Gen Z adulting struggles


Having grown up with smartphones in hand and social media at their fingertips, Gen Z might be one of the savviest generations yet – editing TikTok videos in seconds and going viral to millions in a heartbeat. But while their IG and TikTok feeds might exude chill vibes, the ongoing pandemic and economic slowdown have affected Gen Z too, making adulting an uphill struggle.

We spoke to six Gen Z youth on the adulting struggles they face, and how they’re overcoming them as they navigate their new career, family and social responsibilities in this brave new world. 

Disclaimer: Some names have been changed to preserve the anonymity of contributors.


Battles with mental health and coping with WFH stress



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Major examinations are a main source of stress for all Singaporean students, and for Kelly, 19, the added anxiety of the Circuit Breaker as she prepped for her “A” Level papers took its toll on her mental health. 

It was a very isolating time, and with schoolwork and revision shifting online, it was quite difficult for me to adapt as I’m easily distracted, Kelly says. Heavy restrictions during this time also meant that she wasn’t able to get much help from teachers too.


Sharing your vulnerabilities, woes and struggles with friends can help make a tough situation better.
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Amid the isolation, and with exams looming closer, Kelly held strong to a positive outlook on life. 

Though being stuck at home while preparing for such an important exam has put quite a strain on [my] relationships with friends, I’m blessed to have been able to spend quality time with my loving family.

What was also helpful for Kelly was her fellow Gen Z peers’ open and honest opinions about mental health that helped make it a little easier to bear her burdens for the moment. Throughout my final year, having frank conversations with my close friends about our struggles made me feel so much less alone,Kelly says.

gen z adulting struggles - graduation ceremony online
Reaching out to friends can help relieve the pressure
Image credit: Megan Khoe

For Megan, 19, who also forged through her final year in JC during the pandemic, it’s the strong network of supportive friends that has helped tide her through these pivotal times. 

The toughest part is missing out on many important JC experiences I was looking forward to before officially adulting, she says. These are milestones she’ll never get to experience, like attending national tournaments after a full year of relentless training and having a memorable prom night with her treasured friends.

But what helped Megan and her friends tide through the isolation was to reclaim normal experiences and interactions. “Checking in with each other every now and then helped to keep us sane,” Megan says. This often took the form of regular group study sessions over Skype, with plenty of breaks to play online games together to destress.


Managing relationships amid isolation


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For those in relationships, it has been quite a challenge to tide through the pandemic – especially during periods of heightened restrictions. Having planned for a thoughtful Zoom date to celebrate his partner’s upcoming birthday, Jie An, 22, was devastated when his long-term relationship of over four years came to an unexpected end during the 2020 Circuit Breaker.

Heartbreak is never easy to deal with, but this abrupt end to a relationship during a pandemic means that I will probably never get full closure, Jie An says. Only a week before we separated, I was still planning an online date to celebrate her birthday.

The breakup happened at the height of Circuit Breaker, and had to be done over Skype. I was devastated, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t seek support from friends by going out and drinking with them like normal breakup-ees, Jie An says. 

Instead, I was stuck at home in my room, and I didn’t leave it as I didn’t want my family to know.  There was nothing I could do to cope, and I turned to alcohol and picked up smoking for a few months.

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For Mel, 24, dealing with her first breakup right before the pandemic meant that she wasn’t able to get the support she needed from peers when the restrictions kicked in. I found it hard to share personal things with friends over video call while playing Skribbl.io – so I kept my feelings to myself for weeks and months. That was until I started breaking down daily.

For both Jie An and Mel, having heart-to-heart sessions with the people that mattered was one of the most helpful ways they managed to cope during these moments of heartbreak. It was also a pivotal time in his relationship with his mother – the first time he could be vulnerable with her.

For the first time, I could talk about these things with my mum, Jie An says. “Her loving words were what got me through those dark moments, and it was very reassuring to know that I wasn’t facing my problems alone.

Mel also found that support from friends helped her greatly. At my lowest point, I realised that my friends were right here with me – and I learnt that sometimes, all you have to do is to ask for comfort to get through tougher times.


Endless job searches and career uncertainty


Masks, travel restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing – our lives rapidly changed over the course of months. Especially for those navigating big life changes during this tumultuous period, the constant anxiety can weigh heavy on your mind – and like the lyrics to keshi’s newest lo-fi drop, skeletons, you might “feel bad, go to bed, wake up even worse”.

For Chloe, 21, this pressure to secure a “good” first job has been mounting over the last few years, but searching for a job in an ongoing pandemic has left her constantly stressed out.

So far, my job search has been a complete disaster, she says, recounting her dismay when a successful job offer was withdrawn because of the volatile economy.

This uncertainty has made it difficult to explore, pursue her passions and try out different job experiences like working at non-profits and startups. I feel on edge all the time, Chloe continues. It’s not just for myself – I constantly worry about relatives and loved ones who might be hurt career-wise as well.

gen z adulting struggles - exercise to reduce anxiety
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But despite the chaos and anxiety, Chloe finds comfort in accepting that there are things she cannot control, and in being kinder to herself. I love gymming, and my fitness instructors constantly remind me to accept and let go of the things that don’t serve me, in order to calm my mind to focus on my goals.


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Meanwhile, for Luke, 24, the constant news of lay-offs means that even successful job offers come with plenty of uncertainty. The competition was already tough pre-Covid, and with businesses constantly laying off workers, many friends who have secured full-time and even well-paying jobs still feel like they might be laid off at any time.


Learning to be vulnerable in a challenging world


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@keshi

Pandemic or not – life often gets tough, and it can be incredibly empowering to be a little vulnerable about your woes and struggles to the ones closest to you. Especially during these challenging times, these inspirational stories by everyday Gen Z-ers echo up-and-coming singer-songwriter keshi’s message about coping with our burdens, heartbreak and troubles.  

Perfect for this WFH season, keshi’s soothing numbers like skeletons and atlas bring an assuring comfort to accompany a dreary nine-to-five. Other highly-raved hits like always, right here and beside you are also sure to resonate with those of us who’ve known and loved.

(live) keshi - skeletons
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(live) keshi - skeletons

 

Starting off as a nurse in Texas, the Vietnamese-American keshi initially wrote songs to cope with the demands of his stressful role. Penning lyrics for a weary, anxious generation, his compositions run a common thread of being there for one another, and of new beginnings – the perfect OST for those figuring things out along their adulting journey.  

Listen to keshi on Spotify


This post was brought to you by Universal Music Singapore.
Cover image credit (L-R): Ian Ling, TheSmartLocal, @keshi