Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Look At The Quarter Life Crisis

 Advice like this is really irritating when your going through a Quarter Life Crisis. 

Quarter Life Crisis is a term commonly used to describe the feeling of anxious melancholy that befalls some people as they head into their twenties and really hit the ‘quarter’ of their foreseeable life expectancy mark. Commonly, these people have travelled straight through school and higher education and have begun to work in their chosen careers when struck with a seemingly insurmountable feeling of doom as the question begins to beg; is this really it?

From My Experience

I remember reading about the Quarter Life Crisis phenomena when I was still a teenager and the term was starting to become really big. At that stage, I had just begun university and had no doubt in my mind about how bright and breezy my future was going to be. I somewhat doubted that I was going to have a QLC of my own, but thought that it sounded a bit exciting and wondered if there was a chance of getting a sports car out of it.

Move forward a couple of years and land in 2010, where I found myself not in the midst of what I would call a crisis as such, but would say that I had entered into the phase of life wherein I was realising that whole gig is sometimes very difficult, very boring and very scary. The bad bits of that year stacked up together with the disappointing parts and sometimes overshadowed the (many, don’t get me wrong) good times. There were days, yes, when I felt a little bit crisis-ey and when perspective was not my strongest attribute, and it was on these days that I returned to look at those Quarter Life Crisis articles with fresh, experienced eyes.

What They Say

Most theorists break down the causes or motivations of QLC’s into several parts, usually including work and career disillusionment, perceived lack of meaningful relationships, the feeling of youth slipping away and life not being as peachy and simple as was initially expected. From my experience these categories are pretty much spot on. Some of my favourite reads on the subject have been Christine Hassler’s 20 Something Manifesto (more on this one later), Gala Darling’s thoughts on the subject and the ever wonderful Allie’s musings over on Hyperbole and a Half.

I think, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t too original a thought, that the advent of the QLC has come about because of the attitudes and beliefs that us twenty-somethings have fostered relating to life, the main and most problematic of these being:

*I want to do it all now, I want to achieve it all now, I want to have it all now: - we might have made goals for the future, but what we really want is to see the results today.
*Life should be AWESOME, all the time: - We have calibrated our measure of life against a scale of ecstatic excitement and everlasting awesomeness, which doesn’t really allow for the inevitable challenges, tedium and mundane but necessary every day routines that we have to go through. By comparison, our lives always fail to measure up.

*Life needs structure, rules, boundaries and certainties: - As much as we like being spontaneous and crazy when we’re young, we also thrive from routine, structure and knowing what to expect. In this respect, the jump from scholarly life to fully fledged adult life can be huge, and all those so-called ‘inspirational sayings’ about how death is life’s only certainty only add mortality worries to our growing complex.

*“I have no idea what I actually want to do with my life, my future is a blurry haze of nothing and every day of indecision I inch closer to inevitable regret, doom and failure”: - It might sound dramatic, but this is how a lot of people going through a quarter-life-crisis feel. After being told for years that we can ‘do anything we want to do, anything at all’, there’s a lot of pressure to make the right decision. After all, if you had the option of choosing from anything, and you chose the wrong thing, you’d look pretty foolish, right? But how do you know what you want, what does wanting something even feel like? And how much can you trust you ability to want the right thing?

How To Deal

Just as the beginning of a Quarter Life Crisis is kicked off by a series of life revelations, so is the ending. Breaking through a QLC requires you to firstly prove to yourself that you are the most powerful entity in when it comes to shaping the outcome of you life, which is one of the most important life lessons you can learn.

The key, I think, to moving forward, is acknowledging that it’s up to you to take the first step. If it had to be all boiled down to just one thing, I would say that Quarter Life Crises are spawned from each individual’s fear of taking charge of their own life. We have an idea that life is meant to play by the rules, or at least play out in some form or another, but unless we take an active role and not just relax passively on the side lines life will go nowhere. Taking responsibility for our actions and their long term results is a very scary prospect, making the choice that ensure that the results happen is difficult, but handily we’re helped along by our new mantle of adulthood, wherein the safety blankets are taken away and we are left with very few people to blame if things don’t turn out.

My tip for beginning the end of a QLC is quite simple, but not always all that easy. You need to think about what is upsetting you most about life, what is the major disappointment. Whether that’s career, relationships, spirituality or health, you then need to set yourself one, and only one, achievable and tangible goal within that area for the next month. Focus largely on the process of realising that goal, track your progress and understand the choices that you are making to get to where you want to be. When you do get there, celebrate it and acknowledge what you’ve just done. Rinse and repeat until your battered self esteem begins to mend and you begin to be excited again about the possibilities your life holds.

In my research for this article, I came across a trailer for a movie actually called Quarter Life Crisis. That movie looked completely awful. While watching that trailer though, I then came across this trailer, which I found a bit intriguing. Please watch and enjoy, and let me know if you’ve seen it and if I should give it a go!

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