We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis. Impulse purchases. The fancy cars. The change in careers. The broken relationships and the existential musings. But what about a quarter-life crisis? What about the hoards of millennials who have just hit the corporate world only to find they hate it? What about the 20-somethings finally finding their independence, their voice and embracing their freedom for the first time?
From a young age, we are told that the world only works a certain way, and anything else isn’t accepted. We are funnelled through school into university and out into the ‘real world’ as generations for centuries have before us, with very little room for personal expression, for originality and creative thinking.
Yet, our world is changing so fast right now. The careers and life-paths that were taken by our parents and grandparents no longer exist. It’s not as simple as it once was to get a job, find a partner, have babies and settle down. Nor is it what the majority of people want, especially those in their early 20s.
Instead, millennials everywhere are demanding more. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to enjoy our lives, find happiness in our jobs, spend quality time with our friends and family and travel the world all at once. And we’re sure it’s possible — according to Instagram anyways.
Having recently emerged from my very own quarter-life crisis, let me share the most obvious warning signs and how they may be the best things that have ever happened to you… yet.
If you’re in your mid-20s, chances are you’ve just spent a significant amount of time and money completing some form of further education. Maybe you went to university and completed law school (guilty), or maybe you were on a traditional career path that no longer serves you.
I spent almost seven years and racked up an unspeakable amount of student debt studying to become a lawyer. So when six-months into my first real law job, I hated it; I felt so much guilt for all that ‘wasted’ time and money. I couldn’t imagine leaving something I had worked so hard to achieve.
The reality is the majority of us are all doing our best at any given time. We make educated decisions and follow the path best suited to us. We don’t set out with the intention to fail.
I can tell you now, there isn’t a day I’m not grateful for the time (maybe not so much the money) I spent studying and all the incredible experiences and knowledge it equipped me with. Without those years, I wouldn’t have the relationships I do, I wouldn’t have the experiences which have shaped me, and I wouldn’t have the skills I need to be the business owner and general human being I am today.
If you’re feeling similar guilt, try to focus on everything you have gained in your journey to this point rather than what you may have lost. If you went to university, you would have learned all sorts of skills, on top of your chosen field of study. Throughout your time at university, you likely met amazing people who inspired you, entertained you and with whom you built relationships to last a lifetime. All of this is priceless, and far from a waste of time.
Some days are good, some days are bad. And it’s hella confusing. Some days you can’t help but think, yes, this is my life, and this is what I want. On others, you feel so far removed from happiness and alignment you’re standing in an elevator fighting tears.
Speaking from personal experience, some days in my lawyer’s life were incredible. I felt passionate, purpose fueled, and so proud of the results I was getting for my clients. Yet other days, I felt like the world’s greatest failure. Some days I spent my entire lunch hour in the office bathroom crying.
It can be hard to separate what we want from what we think we deserve. It can be difficult to figure out what our heart is really saying when we’ve spent our whole lives only listening to our head. Hence the confusion you feel right now.
To deal with this confusion:
Start a daily journaling practice, reflecting on your daily thoughts and emotions, analyzing where you’ve come from and where you would like to go.
Review your thoughts and feelings over the past weeks and months, looking for any patterns, themes or ideas to build on.
Follow these clues because they will lead you to wherever it is you’re truly meant to be.
These steps will help you gain clarity, and they are tools your future self will thank you for.
This part took me a long time to come to terms with. I thought I had achieved everything I had ever wanted. The law degree, check. The corporate, wear-a-suit-to-work job, check. The cute city apartment, check. The loving boyfriend, check. My 16-year-old self would have been over the moon. Yet why did I feel so unhappy?
For a long time, I resisted allowing myself and my goals to grow and develop. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy with everything I had once dreamed of. The reality was that my 16-year-old self and my 24-year-old were very different women. Fast forward now, a few more years, and I’m a completely different woman yet again.
From one millennial to another, let me tell you, you’re allowed to grow and change. Every single day, you get to chose who you want to be. You don’t need a new job or a new city or a new life for things to change. Instead, you need to shift your mindset and embrace what you’ve got to work with right now.
If your desires don’t align with your current life, remember that the best time for new beginnings is right now. Hire a coach, build a new routine, quit your job and travel the world. Go crazy. I’ve done it all, and my only regret is not embracing my wildest dreams and desires earlier.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and while I may not have agreed with you a few years ago, it turns out my quarter-life has been one of the most significant turning points of my life. And for that, I’m so grateful. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, and while you may feel challenged or uncertain or like a train-wreck of emotions right now, it’s simply another lesson to be learned and a new experience to gain from. Take from it what you can, and use it to ensure your quarter-life crisis doesn’t derail you.
Originally published in The Post-Grad Survival Guide, Medium https://medium.com/the-post-grad-survival-guide/is-this-your-quarter-life-crisis-5cab84478a72