How 'The Wizard of Oz' perfectly explains the quarter-life crisis
When I was 3 years old I got lost in a Macy’s. When my mom realized I was gone she panicked and started shouting my name and pacing the aisles. After a few moments of what I can only imagine were sheer terror, a clerk came up to her and told her that they didn’t have any lost children named “Cathryn” but they did have a little girl named “Dorothy.” That was when my mother realized her little weirdo had become a little too attached to the movie The Wizard of Oz.
From my impromptu name change to my imaginary dog named Toto, I was fully enthralled with the epic adventure that Dorothy went through to find herself. And I didn’t exactly grow out of it.
After graduating from college and peering into the great unknown of life, I’ve realized my crystal ball skills are about as legit as the Wizard’s. Not knowing where to go next and worried about making the wrong choice. I’m now into my late 20s and, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas, and we definitely aren’t adolescents anymore. And then I figured out something: The Wizard of Oz is the perfect way to explain the quarter life crisis.
People describe the quarter life crisis differently: some express not knowing what to do in life, not feeling that they’ve accomplished enough yet thus far, having the fear of change, fear of sameness, pretty much fear of any and everything. I want to break away from the responsibilities that have been thrust upon me “to see other lands. Big cities, big mountains, big oceans,” as the Professor once said.
Unlike Dorothy, we aren’t given a yellow brick road to guide us to our destination. Muchkinland is nowhere to be found, and I definitely was never sent a helpful witch in a hot pink bubble. Reality and responsibility will get you my pretties! Conversations over coffee have evolved from the latest gossip or goals to taxes, mortgages, and 401Ks! Oh my! Each person experiences the quarter life crisis differently, but they can be grouped into the same type of categories: The Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.
The Scarecrow’s quarter life crisis revolves around knowledge and experience. Recent college grads begin to panic when their feet are put to the fire about getting a job with little to no work experience, or trying to wrap their minds around how they are ever going to pay off student debt. They compare themselves to their siblings and their friends, and end up feeling that they haven’t accomplished enough, or just don’t know what to do next. But fear not, Scarecrows! Whether you’ve been working during college or not, you will find a jumping off point to launch you into the future. You will always have bills, responsibilities and some level of uncertainty – but own it! You’re transitioning into the next milestone of life. (You already have a brain, after all.)
The Tin Man
The Tin Man’s crisis pertains to the heart and, specifically, relationships. Some have had a series of bad luck in the past, or are burned out on the dating scene. The Tin Men could also be in happy, healthy relationships but still are anxious about the future and the concept of working towards happily ever after.
This is a turbulent time in anyone’s life. As people grow and change, friendships and relationships can fall apart or grow stronger. Take risks, and don’t be too afraid to get a little heartbroken along the way. Be true to yourself in all relationships, romantic or otherwise.
The Cowardly Lion
The Cowardly Lion fears change and failure. It’s about having to leave that comfort zone and start to fend for themselves, a pretty scary prospect when you haven’t before. The Cowardly Lion fears change from college to work, upgrading from a serious relationship to marriage, moving out, buying homes, switching jobs, starting a family – and the crippling anxiety of failing.
But remember, every single person on the planet makes mistakes, and fails at something in their life. Embrace the failures as much as the successes and learn from your mistakes. It’s not easy to completely subdue anxiety, but couple it with excitement and optimism!
Growing up is scary. If I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self to slow down and enjoy it I probably would. More importantly, I hope my 40-year-old self shows up sometime soon to pull back the curtain on the future, and tells me to chill about my quarter-life crisis because everything is going to be alright.
The most important lesson to learn right now is to enjoy the good things, appreciate friends and loved ones, and to not stress about what is to come. Think things through, but also take risks and enjoy life. Don’t compare your successes and failures to anyone else because everyone’s path is a “horse of a different color.”
As for me, I’m working to show my quarter life crisis who’s king of the forest.
Cathryn “Cat” Curry is an ostentatious introvert who finds serenity in a well-organized spreadsheet, climbing giant rocks, or binge-watching Netflix with her bestie. Chat with Cat at her blog site LifeIntroverted.com, or on Instagram/Twitter @CurriedCat.