Pre-midlife cry-sis: Chinese in their 30s despair over life

By Cui Bowen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/20 18:58:39

Midlife crisis, generally troubling people between 40 and 60, has come to hit many Chinese in their 30s. Many living in first-tier cities and on the wrong side of 30 feel anxious and complain of identity crisis and other psychological perils.

My friend Cilin, who is turning 30 this year, began to feel anxious last year. She has been working in Beijing for over six years, occupied by a decent job. For her friends, she earns a good income and lives an enviable life in the capital city.

However, Cilin thinks she fell short of expectations from life. She worked very hard and got promoted soon, but found her career stagnating after some time. This made her change jobs a few times. Once jobless for about six months, she began to despair. Cilin lost her fighting spirit and was beset by anxiety and a foul temperament. She also sought the help of a psychologist to find solace.

Although now well-paid, she has limited savings after paying rent and all the other expenses every month. Her parents call her from time to time to remind her to find a boyfriend and get married soon.

"Sometimes I feel quite at a loss. There is a huge gap between my expectations and reality. Being 30 means you should have a career, a family and foothold in society. But I haven't achieved anything. Besides, I become more anxious when comparing myself with my successful peers who have stable jobs and happy marriages in my hometown and Beijing. When I go back to my hometown to celebrate the Spring Festival every year, I pretend in front of my parents and friends that I enjoy a good life in Beijing."

Her life is an epitome of what many young Chinese in their 30s, especially if they live in first-tier cities, are going through.

One's 30s may be a decade packed with adventure, excitement and new beginnings, but that milestone birthday can also inspire fear and anxiety.

The multiple life decisions including career and marriage, rising younger colleagues at work and the rapid development of knowledge cause Chinese 30-somethings to experience a midlife crisis.

Statistics from JSBR Consulting Center, a Beijing-based psychological consultation organization, show that people in their 30s constitute more than 41 percent of the population that experienced anxiety in 2016, the highest proportion compared with other age groups.

Perhaps the deep dread among people in their 30s is born out of the old Chinese saying - "San Shi Er Li," which literally translates into "one should be independent and steadfast at the age of 30." But many have misunderstood it. For many who just graduated from schools and embarked on their career path, it is hard to establish themselves by 30.

The Confucian saying encourages people to gain spiritual independence and forge their own value systems by 30. But the current version deviates from its original meaning.

The anxiety that many people in their 30s suffer is normal as they are in a transitional phase. But they need to make an objective self-evaluation and should stop being too harsh on themselves. They should adjust expectations in line with reality, enrich their inner world by continuing to learn, develop their own lifestyle, and give themselves more say over their life.

Cui Bowen, a postgraduate student of translation studies at Beijing Language and Culture University

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