So I briefly mentioned that I’m going through a quarter-life crisis couple of weeks ago. I said this without 100% knowing what a quarter-life crisis was, but assuming it had something to do with feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost.
Just like a younger version of the midlife crisis, minus the need to purchase a Harley Davidson.
During these last two weeks I’ve read a lot about the quarter-life crisis online. I have even read peer-reviewed journals about the topic, and I’m not alone. Thank God. Abby Wilner wrote a book about the quarter-life crisis after graduating from college, moving back home and being unsure what to do with her life. So how do you know you’re having a quarter-life crisis?
You know you’re having a Quarter-Life Crisis when…:
- You’re a stay at home housewife except you’re not married. (Or a stay at home dad minus the children. Or the wife, for that sake).
- You see how unhappy some of your older friends or family members are, and you are sh*t scared of ending up like them. It’s like their life energy and thirst for life is being sucked out of them every time they go to work.
- Your reaction to scrolling down Instagram is to swear at the sky: “WHY AM I NOT A TOP PAID INSTAGRAM MODEL TRAVELLING THE WORLD????!”
- All of the sudden you start missing university, despite swearing to yourself you would never miss that hell hole while studying for exams and pulling an all-nighter before an essay was due.
- Checking your bank account online gives you a heart attack so you’d rather stick your head in the sand avoiding the whole concept of online banking all together explaining to your friends that you don’t believe in ‘the system of having money as currency’.
If you’re still not sure whether you are having a Quarter-Life Crisis, you can also visit BuzzFeed (as we do) to see if any of these accurate pictures relate to you.
What really are the signs of going through a Quarter-Life Crisis? Based on work of Alexandra Robbins, Abby Wilner, Claire Simcock and the website LonerWolf (I told you I did my research) some characteristics of The Quarter Life Crisis can be:
- Feeling that you are “not good enough” because you can’t get the job/s you want.
- Feeling there are so many choices to make and not knowing how to make them.
- Feeling insecure about the future, and being overburdened financially
- Doubting everything – your decisions, your career choices and your abilities.
- Feeling disappointed with the jobs available – all the work and study you did at school and university doesn’t seem to have got you anywhere.
- Feeling conflicted – the work you are finally doing after all that study doesn’t feel like the right direction. You had a plan, bot now it just doesn’t seem like the right one – do you really have to start again?
- You didn’t have a plan, but everyone said: “Don’t worry, it will sort itself out and it still hasn’t.
- Comparing your achievements to those of others and finding yourself lacking.
- Feeling over-stimulated, stressed and isolated. Even in the company of others.
- It feels like your life is going too fast and is filled with too much pressure
- You’re feeling nostalgic about primary school having your mum pack your lunch
- You feel forced to meet social expectations constantly, whether it’s work or relationships related.
- Asking yourself questions such as ‘How can I possess so much but still don’t feel satisfied?’ and ‘Is this as good as it gets?’
In my case, after years of writing assignments, learning about equations and answering multiple-choice exams I am now graduated from UWA Business School. I don’t even know my title. Oh, how I wish I wanted to be a nurse or a police officer. If that was the case I’d study nursing or attend police school and I would receive a title. Titles seem to be very important in 2016.
I don’t have a title,
so when people ask me what I am now that I have finished my bachelor degree I don’t know exactly what to say. I am Mari, however I studied 24 units with some of them being leadership, entrepreneurship, MarCom, social psychology and performance psychology with a double major in Management and Marketing. PHEW! I don’t know what that makes me through.
Many millennials, like myself, are now graduating and are magically supposed to become an adult overnight and have their life sorted. You know, getting a job, buying a house, understanding how to do our taxes, saving for pension and have a social life outside social media.
For those who are unsure, millennials are human beings born after 1980, possible with tattoos and several stamps in their passports. They, or should I say we, would like to save the world and score the dream job at the same time. Through their childhood they have been told that ‘life is your oyster’ however they are now a housewife with no husband.. And with a bachelor degree. Yikes, I’m writing about myself again!
In an article written by Rossi and Mebert for the Journal of Genetic Psychology the quarter-life crisis id defined as “an identity crisis that leave recent college graduates depressed, anxious, and full of doubt”. I am not depressed, however I do have to admit I feel a bit confused and I tend to second-guess everything at the moment. From what to eat for dinner, to what jobs to apply for. Many twenty something people feel like they are alone in their struggle, which of course is NOT the case. There are plenty of people in the same boat as you. Me included.
The Quarter-Life Crisis, or quest for identity if you’d like, is often triggered by big life decisions such as career, finances, living arrangements, and relationships normally affecting 18 to 29 year olds. Research shows that pressure to make these decisions can lead to indecisiveness and a feeling of being unsettled. I can personally confirm the latter.
What is the purpose of life? Who am I? What would I like to do for a living? What if I don’t like doing what I’m doing for a living? Is it selfish to live so far away from my family? Am I willing to settle down without having experienced having my very own place? Should I get a rabbit? Maybe I should go vegan? Why does everyone seem to have their life sorted but me?
To put it in a fancy way:
Adolescence is said to be a distinct phase of social development in which there’s a period of confusion when young people transition their norms and beliefs from their childhood thoughts to a more mature pattern. The idea smells like rat piss to me, however I’m admitting it is happening to me as well.
Slowly I’ve let situations and people affect me and I’m slowly accepting that “this is how it is supposed to be because that’s what people do”.
What a horrific discovery!
Despite this, I can’t help myself from thinking it’s very sad to let go of “childish” dreams. I’m not talking about eating candy until you die kind of childish dreams, but you know those kinds of dreams that used to make sense to you when you were younger. Dreams like to live in a small cabin in the mountain for a year, move to Costa Rica to be a coconut collector whilst learning Spanish, become a Broadway dancer or becoming a hot hippie farmer blogger (ME, I wish).
Then my indecisiveness hits again and I start asking myself: “I’m I thinking those thoughts because I’m a millennial? Is this a bad idea? Will I disappoint my parents? What about saving for pension? I don’t even know how saving for pension works! Should I rather find a job that could make me happy down the lane or should I have a job that makes me happy now?”.
My previous roommate was the most miserable person I’ve met in my whole life and a true inspiration of what I don’t want to become.
Is it too much to ask to be passionate and curious about your job and life?
There might not be a clear answer to this question, and more than anything it’s a very personal opinion. Some might agree whilst others don’t.
Unlike our grandparents we did not grow up in a society based on scarcity, rather the opposite. Our generation has a bewildering amount of options to choose from with equally bewildering pressure and confusion to choose the ‘right’ ones. Hence the Quarter-Life Crisis. This is in contrast to the midlife crisis where people freak out because they realise that their options are shrinking.
Please don’t think I’m complaining, as I know how blessed we are today, however I would also like to remind you guys of a TED-talk by Dan Gilbert where his studies show that less options actually makes us happier, and that people who accept what they’ve got rather than trying to achieve greater, bigger, better things generally are more satisfied with their life. So maybe are all these options and FOMO making us more confused than good?
Heaps young adults feel paralysed by all the options they have to choose from.
Amen sister. As this isn’t enough, the crisis is fuelled by the decrease of security and loyalty in the work environment: “We’re being squeezed on all fronts by student loans, uncertain job market and insane housing costs”. As she said. NY Times have also written about this. All at the same time we are expected to have a blooming social life, travel the world, stay fit, not eat gluten, find a perfect mate, clean or MacBook Screen and have a thriving Instagram account. Seriously. No wonder we can’t breathe.
So we have established that too many options can do more harm than good, however our own expectations also tend to be too high. Especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Today’s youth are expecting to have a partner that will last a lifetime while fulfilling all their deepest emotional, social and spiritual needs. Esther Perel talked about this in her TED-talk. She suggests that we are asking too much of our spouses: We expect our partner to be our advisor, our best friend, our family member, our entertainer, our travel buddy and an erotic love machine. It would also be a bonus if he/she was rich. Maybe we are expecting a little bit too much? Just a thought…
Another experience that has shaped youth’s view of love and companionship is the divorce statistics of their parents. As 50% of the parent generation’s marriages ended in divorce today’s young citizens are questioning the benefit of settling down, especially at a young age.
There is also a trend for women to want to achieve a sense of financial and residential independence before settling down. And again I can totally relate to this. Not that it’s happening at the moment, but I would really like it to.
So here we are.
Trying to decide what jobs to go for, whether we are good enough or not, who to marry (if we every will marry), where to live and what to save for.
Through my reading and own experiences I’ve found three ‘sins of death’ that will make your Quarter-Life Crisis worse for sure:
- Social media
- Rather than meeting in person, young people spend more time on social media which eventually means they spending more time alone than ever. This is a bit alarming as the number one indicator for happiness is your social relations. While spending quality time with yourself can be a very rewarding thing, spending time in your phone envying others’ life is not that great of an idea.
- Social media increases FOMO as you constantly see what cool stuff others are doing while you’re lying in bed feeling miserable.
- Since social media is flooded with #FILTERS it does not reflect real life. On social media every relationship is perfect, so is the hair, skin and the bank balance. Social media creates expectations that are too high which can lead to you losing out on an amazing relationship because you think normal behaviour such as to fight and disagree is abnormal.
- Trying to control everything
- Alright, so the only thing you have control over at the moment is your anal sphincter (which is not too bad. One day when you get really really old you might lose control over this one as well), but it is okay. Sometimes we just need to let everything go and believe that it is all going to be okay and that this is just a transition period which is taking you from one place to another.
- Cynicism based on parents’ experiences
- Okay, so a burnt child dreads the fire, however please keep in mind that what happened to your parents does not mean it has to happen to you. Accept yourself as a separate individual with your own life, qualities and values. I’m not promising it won’t happen to you, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be scared of believing in love based on the experience of your parents. Parents, or guardians, have a big influence in our life even if it’s not directly. The more we understand about this concept, the easier it gets to separate yourself from previous experiences. I recommend reading about attachment theory. It has helped me a lot understanding my reaction patterns.
At least now you know what not to do. And if it makes you feel any better: you are not alone. There are over 55,000 hashtags of #quarterlifecrisis on Instagram and supportive groups on Facebook for ‘quarterlifers’ that are in the same situation. There’s written books AND illustrated books about the topic. There’s even a test to see if you are having a Quarter-Life Crisis.
Whether you have a crisis or not, keep in mind that this period feels uncomfortable because it is a transition period meaning it takes you from one place to another. It won’t last forever. Use this period to get to know yourself better.
Just like Oprah Winfrey and Echkart Tolle said when they were discussing Echart’s book «A New Eart» on SuperSoul Sunday: Life is a journey and you should embrace every step of it.
You should embrace that you don’t know the purpose yet. It’s okay to not know what do to.
Enjoy. Thrive in uncertainty. Then Oprah adds that being in you 20’s is all about trying to figure it out and make mistakes.
Making mistakes is a beautiful thing because then you learn what’s not right for you.
You can watch the whole clip from their conversation here.