How to Cope With Your Quarter Life Crisis
It seems like everyone I know in their twenties is having a meltdown of some sort. They want more fulfillment in their careers. They can’t seem to get a relationship off the ground. They wish they could travel more. They want more time to devote to doing the things they like, but all the other pressures of modern life are preventing that from happening.
Or maybe it’s just me.
It’s amazing to reflect on what a transformation this one decade of life – your twenties – has experienced in as little as forty years. Before the 1970s, things were straightforward. You chose a career, found a life partner, started spawning. By the time you hit thirty, you were pretty well-settled. Living in your newly bought home, with your freshly created family, content to spend the next thirty-odd years working in the one profession, until at sixty you could finally claim your life for your own.
Then birth control became a thing and with those little pills, came power. Children weren’t something you got saddled with essentially immediately after you decided you wanted to start having sex. Suddenly, people had all this free time. Problem was, they weren’t quite sure of what to do with it.
Despite the inflated opinion we as human beings have of ourselves, when it comes down to it, we are simple creatures. Correspondingly, it seems that now the issue is we have too much choice. In not wanting to settle down too early, we risk passing on the one person that might be just the right fit. We remain unsatisfied in our careers; in pursuit of the “perfect job” we fail to think about the hard work that needs to be put in if one actually wants to get anywhere in their chosen field. We believe we have all the time in the world, but the reality of the situation is, we don’t. We are granted these extra years to use to shape the lives we want to live, but for many of us, they just go to waste.
On top of that, pop cultural portrays your twenties as essentially, a throwaway decade. You are encouraged to go get lost. Don’t commit to a person, or career! Travel the world! Find yourself! Make some stupid decisions. Get a tattoo or twelve, while you’re at it. What they don’t really talk about is the damage this causes when you wake up one morning and realise that as this decade of life comes to a close, you’re about ten years behind everyone else.
“It’s the new twenty,” the media confidently assures these traumatised thirty year olds. They have at least got this bit correct, as you spend the next decade doing what you should have been doing in your twenties – carving some sort of life out for yourself, while you compete with bright eyed, eager graduates who have the drive and energy to work sixty to eighty hour weeks, until, to quote a very good friend of mine, they “burn out at the ripe old age of twenty-two.”
When you first finish your uni degree and/or enter the workforce, you are quite simply, naive. You’re far too excited about being an adult and doing things like wearing a suit to work, or getting pizza delivered to your HOUSE IN THE CITY to worry about much else. It takes a few years for the realisation to hit – you’re not going to have some sort of exceptional life. What you desire isn’t going to magically fall on your lap. There may not be such a thing as a fulfilling career, but if there is, you’re sure as hell going to have to shovel some shit to get there. Which is what your twenties are for, after all.
My quarter life crisis hit me when I was just over 24 years of age. I resisted it at first, but in the end, I decided I was going to stop fighting and instead go with the flow; I would ride that pony into the sunset. In embracing the fact that I was frustrated and unhappy, I was taken places I never thought I would live before and was able to fulfil my dream of residing in the one place I had always hoped to find myself.
Best of all, I learned acceptance. A lot of the frustration I was feeling stemmed from a desire to control all factors of my life. By practising a bit of patience and learning to let go, I was a lot happier for it.
THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY VERY OWN QUARTER LIFE CRISIS
- Nothing is more important than your health (and still working on this one). If you have that, you have everything.
- If you’re lucky enough to have a strong family unit, don’t be a dick and take them for granted. Value them.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you are not happy, don’t just sit around moaning. Do something about it.
- Know your worth. In friendships, relationships, your job – everything. Respect yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.
- Toxic relationships aren’t worth the hassle. If it brings you more pain than joy, give it the flick.
- Things don’t always go the way you want them to go. That’s okay. It happens. Keep a cool head and look for the silver lining amongst the clouds.
- As important as work is, it is not your life. Do you want to look back on your twenties, your time of little to no responsibility and realise you wasted the entire decade working? For what? (Still working on this one too).
- Be grateful for what you have. Chances are, you’re a lot better off than so many other people.
- There is no one way to live a life. You might be working to save for a three month holiday. Your friend on the other hand, might really want to buy a house. You can’t understand why they’d want to be tied down so early on in life. They seem to think you’re needlessly wasting your money. There’s nothing wrong with either option as we all have different priorities and dreams.
- You’re not special. The things you wish for in life, will not automatically fall into your lap. You want to write a book? Start writing a page a day. You want to get into shape? Devote an hour out of the twenty-four that you have to exercise. Want to learn a language? Enrol in a course. Time is fleeting and precious. Get on with it.
- It’s okay to fall apart. You can decide several years into a career, that it isn’t actually what you want to do. You can leave a miserable relationship, despite all the time you’ve invested in it. It may feel like your life is shattering but you’re stronger than you realise. You will pick up the pieces and put yourself back together again.
Your twenties are like a mound of play-doh, which you can use to mould yourself into the person you want to become.
Don’t waste them.
Good luck with your quarter life crisis. Enjoy the ride. You’ll be a much healthier and happier person for it.
NB. At 24 I stumbled upon this Ted Talk, which led to the reading of this book. It became an invaluable resource that really helped shape my thinking about whether I was living my life effectively in my twenties. I recommend it to anyone who is having the same doubts that I did. It should be compulsory reading in schools.