Quarter-life crises have become a modern age dilemma, but why?
We seem to be experiencing our existential crises around 20 years sooner than the generations before us.
If you’re constantly feeling stressed, lost, and find yourself crying in the shower, you’re not alone. Panic is the new black…
The New Mid-Life Crisis
We’ve all joked about our parents having mid-life crises – buying sports cars, dating inappropriately, and getting ‘liberating’ tattoos. While that’s all well and good, it does point to something being slightly amiss.
Understandable, really, given that a lot of adults have gone through various heartbreaks, divorces, and extreme changes by the time they get to 40.
They deserve to have a moment of panic and forgot who they are and what they’re doing with their lives.
But what about those of us who seem to be having a bit of a meltdown in our 20s?!
If you’re a millennial and have no idea what you’re doing with your life, don’t panic – you’re not alone. More and more of us seem to be struggling with our future plans, as well as our current existence.
We tend to feel like we’re not doing things well enough, or early on enough in our lives. We have so many opportunities, but it all gets a bit overwhelming, and we wind up feeling confused, lost, and not quite good enough.
To our parents and elders, we’re just dramatic and a bit pathetic, but there might actually be something behind it…
Social Media And Unrealistic Expectations
Now, I love Instagram as much as the next person – to the point where I’ll check my phone before talking to my boyfriend who’s next to me in bed. Rude, I know, but it’s become a weird habit and we both do it.
And we’re not alone.
Most millennials joke about their social media addictions, and we’re all familiar with the golden rule of Instagram – if you’d didn’t photograph it, did you even eat that hipster-vegan-gluten-free brunch?!
Social media can be great in many ways, and allows people to form supportive online communities, promote their businesses, and keep everyone updated with a daily selfie.
But what is it doing for our self-confidence and aspirations?
We all get so used to seeing beautiful, tanned people eating incredible food on deserted beaches. Sure, we know there’s a filter on the photo, but why isn’t our life like that?
Instagram and Facebook are shifting the ways we feel about our lives, and I know I’m not alone in feeling insecure about where I’m at with my life.
Should I be doing that, there, with them?! Seeing what all of these other people are up to raises so many questions about our own lives. Maybe we should be travelling more, while working on our relationships, and climbing the career ladder.
Oh, and the property ladder, according to my Facebook. Oh, and having a baby with our partner of five years, even though our last relationship only lasted for about three very awkward dates.
Social media can be lovely, but it also instills a sense of panic and makes our own, very real, lives seem inadequate.
There are so many images and messages telling us what we should be doing that it all gets a bit overwhelming.
We start developing unrealistic expectations based on what everyone else seems to be doing, making our whole lives seem unworthy and unsuccessful.
These expectations start a negative spiral where we begin to examine our own lives, constantly comparing our appearance and experiences to those that we see online.
Life crises, at any age, are not at all fun – they’re full of self-doubt, anxiety, comparison, and worry. By seeing ourselves and our lives as inferior to all of the filtered, ‘paid-partnership’ lives of our Insta-idols, we tend to experience this type of crisis.
We all seem to be constantly tired. Trying to do everything is pretty exhausting, so you probably find yourself permanently thinking about your bed.
If we’re not working crazy hours with our eyes set on a promotion, we’re trying to go on dates, make plans with friends that we just never seem to actually follow through with, or running around the house (that we can’t afford) doing laundry.
Sure, we don’t have it as hard as our parents or grandparents, but we still struggle.
The internet is amazing, technology is super-advanced, and we have access to so many resources that the generations before us just didn’t have. But, somehow, we’ve gotten a little lost along the way and are just always tired and stressed over not very much.
It seems like everyone is in some weird kind of race to do things first, or better, without really knowing what the things actually are.
It’s all a bit confusing and it winds up being very draining and not much fun at all.
These days, we can do pretty much whatever we want.
University degrees are more common than ever, travelling is much easier, if expensive, and there are so many general-life options available to us.
This is great in some ways, but can be very overwhelming.
It’s like we’re standing at a buffet and being told to choose between avocado on toast and a smoothie bowl. I know, it sounds a lot more fun than ‘rock and a hard place,’ but it’s confusing and you never quite know if you made the right choice.
What if the poached eggs had been the perfect level of runniness; would they have added goji berries and bee pollen?!
We have so many options in front of us, and they all seem great. But how are we meant to know what path we want to be on in life when we can’t even make a decision that affects one day?
It feels like we have to cram everything in – enough dating before settling down, babies, a house, a promotion, a healthy social life… Everyone around us seems to be getting it done, and this just makes it even harder.
The more we try and move forward with everything, the more stuck we seem to get.
While it’s so incredible to have a buffet of choices in front of us, the grass often feels a lot greener on the other side.
Any choice feels like the wrong choice, making us question our existence and stress even more than we are already doing.
When you can be anything you want, how do you choose?
Everything Costs Money
You’ve moved out of the family home, gone off to uni, spent your loan on Sambuca shots, and now have nowhere to live and a whole lot of debt.
Moving back home after you’ve graduated is not particularly appealing to most 20-somethings. Home holds memories of teenage angst, bad makeup, and frustrating curfews. It’s nice to do laundry and eat a real meal, but it just feels like a huge step backwards.
The alternative? Not so great either, as it turns out.
Deposits and agency fees have you listing various organs on Craigslist, and the only affordable places to live are garages (I actually found a parking space listed for ‘just‘ $500 a month).
Everything is just so expensive these days!
Sure, it’s all relative given the minimum-wage increases, but the property market just feels like one huge joke. No wonder we’re all left feeling lost and stressed when the rent on a tiny, grungy room is extortionate.
Not being able to afford a nice, or even semi-decent place to live isn’t really all that inspiring, hence we have a bit of an existential crisis every time we check letting agency sites.
Add to all this that we’re in huge amounts of debt from studying/ our Gap-Yah/ general life, and it’s understandable why we’re having a crisis.
Financial issues aren’t meant to be this stressful when we’re in our 20s – we’re a quarter of the way through our lives, we don’t need all of this ‘adult’ nonsense.
It’s Not All Bad
Horrible as it can be to have a quarter-life crisis, it’s important to try and see the silver lining.
Having this crisis of confidence early on in our lives does feel very unfair and unnecessary, but it often involves a bit of soul-searching. This can be traumatic, and often involves a fair amount of Ben & Jerry’s (or tequila, whichever), but can actually be a positive thing…
By questioning so many aspects of our lives, we can come out the other side of the crisis feeling a lot clearer.
Anxiously analyzing everything that we have going on can be a total nightmare, but it often leaves us feeling much more focused once the storm clears.
In these situations, you’re forced to really think about what you want to do with your life. This might mean discovering new hobbies or interests, or just rediscovering old things that you forgot you loved.
Assessing your life can feel awful in the moment, but can help you really plan out your future and work toward positive goals…
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.