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.
Signs Of A Quarter-Life Crisis
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.
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.”
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Why Do So Many Millennials Go Through A Quarter-Life Crisis?
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.
Too Many Options?
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…