I have a theory that, much as the pandemic accelerated inevitable societal changes – working from home, e-schooling, the end of cash – it also accelerated inevitable personal changes. Take friendships. A 2016 study found that we accumulate friends until 25, then steadily lose them as we age. But chuck a pandemic in there and we’re all down to six. A US survey from last year earmarked 39 as the age people start thinking about changing careers. Yet in light of Covid, 50% of Brits are thinking that very thing.
Which might explain why, in lockdown two, I’ve found myself frustrated, directionless and nostalgic for the past (specifically brunch: I really miss brunch); and why each day I plod around thinking about everything and nothing, staring into the fridge. It can mean only one thing. I’m having a pandemic-induced early midlife crisis.
I test this theory on my friends. “I stare in the fridge, too,” one says (adding fuel to my other theory: that existential crises might just be hunger). “I’m craving a practical job. Paramedic. Orange farmer.”
“I’ve only just gotten over my quarterlife crisis!” another protests. “How many are there?”
Many, apparently. Type an age plus “existential crisis” into Google and you’ll find a corresponding sciencey-sounding theory, convincing you your experience is an actual phenomenon. There’s the quarterlife crisis (for 18-30-year-olds unsure of their path); the thirtysomething crisis (same); the original midlife crisis (yep, ditto); and the pandemic life crisis affecting all adults (which I just made up).
Is life one big crisis? Or are there no genuine milestone crises, only life and its inevitable twists and turns.
So I tell myself to relax a little; there will be plenty of opportunities for existential dread later. Instead, I’ll focus on today. And I know just where to start: what’s in the fridge?