Adele Miner looks into whether we should be choosing stability over spontaneity.
Hands up if you’ve felt personally victimised by your own thoughts during quarantine. Lockdown has provided us with more time than ever to think. We’ve thought about what to have for dinner, how we’re going to tackle that overspilling wardrobe, and how exactly we live our lives. No stone has been left unturned when it comes to over analysing things. This re-evaluation of life’s offerings has been all the more prominent in the millennial’s thoughts, I imagine. Coined as generation Y, we’ve spent much of our lives trying to emulate that carefree lifestyle that has been sold to us. Dealt a raw hand when it comes to setting up our futures, we’ve been laughed at, branded ‘snowflakes’, and ‘disruptive’, yet we still continue to reform everything from the 9-5 model to cooking dinner all in the search of a better tomorrow.
Through our fast-paced way of living, we’ve adapted a lifestyle habit that urges us to choose between spontaneity or stability. Afraid to miss out on the next best thing, our constant strive for bigger and better has led to a YOLO (you only live once) mentality. We like to live the high-life, we book winter getaways while sipping our expensive lattes and we don’t feel one bit guilty about it, because we feel we deserve it. We want to strive for more, for better, for living now and thinking later, just like Hannah Montanna, we want the best of both worlds, one full of adventure and emotion. But has our thrill-seeking actions dented our growth later in life? We’re eager to dismiss a life where we’re a slave to the man, but in a world where capitalism is rife, sometimes to get by, you just have to grab your hard hat and play ball.
Coronavirus brought around so much change for so many people, pushing everything that we once took for granted into uncertain territory, a priority shift took place inside us. We’ve turned wanderlust and treating ourselves into an art form, because to us that’s what life is all about. But having all of that snatched from under our feed in such a short space of time has left us wondering, have we compromised our own stability? Well firstly, understanding the importance of stability is key to obtaining it. Psychotherapist Erica McKinney uses a metaphor to describe stability and how it grounds us, “Stability is like a big oak tree strongly rooted into the ground so that even when storms come the effects on the tree are not significant in the long term. It sways. It bends. It takes the force but it stands strong within itself and on its ground,” she says.
For humans, stability is exactly the same, the more inner stability we have, Erica explains, the more we can stand tall through any adversities life will inevitably throw at us. While Generation YOLO has revolutionised the way we live our lives, ripping up the ideals that those before us spent so long adhering to, our thrill-seeking ways have meant that the current pandemic has hit us hard. By choosing a life that favours impulse over security, we’re feeling a little uncertain about the future and what kind of stability like traditional jobs, homes, and pension pots await us. Having everything we once constructed our lives upon taken from us overnight, for the first time in maybe forever, we’ve been forced to think about future us.
Having a shift in stability is something that make-up artist Ailbhe O’Reilly (@ailbhe.makeup.art) experienced when she lost her job as a KVD Cosmetics MUA in Debenhams amid the pandemic, “I was officially made redundant on the 12th of May after my department store made the decision to close all Irish branches. I was saddened and worried about finances but at such a crazy time I tried not to dwell on it,” Ailbhe tells me. Having her priorities change dramatically, Ailbhe says that the crisis made her realise just how important stability is when it comes to enjoying life “I value both spontaneity and stability equally. Living life at the moment can be fun but you also need a certain level of stability there to do that comfortably without worrying about finances etc. I suppose currently I think stability is more important because I’ve lost my job and I’m not feeling very stable, so I can’t do any spontaneous things comfortably without finding a job first”.
Like so many of us, Ailbhe believes that this shift in thinking will continue on well after the virus has left us, no longer taking anything for granted, Ailbhe says that she plans on approaching life with a little more caution when things do get back on track, “I feel pressure to save more money now in case something like this happens again in the future. I’ll never take a job for granted again. Everything can so easily be taken away from you, a job, seeing family, etc, I appreciate those things so much more now.”
With a disintegrating economy awaiting us in the near future, I wonder will it be possible to keep some of our spontaneous habits alive, while also adapting to a stable life that will serve us well in years to come. Erica McKinney explains that we don’t have to compromise excitement for security, that finding the right balance between the two is very possible and something we can begin working towards today. “Stability and adventure are not mutually exclusive. They support each other,” Erica says. While setting up financial security is always advisable where possible, sometimes traditional means of security like a well-paying job and life-partner are not always within our immediate control. This is why Erica recommends looking within ourselves to create our own stability, rather than relying on external elements to grant us validation, “Focus on developing inner stability. This allows you to take more risks and be more adventurous in life but also to be able to deal with life’s challenges.”
Shifting the attention to within ourselves, Erica says that there are a number of key ways we can change the stability in our lives. Firstly, we must remain connected to those around us, this may be friends, family or a partner, “The more we can trust that someone is there for us, the more we feel safe to go out and enjoy adventures and the easier it is to deal with life’s challenges.” Learning when to switch on and off is hugely important Erica tells me, having consistent hobbies like sports or journaling is so important in keeping us grounded while knowing when to put down the phone or laptop is important to keep us in touch with reality.
Surrounding yourself with other people who are stable too is important while developing a tolerance for the things that go wrong in life along with a trust that everything will be okay in the future is one of the most important things you could do for your mental health, “Life will rarely go exactly as we planned so the more you can develop an ability to accept that frustrations are part of life and to breathe your way through them, the easier life will be. But also at the same time, know that this will pass.” What exactly the future holds for us, no one knows. Coronavirus has brought around an identity crisis for the humble millennial, will we be swapping our city breaks for a trust fund? Probably not. But shifting our attention from enjoying the now and ignoring the later to thinking about ourselves and what we really want from life today and in 10 years’ time can only be a good thing, right? Because, after all, YOLO.