There’s this new thing I heard of recently that people my age and nearby (20-32 roughly) are experiencing. It’s being called a quarter life crisis. It’s a time in a person’s life where they are making that change from young adult to ‘real’ adult, and although the trigger is different for everyone, the symptoms are similar. They feel lost, hopeless, chained to a career that may never pan out. They’re worried about money constantly, and question every.single.decision…. many times.
Let’s go back to the beginning to understand why we feel this way. When we were young the world moved so slowly. Days would last (relatively) a long time and we would play all day during the summer! We were fed, clothed, and given toys, without really having to do anything. We believed in magic (some people still do), Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and all kinds of other mystically awesome things. We said that when we grew up we would be robots and super heroes and play sports all day. Even school was easy, we would get to play most of the day, and then come home and play some more, then eat, then play some more, before going to sleep and doing it again the next day. We were invincible, no aches or pains, bumps and scrapes healed quickly, and we could eat all the sugar we could get our hands on.
Then we got a bit older, school became a bit more difficult, but we still were able to coast by, pick up a few cool skills, play some sports, make some of our best friends ever, get into a good College, and go live away from home! Finally we would become an ‘adult’ and live away from our parents. Alcohol tasted good and we downed it like we were a six year old pounding back a pixie stick. We ate junk food all day and drank all night and went to a couple classes here and there because our parents are footing the bill, better make the effort right? We became activists for change, we saw the problems in the world and wanted to do everything we could to help. We had the energy and the time, how could the people running the country not agree with us? We would have sex, try drugs, and expand our minds in every way possible. And who had time for sleep? We met the best friends we will ever have, the ones we will surround ourselves with forever.
We did this for four really tough years, but once it was over we were prepared for a career path we chose at 15! Ready to take that $100,000 per year dream job with full benefits and six weeks of vacation! Now we had to go find that perfect partner and buy a big house and be happy forever! Huzzah for adulthood!
How naive we were.
We fell into the real world…the one that our parents talked about. They tried to tell us how tough it is, but we didn’t care, hell we were already smarter than them. We quickly found out that everybody else had a degree too, and even retail jobs were scarce. So we went back to school to try and continue the glory days of our College experience, or we got a job at that place we worked at all through College, or we moved back in with our parents to save some money. Relationships were much tougher, and required effort and time, and putting aside our own needs sometimes. It became much harder to see our best friends from those days, we used to spend so much time together, and now we can barely find a night when we are both free. We did our best to hold onto our youth, to avoid this scary world that we never thought we would see.
We searched for a good career path, because let’s be honest, the career we dreamed of at 15 didn’t exist, or it was totally different than what we imagined. We spent 4 years of College growing up and changing, and now that we somewhat understood our adult selves, we wanted something different. All of the real jobs require experience in the field, but we can’t get a job in the first place to earn the experience to get the job to earn the experience…..
So we formulated a plan, and worked hard in the job we didn’t want because hey, it’s work and it’s money. We eventually moved out of our parents house into an apartment, although with all the crippling student debt we still have and the complete lack of money management skills that we should have been taught in school instead of algebra, we are still barely scraping by. Now we can’t quit the shitty job we said we would do until something better came along, and it leaves us too tired to work on that passion project we started a few years ago.
Perhaps we met that special someone, that person that makes us feel like a kid again, that we want to spend our life with. This relationship takes work and isn’t always the perfect coupling we had envisioned earlier in life. And after being told our whole lives to ‘live in the moment,’ we now have to think about marriage, kids, finding a home, and somehow still saving some money for our retirement 30 years down the road. How can we find time to go and save the world? We’ve got more important things to deal with.
Even though we are happy most of the time, we are scared. We have no idea where we are going and if we will ever succeed. We don’t know if we can afford anything, or if we will ever have anything we dreamed of as kids. We are trapped in a cycle of working to pay for what little we do have, and we can’t even take a break, because we have to work hard to get the same amazing life all of our friends have. We feel so far behind them.
This is the quarter life crisis.
It’s likely that the story above resonates with everyone a little bit, and some people can really feel depressed thinking about their life and comparing it to what it is ‘supposed’ to be. But if you feel this way, don’t despair. Here are three points to consider:
1. Know that you aren’t alone – Most people feel this way at some point in their lives. It’s normal to feel lost once in awhile, and there is no predicting the future. Knowing that other people share our feelings gives us hope that we can get through it, because everyone else figured it out!
Ever heard the expression ‘The more personal, the more universal?’ It basically means that the more you think you’re the only one who does something, the more likely it is that everyone does it and is hiding it just like you are. We are more similar than we think.
2. Think of it as more of a transition than a crisis – Really it’s a bit of a knee-jerk response to a life you never expected. Life is hard, but it takes some getting used to. You’re now in complete control of your life, which is scary. As you face each challenge head on you will get better at coping, better at finding solutions, and you will build your dream one brick at a time.
3. Trust in yourself – In case you didn’t know, you are the result of a 13.7 Billion year experiment. You are a clump of atoms that evolved for so long that you learned to walk, talk, and love. You are a miracle, and someone, somewhere, there exists at least one person who loves you dearly and believes in you completely. If we only had as much faith in ourselves as our loved ones do, we would be unstoppable.
I remember being a kid, and thinking about being 20 years old. I thought I would have a job, a house, and get married, but jeez it was so far away I couldn’t imagine how enough time would ever pass. Life was so long and I would be a kid forever. This is why we try to hold onto our youth. We feel nostalgia about the things we loved as kids, because it reminds us of a time when we were innocent and truly free, without a real care or problem.
So how is social media hurting us in all this?
Whenever we post about our lives, we always want it to be positive. Social media allows us to tell the world how great things are, but we all feel too shy or embarrassed to say how we really feel, especially when it would make us appear weak or lacking confidence. The reality is that it wouldn’t be so bad to write it down. Being occasionally sad or feeling hopeless is innately human, and most people would sympathize with us because they had gone through the exact same thing.
Being on the other side of it, we constantly get to see how happy our friends are, how amazing their lives are, and how cool it is to be in their shoes. They constantly post about the fun things they are doing, moving forward with their lives, while we sit and think about how our life is shit. Dramatic eh?
Social media also constantly bombards us with the stories of successful people, with information about how anyone can be a success, and how if you just keep working harder, you can earn some more money and have a better life. It’s like we’re being told that we need to be better than we already are, which is crap, but that’s a rant for another day.
Ultimately the thing to remember is that we all feel this way sometimes, but by taking action, focussing on the positive, and being truly honest with ourselves, we can work through anything life throws at us.
Maybe dealing with it now will prepare us for that mid life crisis a bit later on.