If I was asked in which decade of my life I worried the most, it would be fair to say the answer is pretty straight forward. It would hands down be the twenty to thirty years, that messy coming of age that took me from teenager to mother was a bumpy ride to say the least.
We can assume up to age ten I was pretty clueless to the significance of the bigger picture. Mostly concerned with whether I could go up and down the road on my bike, from the post box to the corner shop, oblivious to why going any further may cause anyone concern. Those golden summers where which Care Bear was best was the top of my concerns, alongside whether Kylie and Jason would really be together forever. Even my parents divorce didn’t seem to shabby an arrangement as I would now receive two sets of Christmas presents.
The teenage years? The stress levels definitely upped a gear. Secondary school was definitely not easy for me and I struggled to assert myself in a world full of bitchy girls and the popular kids. In hindsight, it was probably part of the making of me, not that the shy frizzy haired girl knew it back then. No, she just tried to keep her head down, get through school, and let off steam with friends at the weekend in a new found era of drinking, partying and boys.
If I then think about the general mood of my twenties, it’s a decade that spanned huge highs and lows. The pressure to finish my degree, climb the career ladder, meet ‘the one’, move out of home and find my place socially.
The early twenties were really a drunken blur of making it from a still hungover Tuesday to the weekend starting again Thursday. A drawn out ending to a terrible relationship and a catalogue of moves to and from my parents to rented properties . Never feeling quite like I had found my place, and ploughing all my energy into studying and working whilst maintaining a party girl lifestyle.
I made some disastrous mistakes financially – notably in buying terrible cars and borrowing money to do so, as well as getting overdrawn to the eyeballs by the inability to say no to any social event, ever.
I clambered my way out of the treacle though, and through hard work, some better decisions and the fate of finding a good guy who kept me on the straight and narrow, things turned around for me.
Things did get better. By my mid twenties I had realised what I did and didn’t want in a relationship, and was perhaps more able to assert myself in social situations; taking action to protect myself somehow and less likely to be a victim.
By my late twenties I had purchased my first house after agonising financial decisions with my partner who also, just shy of 30 became my husband. The hugest financial transactions of my life, and all in that 20-30 window.
For completion, my thirties? They have come with their own challenges, but becoming a Mum, making a family home, making decisions about my career that work for me, has I guess it’s all been that much easier because I have a solid grounding; a strong marriage and a sense of self that came with surviving that troubled decade beforehand.
So what what was it about travelling from 20 to 30 that was so unsettling? And why am I not alone?
So what was it that worried me so much in that time? There was certainly a sense of pressure on me to figure life out. Being an adult seemingly represented by owning a house, having a steady relationship, expendable income to do all of the things I wanted to do, which often resulted in worries about debt, my health (as a result of all that expensive partying) and the physical demands of doing all that whilst both holding down a professional managerial position and completing my Biology degree.
Come to think of it, as someone who hadn’t really worked out who she even was yet, that was a lot to juggle.
But what about everyone else? Why did they feel that decade was the most troubling of all?
Times have of course changed, and the social and political landscape has influenced our biggest worries in our twenties, with the baby boomers (age 51+) in the wake of the second world war and threat of nuclear warfare worrying about global conflict and nuclear war whilst these concerns have been replaced for today’s 20 somethings with climate change and political instability. (Hello Brexit).
What is perhaps surprising is that despite the evolution of our society, the main worries affecting the 20-30 group remain the same things which worried their parents when they were the same age. Financial security, job security, getting on the property ladder, the future, own health and that of loved ones. All things that 20 year old me could relate to.
So what does this research mean? How does it convert to tactical advice and support for a generation facing the most worrying time of their lives?
Ultimately, it shows that we need to put a loving arm around our millennials. Despite the technology, glamour and know it all bravado, underneath lies the same vulnerabilities that plagued us, our parents and even our grandparents before them.
It is of course vital to have those conversations which alleviate their fears, reassuring them that it’s entirely normal to not have it all worked out yet. Particularly for young men who may not have the ability to open up and talk freely about their feelings in the same way that girls so often do amongst their girl friends.
Through organisations like Lifesearch, you can put some worries at bay by ensuring that certain situations are covered should the unimaginable happen. Whether that’s through life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection – you can protect the life you love.