The millennial obsession with the crisis of the 30: when adult life is a mirage


When you turn 30, you overcome an imaginary barrier that involves settling down. If the first part of the 20’s is to experiment and make mistakes, the social canons mark that thirty is synonymous with stable work, home and formal partner. There are thirtysomethings who have the complete ‘pack’ and many others who neither have it nor expect it. In the same way, not even the vital goals are clear or, suffocated by precariousness, they do not aspire to achieve them. An uncertainty that results in a clash between social expectations and reality. And that gives way to the so-called crisis of the 30.

the illustrator Ana Oncina tells all this in the graphic novel ‘Los fucking 30’ (Zenith), where we see how the protagonist imagined herself at 30 and how she really got there (much worse). “For me, this crisis is having reached a moment in life where you should have fulfilled a lot of conventions, but you have not achieved any,” she says. She talks about owning a flat, planning to have a family or a stable job.

vertigo arrives

Many define this decade step as “vertigo” to get older. He used the term Rigoberta Baldini to title his book (published by Random House), which he wrote in the middle of the crisis of the 30s. Now that “that portal” has passed, he considers that he is much better because many insecurities have disappeared and he has recognized that they are still “problems of the First world”.

Manuel Oliva, psychologist: “70% of requests for help come from young people in their thirties”

But the truth is that there are more and more young people in therapy with this feeling. the psychologist Ana de la Mata, from Cepsim, Center for Psychology in Madrid, explains that as in any crisis, people feel that everything is quite fragile. They find it in all patients around that age. The problem is that for some this situation leads to anxiety and even depression. The psychologist Manuel Oliva states that 70% of the requests for psychological help come from those in their thirties.

Oliva talks about the problem of the expectations with which they have been educated. “The 30 of now are not like the ones of 30 years ago. It has gone from a fairly rigid, authoritarian and demanding education to a much more permissive and lax one”, he assures. He further states that parents tried to give their children many of the things that they lacked in their childhood and youth. And he himself sings the mea culpa: “That’s where we made a mistake. We overprotected.” He considers that in many cases it has been assumed that they could access everything and “not so much in the values ​​of sacrifice, struggle or earning a living for oneself.” Hence the vertigo and “fear of commitment.”

crisis after crisis

Oliva indicates that the precariousness and the latest crises also make many take life as if it lasted two days: with parties and fewer responsibilities. The thirtysomethings of now were children when former president José María Aznar said that “Spain is doing well.” The statement marked the beginning of the real estate bubble in 1997 that lasted until 2008. That year, in which they began to enter the labor market or started at university or in a FP, an economic crisis broke out that raged until beyond 2014 Then came the covid pandemic and now inflation.

Ana Oncina, illustrator: “They told us ‘study and you’ll find a good job’. It hasn’t been like that. There’s a lot of frustration”

Many were the first generation in their families to attend college. But what awaited them afterwards was not what everyone around them had imagined. “Our parents did not know that we would experience several crises and a pandemic. They told us ‘study and you will find a good job that will make things easy for you’. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. That is why there is a lot of frustration in our generation,” says Oncina.

Anne Helen Petterson he describes it in his book ‘I can’t take it anymore. How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation’ (Captain Swing). He talks about how for many years precariousness has been a way of life for millions of people around the world. “The thing is, it wasn’t the story millennials—particularly white and middle-class people—were sold about ourselves,” he writes. He says that they were raised on the idea of ​​meritocracy and exceptionalism: if they tried hard, whatever their situation in life, they would find stability. A story that has little to do with reality.

Now, few jobs are perceived for life. De la Mata indicates that thirtysomethings have contributed other values ​​to society, such as questioning that work is a kind of “grabber of all our time and attention”. Also wanting to reconcile, enjoy and take care of mental health.

Portraits in fiction

Fiction also reflects it. Now there are thirty that have nothing to do with characters like Bridget Jones. At 32 years old, she lived alone, she had a permanent contract, friends and money to do and undo what she wanted but, even so, she felt miserable because of her stature and her singleness.

His life would long for many young people today. Movies like ‘The Virgin of August’, ‘The worst person in the world’ or the series ‘Fleabag‘, much more current, show women who fluctuate in their work, sentimental or social life. They do not have really serious problems, nor a difficult socioeconomic situation, but they are still looking for their way. We see them get intimate with strangers, crash parties, try drugs for the first time, and break up relationships. They seem to be much clearer about what they don’t want than what they do.

The director of ‘The worst person in the world’, Joachim Trierexplained in an interview that turning 30 “you realize that you are an adult, but at the same time you feel that you have not really grown“. “I tried to make a rite of passage or a kind of film about the ‘coming of age’ (reaching the age of majority). It’s kind of weird because you would normally associate this genre with a teenager, but for some reason I feel like nowadays it’s just as relevant to someone who’s almost 30 or even 40. There seems to be a discrepancy between the idea of ​​what we feel should be our life and what it has become,” he said.

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in both movies motherhood is present even if it is not the protagonist. Different characters talk about freezing eggs, they choose to have children or not, they decide to continue with a pregnancy even if it was not wanted, or they go through abortions. It is at that age that the countdown starts. It’s now or never, society says, but housing prices are skyrocketing, job insecurity continues, and the world seems more fragile than ever.

These are all factors that influence this crisis. How does the writer define it? Barbara Sandthere is something there to feel mere outline of an adult version. And it may never materialize as the adult model that other generations have.


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