‘The 20-something-year-old-quarter-life-crisis’: A humanities student embraces her uncertain future

By Grace Kelly / Staff Writer

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From the first rosy day of freshman year, being an art history major has been a challenge. 

Even other students, amidst their own “starting-college-I’m-a-grown-up-now” high, would blurt out, “What are you going to do with that?” This question has clung to me like a bad hangover for the past four years: What am I going to do with an art history degree? 

Three years ago, I would have tossed my hair, glared daggers and smiled dangerously as I replied, “I will pursue a postgraduate degree and become a world famous curator, and, like the last curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my pension will outlast me.” Bam. Take that, doubting Thomas! 

I marched through the past three years with that mentality. I would be Grace Kelly, famous not because I shared my name with the actress and princess, but on my own accord as a curator of contemporary Latin American art at a top museum. Suave and sexy, future me had it all. 

But like many of the sidewalks around Pittsburgh during the spring thaw, the cold ice that had fortified my idea of who I was and what I was doing started to melt, exposing cracks in what I had thought to be a solid foundation. 

My sidewalk towards the good life as a curator began to crumble. 

I call this the “20-something-year-old-quarter-life crisis,” the TYOQLC. Bad acronym aside, apparently this is a common panic.  

When I studied abroad at University College London, it amazed me that the system in the U.K. dictates that students must essentially pick their career when they apply to attend University. They are then shuffled through three years of ultra-specific tutelage and spat out at the end, expected to go straight into that career. Most of the time they wander around, scared and dazed, as they experience the real world for the first time. 

But let’s think about it — we enter college at 18, just becoming legal adults, and we graduate at 22, still babies in the eyes of the world. We, especially humanities majors, are armed and ready to whip out research papers but know nothing about how to input and track data in Excel spreadsheets. Not to toss the humanities aside like a bad date, but has this educational path failed us? 

Not necessarily. You could have a type A personality, do all your work on time (or even early), have a 4.0 and volunteer on weekends and still graduate sans job. But this time of post-graduation stress, uncertainty and moving back in with your parents does not dictate that you are a failure. The key thing is to shake off any lingering resentment at that History of Art and Architecture diploma you may carry and do something. Apply for jobs, blog, travel, work and save money — the opportunities are there. I have learned it’s up to you to make the most of them. 

As graduation day rolls closer with every passing week, I realized that while the going may be tough, it is still going. My art background, while now perhaps not explicitly what I want to do, has given me some valuable skills that I can apply to a broad range of opportunities. “We are young,” as fun. sings, “So let’s set the world on fire.” Go forth, fellow TYOQLC-ers — explore and don’t be afraid.

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