauded.
I was suddenly acutely aware of how unbridled parental encouragement, regardless of the quality of the job done, is the embodiment of a prototypical eighties upbringing. I watch videos of my mom gushing over my kindergarten “dance” moves as I jerk around and bounce up and down. I still dance that way today. Case in point.
We, the 80s babies, were living in an alternate reality of palatial proportions where we were kings and queens. We were told: “You can be anything you want to be,” and “The world is your oyster,” and “If you work hard, say your prayers and eat your vegetables, all your dreams will come true.”
Fast-forward twenty years. Some of us are successful, but not CEOs. Some of us are well-off, but not billionaires. Many of us are in relationships, but he’s no Prince Charming. Generally, we’re content, but not stimulated. In other words, we’re living in the quarter-life where expectations meet the reality of an unknown future.
I went to a small Catholic school in Virginia. When I say small, I’m talking 60 kids per grade. We all dated the same popular guy, we rolled up our skirts to show off our knobby knees, and we passed notes folded in cool origami shapes. It was Pleasantville, but at the time, not so pleasant. When I had the opportunity to escape the convent confines and attend the University of Florida on a scholarship, I told my dad it was nonnegotiable because I wanted palm trees. He said I had a choice to make - be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond.
In typical/contrary teen fashion, I declared: “I want to be a big fish in a big pond.”
I needed something bigger, better, different, and challenging. Because the thing about prolific positive reinforcement is that when you think you’re the cat’s pajamas, you have a skewed perception of what you deserve. And much like a drug, there’s also the downer after the upper in the form of a jarring disconnect, experienced when all your ducks don’t line up in that perfect little row.
I moved to New York a month after graduation to pursue a career in public relations and to make my splash in a bigger pond. In a day and age where a job defines your very being, I knew that this city was the perfect launching pad for my career.
Cut to three years later, two jobs, two apartments, countless flings, and even more incalculable drinks - I am living out what has been coined a “quarter-life crisis.”
Babies of the eighties are unique in feeling we’re all in it together, but there’s a big gap. My southern sorority sisters are all blinged out and ready to boldly enter into matrimony, and even motherhood, without having lived many of the life experiences I hold in high regard. My New York counterparts, on the other hand, have a death grip on youth in the form of a 16 oz. beer.
So, what’s the best practice for this transitional age? Well, all I know is what I know and I plan to share just that, and hope that if nothing else, some of my revelations, rants, and sentiments are at least shared by others of my generation.
Anna Murphy works in Beauty PR and resides in the East Village of Manhattan with her sorority sister. She enjoys long runs on the Hudson River, live music, vegan cookies and the Florida Gators.