Back around 2008, I posed for photographs for my friends who worked at a small animation company run out of a shack-like bungalow in East Atlanta.
I stood in front of a white backdrop, like in a yearbook photo, and moved my face in 50 different ways in 10 different angles. It was fun, and then we all went out to lunch.
A few months later, one of my friends asked me to sign an agreement to use my likeness and told me he legally had to give me $1. It was a while after that when I learned my face had become the character Cheryl Tunt on Archer.
It's a pretty cool claim to fame but hopefully not the only thing I'll ever be known for. What I would like to be remembered for is … I don't know, actually. I used to know. I used to have a plan and drive and clarity, and then I turned 30 and it all fell apart.
As I've gotten older and more experienced in my profession, I've begun to feel more unfulfilled and lost. I thought I'd have it all figured out now, and I'd have my dream job and a family and a house and generally be on the road to happily ever after. At one point, I had most of those things, and I realized I was incredibly unhappy.
Since then, I've quit my great job in television, moved across the country, got an even better job at the same company, got promoted, moved back across the country, quit and then moved across the country again. I'm unable to choose anything these days, and the options have become so overwhelming that I shut down and freeze—or just pack up my car and drive away.
So it made a certain amount of sense when, last October, I read an article in Adweek about "the 12 Types of Millennials" and, scanning the list, found myself—literally. I (or at least Cheryl) was the face of "the Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial." An analyst described the situation these millennials find themselves in: "Generally, having options is a good thing. But having too many options can be paralyzing."
I never felt like a millennial
When I first heard of "millennials" I was working at a children's cable network where extensive research was always being done on our audience. I had always thought of myself as "Gen Y," despite how badly I wanted to be "Gen X," growing up loving grunge and dreaming of living in Seattle like the cast of Singles. That's who I related to: angsty and emotional types who worked hard but also cared about the world around them and loved music and coffee.
The "millennial" sounded terrible. Their stats didn't sound like my childhood at all. My parents never told me I could be anything I wanted, they didn't hover over me—they were barely around.
I knew I couldn't get where I wanted in my career unless I started at the bottom and proved myself. Sure, sometimes I thought I was special, but I also had that ingrained '90s sense of self-loathing.
These new young people sounded like an awful plague of confident, entitled babies who grew up with the Internet. Gross.
At one point in my career, I was in charge of hiring the interns for our department, and it was required that I attend a meeting teaching us all how to properly manage a millennial in the workplace. My eyes rolled so much during that hour-long meeting they almost fell out of their sockets.
Who did these people think they were? We were told they needed constant encouragement and rewards, even for things like, you know, SHOWING UP ON TIME. They wanted to be the director on their first day. No, they knew they should be the director, not a lowly intern. They didn't want to climb the ladder like everyone around them had done, and they had no loyalty. If you didn't make them feel special, then they would leave and go somewhere where they did.
It was one of the most ridiculous meetings I've ever attended; and I worked for a pretty major corporation with a lot of ridiculous meetings.
Then the worst thing happened. While reading the Millennial Instruction Packet, I discovered the age bracket that constituted the millennial generation and … I was one.
I was a millennial. "Why, God, why?" I screamed into the air with my arms extended toward the sky as the rain fell down upon my face. Where did my beloved Gen Y go, and why was I suddenly part of this new crowd? How could I possibly be included in this mass of terrible toddlers I despised? They were nothing like me! I didn't even have the Internet until my senior year of high school. I didn't have a cell phone until I borrowed my mom's when I was a freshman in college. I certainly was not a millennial.
Finding yourself, but not in the good way
When the Adweek article on types of millennials came out, I read it just for the satisfaction of feeling annoyed. Like the generation I actually identify with, I enjoy making myself unhappy.
I was working at a network that focused on an older audience, but now everyone in the world is apparently a damn millennial, so I could never escape it. All the terminology, the demographics. The Upwardly Mobile Millennial With Disposable Income, The Bro-Millennial, The Hip Parent Millennial, which is also known by my least favorite/favorite terrible term of all, The Re-Juvenile. (Oops, sorry, my eyeballs actually did roll out of my face that time.)
So I read through the list of millennial types and became both less and more angry as I noticed I could relate to some of these so-called 12 Kinds of Me. There were characters who I like on TV, like Nick from New Girl, who represented The Shut Out. And there were characters I hated because they felt soooo millennial, like Hannah from Girls, used as the example for The Underemployed.
There were ones I couldn't understand at all, like Millennial Marthas and Culinary Explorers. But then all of a sudden, there I was. My face. My life. There I was as both the description and spokesmodel for The Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial. (But … I thought I was special and different!)
The description for The Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial is, "Emotionally uncertain millennial paralyzed by an abundance of too many possible life choices." Yep. You win, Adweek. You win. You got me.
When I was kid, we were poor and lived in a rural, small town in Pennsylvania where my options were incredibly limited. One summer day, I was so bored I just lied down in the middle of the road for, like, a really long time, and no cars came. Later I rode my bike down to a pig farm to throw old popcorn at the pigs and try to land it in their snout holes.
None of that is an exaggeration.
That was my life. Those were the choices I had.
After I landed a popcorn in the pig nostril, I was out of choices.
When freedom is a form of constraint
Now I am in my early 30s. I've worked for over a decade and saved up some money and can pretty much do anything I want. There's also this thing, the World Wide Web, that gives me access to all information, everywhere, all the time.
I don't have children or a husband or outstanding warrants, so I can go anywhere. Growing up, I planned only up to getting a cool job, never thinking that life would go on for decades after that.
Honestly, I thought I'd get a great job, be there for a few years and then die by 30. Unfortunately for me, I'm still around, and after nine years working in different positions at the same corporation, I became so unhappy I quit with nothing else lined up.
Here are a few life choices I've considered in the past three months: screenwriter in Los Angeles, novel author in North Carolina, high school teacher or college professor in Florida, hotel employee in Las Vegas, local news reporter in a small town, sales or marketing position at a major tech corporation in Silicon Valley, actor, senior citizen caretaker, QVC host, WWE Diva, or housewife of a cop.
I've thought about doing all of those roles and more, over and over again, day after day for probably the past two years.
Looking for purpose, not pity
Here's the part where I have to defend myself because I know I sound like a whiny, entitled millennial. "Oh woe is me, I had a great job and I quit because I was unsatisfied, and now I have too many options to choose from!"
Believe me, I hate myself enough, and that makes it even more paralyzing because I think, "Who am I to even have these choices?" What a spoiled a-hole. Some of my friends work long hours for low pay to raise their children and have no spare time to enjoy their lives. It doesn't feel fair for me to quit my job and spend my time in coffee shops writing scripts or lying in bed at 10 a.m. crying because I have no reason to get up.
It's selfish and a total first-world problem. But it is my problem, and therefore it sucks.
Now here I am just as confused and paralyzed as ever but with the knowledge that I'm just a character. I'm one of probably millions of people my age constantly going over all the options in our heads and never settling on anything.
I'm a demographic. I'm a target audience.
The problem is there still isn't a product to fix me or give me the answers. I hope one day soon I will find a job that I enjoy and a place where I feel at home and maybe even someone who is as confused as I am to settled down with. Until then, I'll do the only job I have right now and be the face of my people, The Quarter-Life Crisis Millennial.
You did a good job, Adweek. You picked the perfect person to exemplify that role. I just don't know if I love it or hate it. I don't know anything at all these days.
Siobhan Price is a freelance writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She's doing a lot of cool stuff and totally not watching Netflix all day. You can reach her by email here.