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How millennials stumble into adulthood

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By KAREN MBUYA MURIUKI
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Forget midlife crisis that is loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety that occurs between the ages of 45-64 years. Millennials in their 20s are now experiencing this anxiety, and it is better termed as the Quarter Life Crisis.

Imagine you are in your 20s, probably recently graduated from university, probably having started your first job, or probably even looking for one. You are already so tired of life and unimpressed by the idea of adulthood.

You were used to having it easy: your parents sending you money for food and upkeep right after making a phone call to them, most of your days being “packed” with three lectures, at the very most. And yes, that might have been stressful at some point, but thinking about it now makes you want to turn back in time to become a student one more time.

Your social life is not as it used to be: all you want to do these days is have some “me time” because of the stressful day or week you have had. Besides, you have the load of chores that you have kept postponing all week or two. You assume your friends will understand.

While in the university, you would stay up all day and night, only surviving on slight power naps. All you do now is try as much as you can not to snooze your alarm because you have to beat Nairobi’s morning traffic.

And speaking of friends, your closest friend just got engaged! You should be happy for them, but are you? You are as single as a pringle, not even in the most casual of relationships. And here are your parents; pressuring you to keep up with your mates, and constantly letting you know that they are growing old and need to see their grandchildren.

But this slump and anxiety, especially after college, is considered normal if you ask the right psychological circles.

An article by Lonerwolf.com listed some of the reasons that millennials go through a quarter life crisis. They include confusion of identity, insecurity regarding present accomplishments and the near future, disappointment with one’s job and loneliness.

Lifestylespoke to five millennials aged between 20 and 30 who were willing to share their experiences of dealing with uncertainty as they build their lives.

Brian Ismael. PHOTO | COURTESY

Brian Ismael. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Everyone around me seems to have their life figured out. I, on the other hand, feel like I have not accomplished anything.

It’s much different from being in high school because all that was expected from me then was to get good grades so that I would be admitted to the university.

Now, in the university, I have to work hard to ensure that I get a good and sustaining job in the very competitive work field.

Not knowing what is next makes me anxious and feel confused; almost as if I am taking a step ahead and two steps behind. I cannot live in the moment because I am always worrying about the future.

There is also the pressure to balance relationships around me, especially when I am going through depression. I have social anxiety, which means I do not know how to interact with people as much.”

“Growing up, I was always socially awkward. I was bullied all through primary and high school. I decided never to be bullied again when I joined the university. The first day of orientation was a bit overwhelming because I was not used to being socially active, but I had made a promise to myself so I had to keep it.

I would try as much as I could to fit in and do what others do to avoid the social anxiety. I wanted to be friends with the “cool” and “popular” students so that I could stay relevant. This came with a lot of pressure because I had to dress, talk and act like them. I lost myself in the process.

Yes, it was fun having to dress up and go out with these people but I soon came to realise that this person I was becoming was not me.

Depression was inevitable in this process of trying to fit in. I always argued with my mother and I lost friends along the way. I was so sad that I kept asking myself how I got to this point in life. One morning after a night out, I tried to kill myself. Luckily, my best friend found me, sought help and I was rushed to hospital.

Looking at my mother and friend while at the hospital made me realise that I needed professional help. I started therapy soon after the incident.

It wasn’t my cup of tea and so I slid back into my past behaviour of trying to fit in. I started self-harming; I would slit my wrists. I failed to accept the fact that I needed help, and this went on for a year or more.

Despite trying to fit in, I got cyber bullied toward the end of my university course. This made me realise that it does not matter how “cool” a person is; they can still be bullied as long as they are the target, just as it happened to me.

I slowly started doing things my way and I tasted the freedom. It is the best thing that has happened to me because to date, my growth has been tremendous.”

Lisa Joy Ndege. PHOTO | COURTESY

Lisa Joy Ndege. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Not too long ago, I realised that The Quarter Life crisis is real. At first, I felt that I did not understand myself because I mature faster than my peers do; I have done so since childhood. This means that I often find myself engaging in bigger roles; for example, starting my company as soon as I finished my high school.

I could say the pressure started then because that was the period when I realised that I really needed to accomplish things in life. I would look at my well-off friends and relatives and wonder how I was still at the same position. It bothered me a lot.

I had already envisioned where I wanted my life to be. With the start of my company, Brickhouse Concepts, I started attending art galleries and exhibitions where I would sell my products. I also got a number of interviews on live television, something that made the people around me happy. I earned a decent amount of money for my age. I was pleased.

With time, business became slow because I would barely sell my artwork. Being broke made me stressed because I had already set some standards with the money I used to earn. Moreover, I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, and this only made the situation worse.

I would focus the blame on many things: too much school work or little marketing strategies for my company. My grades dropped at a point because I had started doing other supporting businesses like selling rice for lunch; all these in order to keep up with the standards I had set.

I had also freed my parents off financial support and, on some days, I wish I could turn back time in order to change that decision. Life is hard.

Life has caught up because I am one year away from the goal target I had set for myself. I am not there yet, but then again, I am not badly off. Realising that I am not where I wanted to be has been difficult.”

Grishon Macharia. PHOTO | COURTESY

Grishon Macharia. PHOTO | COURTESY

Maina had never been happier in his life than during his graduation day. It was finally happening for him, almost three years later than his twin sister and his friends.

“I had changed universities twice due to unavoidable circumstances. I finally graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Administration exactly two years ago.

I knew I would be employed immediately. Yes, the banking sector was downsizing countrywide, but I had ‘connections’”, says Maina.

He has never been employed to date.

“Two years down the line, and not one single person has responded to my many job applications. I had imagined so much for my life at this point in time.”

It has not been easy for Maina, especially because he has to see his sister, who is only five minutes younger, go to work each morning.

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“It is honestly so depressing. I feel worthless every morning, wondering what I am doing with my life. I actively looked for jobs and even started a few online courses but only for a short while. That motivation slowly died down; all I do now is play video games.

“My circle of friends has reduced over time because I no longer feel the need to associate with people. Seeing my friends doing better than me did nothing but make me more miserable.

“I am depressed, overwhelmed, feeling like I have lost my independence, angry and just feel like nobody can help me through this, except myself. I feel like giving up on life on most days, but God reassures and lifts me up and I believe that there will be better days.”

“My passion has always been in design; interior design to be specific. I knew that that was the direction my life had to take without bargain.”

But life had a different plan for Jackie. Her application to the University of Nairobi was rejected. This is the only school where one can get a Bachelor’s Degree in Design in Kenya. She was heartbroken.

“I cried for hours; especially since it was only one week to orientation day. I had no backup course, and this only made it worse. I went with what was suggested by my parents: journalism. I had always loved writing and was good in languages so that seemed like a perfect fit for me.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the four years of study, especially after choosing my major as Print Media. Fast-forward to today: I am a writer at one of Kenya’s top media houses.”

Jackie is not nearly satisfied with what she does. She feels as if she lacks purpose and motivation to perform her duties.

“Getting this job was exciting, but all it does these days is to drown me. I have no motivation and will when I wake up in the morning. It almost feels like a heavy task being in the office.

“Modern society has made work seem to be without meaning, instead of having someone fit in and doing what they love. To me, my job is just there to keep me moving and to survive; I still need food and a roof over my head at the end of the day.

“Today, most employers are profiting from their employees by minimising what they give out as compensation. I feel like my job undercuts me and makes me feel tired and worn out at the same time. I do not have enough resources to grow.”

With this, Jackie says that she has started coping through activities that merely help her to pass time. They do not add value to her life.

“I get bored easily, so I seek entertainment through films, music and social media platforms. This, of course, makes me less active and less in touch with the physical world.

“My family has controlled everything in my life since I was born. I have no control over decisions that affect my life; be it a career choice or simple clothing. I feel suffocated.

“This has made me struggle with feeling ‘out of place’ since being an adolescent. I feel less and less in control of everything, not just around me but even of myself, and it is frankly terrifying.”

This is especially a problem where traditional cultures meet modern realities. Releasing these values creates deep conflicts within the family and the societal status. Not releasing them also means personal conflict, which makes it a no-win situation.

This frustration, as Cherop says, has led to her tearing herself up, and in turn push the people around her away.

“The problem with frustration is that it leads to anger, which makes me do things that hurt people that care about me more. I either say mean things or even cut myself away when I am overwhelmed. It has pushed me to too many directions at once.”

She has always wanted to pursue law, but the fact that her family is a whole generation of doctors barely helped her get closer to her goals.

“I had to keep the tradition going in the family, according to my parents. It would have been a shame if I picked something else to pursue.

Cherop says that the control is so bad that her parents have to see what she is wearing before leaving the house. If they do not approve of the outfit, she has to change into something else.

“I know it is good and advisable to stand up for what I believe in, but I lost that voice ages ago when I became a teenager and could not make decisions for myself.

“I am tired of pushing people away and hurting the people that I love. I need control over my life back.”

STATISTICS AND DEFINITIONS

Quarter Life Crisis: Anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life that is commonly experienced in a person’s mid-twenties to their mid-thirties.

  • Confusion of identity.

  • Insecurity regarding the near future.Insecurity on present accomplishments.

  • Re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships.

  • Disappointment with one’s job.

  • Nostalgia for college life.

  • Tendency to hold stronger opinions.

  • Boredom with social interactions.

  • Financially-rooted stress.

  • Loneliness.

Research done by First Direct Bank in the United Kingdom shows that 56 per cent of 25-35 year olds are going through a quarter life crisis; with financial difficulties being the biggest single cause for more than half (53pc) of the number.

Other pressures include trying to find the right job (26pc) or working in a challenging job (24 pc), trying to get on the property ladder (22pc), and being in the right relationship (25pc).

Dr Emily Obwaka. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dr Emily Obwaka. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A COUNSELLOR’S PERSPECTIVE

Find the right coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges

Rev Dr Emily Obwaka is the executive director of Teen Challenge Kenya. She is also a public health specialist and a dental surgeon.

“The quarter life crisis is almost the same as the middle life crisis. Only this time, the life crisis is almost misplaced because the person going through it is younger. It is also considered so because these young people have more opportunities in life.

However, many things are happening in their life at this time as well. The 20-35 age bracket involves real life decisions, so the life crisis should not be dismissed easily. Life does not happen similarly for everyone.

Going through a quarter life crisis is sometimes inevitable, and in turn determines your coping mechanism.

There are bad ways of coping with the crisis. This is why we find many young people being addicted to vices; not necessarily to drugs or alcohol. Addiction could also be in some pass-time activities such as video games, cooking and football. Getting into wrong relationships is also a bad coping mechanism associated with the quarter life crisis; which is why there is a lot of peer pressure among the youth that takes an eventual toll.

On that note, here are some of the good coping mechanisms that one can adopt when faced with this life crisis.

• Understand who you are as a person and try to find your identity. There is not one grid to success; everyone has their path.

• Accept yourself for who you are. Comparing yourself with others is a dangerous thing to do.

• Seek mentorship and guidance from someone along the same path as you.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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