Ah, the quarter-life crisis. Although 25 is the classic age, we can go through one at any point during our twenties.
They can be triggered by curveballs of all shapes and sizes that life likes to throw at us during this tumultuous time.
Mostly, they come on in the years after you’ve graduated from uni and are starting to navigate your way through the ‘adult’ world, but still can’t use the word adult without air quotes.
We’re incredibly lucky to live in this era. These days, more of us than ever before have almost limitless opportunities at our fingertips.
Although there’s still a long way to go in terms of equality, many of us are in a position that means we can pretty much do anything with our lives. Yep, anything.
Whilst a world full of possibilities is incredibly exciting, it’s also pretty damn terrifying and overwhelming. It’s all a matter of perspective, but it’s very easy to see it as the latter when you’re faced with one of life’s big decisions and feel the panic begin to rise.
There’s that, and the fact that, in our 20s, the years have started flying by. Time is slipping through our fingers like sand in an egg timer and we start to realize we won’t live forever, like we imagined we would as teenagers.
At the same time, we’ve got society (and probably our mothers) pressuring us to climb the career ladder, settle down, and have 2.4 children as quickly as humanly possible.
Oh… but also travel the world and have some casual fun. All before we hit the dreaded 30.
It’s little wonder, then, that the quarter-life crisis rears its ugly head. You may well be experiencing one right now without realizing it.
Not to worry, though; all the cool kids are doing it.
Here are a few of the signs, some blindingly obvious and some you might not have considered, that you’re experiencing one.
1. You Can’t Make Decisions
Have you suddenly found yourself incapable of making decisions, even tiny, insignificant ones?
Faced with big decisions that will affect the course of your life, even taking small ones has become more difficult than it ever was before.
You’re finding yourself spending hours in the supermarket deliberating over which brand of pasta to buy. Even having to choose something from a restaurant menu has become an insurmountable challenge.
2. You’ve Started Asking The Big Questions
Read any philosophical books recently? Found yourself gazing up at the stars feeling utterly insignificant?
Started wondering what on earth the point of it all is anyway? Annoyed that the answers to these questions continue to elude you?
3. You’re Terrified That It’s All Downhill From Here
You hit your 25th birthday and everyone thinks it’s hilarious to tell you that, physically, you’ve now hit your peak, and things just start degenerating from here on out.
Just what you needed to hear.
You’re panicking that your best years are now behind you and you haven’t done anything with them.
4. You’ve Got A Major Case Of Imposter Syndrome
You worry about the terrible job you’re doing at ‘adulting’ and genuinely feel like a fraud at work, wondering when a ‘real’ adult is going to realize there’s been some kind of terrible mix-up and show you the door.
5. You’re Restless
You can’t seem to stick at one thing, whether it’s a job or a relationship, or even stay in a certain place for more than a couple of months without going stir crazy and wanting to escape.
You’re not even sure what it is you want to escape from.
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6. But You Can’t Run Away
While something inside is driving you to jack it all in and go see the world, disappearing for months or years on end, the other half of you is terrified of jumping off the career ladder as you think you’ll go into free fall.
You’re under the impression you’ll never get back on it, and that everyone you know will be managing companies and working in glass offices whilst you’ll forever be stuck on the bottom rung if you dare to take an early career break.
How can you have a career break when you’re pretty sure what you’re doing can’t be classed as a career anyway?
7. You Find It Hard To Be Truly Happy For Your Friends
While you know that life shouldn’t be about money and work, every time that friend from uni who’s working in some highly-paid (and probably highly immoral) industry gets a fancy new job and a raise, you can’t really be happy for them because you’re too busy panicking inside.
You do a pretty good job of pretending you’re delighted for them, though.
8. You’re Simultaneously Scared Of Commitment And Desperate To Find Love
Everyone around you freely offers their opinion on your love life.
Half of them tell you to enjoy your 20s and keep it casual, whilst the other half warn you that all the good ones are getting snapped up, and give you statistics about how you’re more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married after a certain age, so you should get a move on.
Cheers for the pep talk, guys.
You’re scared of committing to a serious relationship, but also don’t know if you feel comfortable with dating around any more, which means your love life is pretty much non-existent.
9. Social Media Isn’t Your Friend
Every time you start scrolling through Facebook, you see a friend posting about a new job, or engagement, or even a baby, and you can’t seem to feel happy for them, just a strange mix of jealousy, fear, and disdain.
You’re fully aware that you shouldn’t be jealous of people’s Instagram feeds, as they only upload the good stuff, just like you do, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling twinges of uncharitable emotions.
You’re amazed that anyone should be doing those things at this age, and slightly contemptuous… then you have the dawning realization that it’s really not THAT young.
You also know that you don’t even want to get married or have kids yet (if ever?!), but that doesn’t stop the mini freak-outs. In fact, it makes you worry that you SHOULD want those things by now.
10. Your Mum’s Opinion Is Still the Decider
Though you’ve lost the ability to make decisions (see point 1), you feel that you should be making them… only you don’t really want to. You still want your mum’s opinion on pretty much everything.
11. You Think You’re The Only One That Feels This Way
You’re convinced that everyone else has their act together and a coherent five-year-plan, and you’re the only one making it up as you go along and freaking out every step of the way.
Luckily, you’re in good company. We’re all in the same leaky and rickety boat, and anyone that looks like they’ve really got this adult thing down is just a fantastic actor.
Just listen to the wise voice inside you that’s calmly trying to make itself heard over all the clamor in your head.
The voice reminding you that it’s not all about getting rich or having a stellar career, and that your twenties are meant to be for making mistakes and gradually figuring life out.
As John Lennon is meant to have said, “it’ll all be alright in the end, and if it’s not, it’s not the end.”