Notes on surviving a quarter-life crisis with your spirit in tact
I never thought quarter-life crises were real things. They struck me as an excuse twenty-somethings liked to use whenever they felt like being selfish or lazy, not as a legitimate struggle faced by young adults. But after spending the past few months doubting every decision I ever made and feeling totally lost, I’m a believer.
At first I refused to accept that I was having my first quarter-life crisis, not just because I didn’t believe in them, but because I thought I was too young. I’m only 23! How could I be having a crisis? But given the average life expectancy of someone who eats as many french fries as I do, saying I’m only a quarter of my way through life is being generous. Although, the Internet is telling me that a quarter-life crisis has nothing to do with the amount of life I’ve lived, or have yet to live. It’s all about finally entering the real world after two decades of being sheltered by parents and schools. It’s about losing that safety net of my mom’s emergency credit card, and, most importantly, it’s about being afraid of the future. There’s no denying it: I’m having a quarter-life crisis.
Lately, I’ve been a disaster. It all started back in August when the company I work for started going through major corporate changes. As I turned 23, I was thrust into a scary adult world where companies merged and I was sent weekly letters full of legal jargon explaining how to collect unemployment if my job ceased to exist. Everything was way too real, and I panicked.
Thankfully, I kept my job. I actually received a mini-promotion and things started to be okay again. I moved into a new home with four of my favorite people, I was doing great at work and I finally felt comfortable after weeks of chaos. But I was too comfortable. I was so afraid of entering another period of chaos, I settled into a routine where all I did was sleep, work and eat. I was cutting myself off from friends, eating a lot of Ben & Jerry’s and taking three-hour naps on my afternoons off. I wasn’t necessarily happy, but I was relaxed. And that was good enough for me.
But I was in a rut, and in mid-October, I decided to snap out of it. I needed to get my life together, or at least get to a point where I could be happy with the way things were going. I’m still working my way through this crisis, but I am finally feeling hopeful about the future. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has felt like they’re in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. At least I really hope I’m not the only one. For anyone who can relate to my struggles, here is my advice for getting through a quarter-life crisis:
Figure out what you truly enjoy. I love my job, but it’s not a career. I need to find something I can actually see myself doing for the long-term. The problem is, I don’t know what I want to do. Every week, I decide on a new career path. So far, none of them have stuck, but if I keep searching and thinking, I might actually find the right career for me.
Get a hobby. Someone asked me what I like to do for fun, and my answer was, “I’ve been working so much, I haven’t had time for fun.” Hearing myself say that was one of the saddest moments of my life. When you’re in your early-to-mid-twenties, all people want to talk to you about is what you plan to do with your life. With all that pressure, it’s easy to put all your energy towards work, but you need an escape. I’ve been trying to make extra time to read, write, swim and assemble puzzles. It’s very relaxing to finally do something that isn’t work.
Save your money. I don’t know what I’m saving my money for. All I know is that I don’t trust my current decision-making skills, and if I decide to do something stupid, I need a safety net. I might wake up tomorrow and decide to quit my job and make it as a dancer. I like my job and am a horrible dancer, but, given my current aimlessness and desire for something more, that seems like a possibility. I don’t know what I’ll be up to four months from now, but if I make a dumb decision, I’ll still be able to pay my rent.
It’s okay to be crazy and emotional and selfish. In the past few months I have ignored people I care about, cried on public transportation and came up with a very elaborate theory about how I was a mermaid in a past life. But all of that is okay. I’m scared and confused! If I want to cry on my bus ride home from work, I’ll cry. People can judge me all they want, but I’m going through something right now, and I need to ride it out.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. When I first entered crisis-mode, I was so mean to myself. I would walk around grumbling about how I’m such an idiot and can’t do anything right. It was nice to have my roommates stop me and say, “Please stop bullying my friend Chelsey. She’s doing her best.” I’m so happy that I had people defending me when I was so down on myself, and it reminded me that I need to give myself a break. I’m never going to be perfect.
Remind yourself how awesome you are. And if you can’t do that, surround yourself with people who can. Even though I’ve been completely irrational lately, I’m doing pretty well. I’m excelling at my job, and I’m doing a lot better at communicating with my loved ones. And my mermaid theory checks out. Sure, I don’t know what’s happening with my life right now, but I’m fairly happy. And when I’m feeling like the biggest hot mess there is, my roommates will reassure me that I could be, and have been, worse.
I’m not used to feeling aimless. I’ve always been an overachiever who knew exactly what she wanted out of life. Or at least I thought I knew what I wanted. After I graduated from college, I doubted all of my future goals, and that was very scary for me. But I’m realizing that it’s totally normal to feel that way once you’re sent out into the real world. For everyone else who feels like a human disaster while in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, it’s okay. Apparently you’re supposed to feel this way. You’re doing great!