The Pressure

I’m sure that you’ve all come across the popular and trending term known as the quarter-life crisis. It’s something that a lot of people in their twenties appear to be suffering from in some form or another. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of online articles and quizzes asking, Are You Having A Quarter-Life Crisis?  Or helpfully listing for you the 25 Signs That You’re Definitely Having A Quarter-Life Crisis!

Why have quarter-life crises become such a phenomenon? In my opinion it’s because of the increasing amount of expectation and pressure that has always been forced onto the twenty-something age-group and which as of recently is getting more and more intense and out of control. If only people could look at their twenties as a care-free decade of independence before issues like settling down and mortgages need to be paid attention to, but for some reason it seems that we’re all in a race against time, trying to beat the clock before we hit the big 30! What’s so bad about 30?

These days we’re all lead to believe that our twenties are our ‘golden years’. They’re the time to have fun, go out to bars and clubs and have no inhibitions. They’re the time to buckle down, work our way up and lay the groundwork for our impending millionaire statuses. They’re the time to go on dates like it’s going out of fashion. They’re the time to find our soul mates and settle down into serious relationships. They’re the time to become independent, leave the nest, learn how to cook and raise a deposit for a mortgage. They’re the time to travel the entire world. Seriously though? What kind of superhuman person out there has gotten to age 30 and said yup I did all  of that? Quite frankly the concept is ridiculous. And being shown so many different potential paths can make some people feel as though they’ve lost all sense of direction in their lives, their minds become frazzled, their identities blur and lo and behold the quarter life crisis begins!

However, it’s not just external forces that burden us with all of these stresses and requirements, we unwittingly do it to ourselves all the time too. Saying things like, ‘I want to be married at 25 and have all of my kids before 30’ is so silly and the fact that so many people abide by such nonsensical statements gives me a headache; you’re putting the pressure on yourself and then wondering why you’re having an anxiety attack…just stop. While I think it’s good to have goals, I don’t think that they should be set in stone; there should always be some leniency with the aims that you set for yourself. Remember what Mr Gump’s mum said, ‘life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get‘, so ease up a bit, if not for yourself then do it for Forrest!

We also don’t do ourselves any favours when we incessantly compare our lives against those of our friends. Most of us have the annoying habit of looking at what they’re doing and what they’ve achieved and then find ourselves coming up short in comparison. Just because you wanted to be on a certain salary at age 27 but your friend beat you to it, doesn’t make you a failure. Just because you wanted to be married at 25 but you’re not even in a relationship and your best friend’s engaged, doesn’t mean that you’ll be an eternal spinster. And just because your younger cousin has travelled to every continent since graduation and you’ve been stuck working a 9-5 job, doesn’t make you boring or uncultured.

I guess to put it simply, when we start out our lives we spend a few years blissfully at home playing on swings and see-saws until we’re ushered into the bubble of education. We remain in this bubble until age 18 when we’re pushed into an even more exciting bubble known as University, where our only priorities are simply to socialise and have fun! And once those precious few years are over, we’re left to our own devices; thrown out into the cold.

Suddenly that protective cocoon is gone and we have to ‘grow up’. How will we pay off our student debt? We need money, how will we get it? What’s our five year plan? And the million dollar question, what do we want to do with our life? We’re faced with so many serious and heavy questions, it’s no wonder that so many of us suffer with such anxiety and become victims of quarter-life crises. While the future once seemed full of possibilities, after graduation it suddenly becomes a frightening reality from which we can’t escape!

So if you feel like the pressure is becoming suffocating and stifling, just take a moment and breathe. And then breathe again. Que sera, sera. You want to travel? Go make that happen. You want to save money for a deposit on an apartment? Scrimp and scrounge until you can afford it. You want to change career paths? Strike while the iron’s hot. You want to marry your girlfriend? Go get a ring. Focus on yourself and what makes you happy, forget about the pressure, forget about what’s expected of you…do what you  want to do.

And as hard as it may be, please refrain from stabbing yourself in the eye when you read that another one of your friends has gotten engaged on Facebook, be happy for them, they’re going down their path and you’re going down yours, we’re all different and we all have different ways that we want to spend these supposed ‘golden years’. There’s a famous saying, ‘everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end‘ remember that. 🙂

46 replies

  1. Great post! My life right now at 28 is nothing like I thought it would be when I was younger. If you had asked me at 28 where I’d be at 28, I’d say I’d have a house, be married, a job I love, and a kid on the way. When I write that down, it make me want to cry because I don’t have any of those things. But I also need to remember that at 10, I had no concept of how the real world actually works. We really need to let go of the concept of how we imagined how life would be. It prevents us from focusing on what our life actually is like and living in the moment.

    • I completely agree with you, focusing on what we think we should be doing prevents us from living in the moment and actually living our lives! Looking forward is good, but the present is equally as important as the future and I think that a lot of us forget that sometimes…thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. This is so true. I think being at a Crossroads at a time in your life where you need to make major decisions that will affect the rest of your life is a crisis at any age. I do agree that some people feel pressured to attain certain milestones to feel validated but I also know that these are not always what brings us contentment.

    • I think that generally people feel as though if they haven’t attained milestones such as marriage, kids, owning a home, being financially stable etc by 30 that they’re inadequate and haven’t been successful in life. However why it is that we’ve decided that we have to achieve all of these things by the young age of 30 I have no clue. It’s unnecessary pressure that nobody needs, we should all be able to live life at our own pace!

  3. I had my first crisis at 13! So this sounds only too familiar. 🙂 I wish I could say that it gets better, but in my case, things are actually worse now… At least I have my writing and my family (mom, sister, four-legged kids).

  4. I needed to hear this. But even as I read and re-read this, I cant help myself feeling sad over the un-achieved things yet rather than being happy over the achieved ones.

    • I think you just need to remember that your life is not over yet, you still have time to attain everything that your heart desires but perhaps it’s just not your time yet…until then be patient and live for the moment and focus on doing things that make you happy, not on what’s expected of you. Don’t give in to the pressure and remember “everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end”. Thanks for stopping by Divya 🙂

  5. Well written! I am in my 30’s and what you wrote about friends competing and comapring lives holds so true for our decade. It is sad when people so desperately want to live by social standards, anheir own do not have the courage to live life on their own terms.

  6. You’re right Baldeep, our biggest mistake is piling the pressure onto ourselves by comparing our lives to that of our friends…it’s silly! We’re all different and we’ll all progress at different times, I think that the key is to be calm and focus on the present and on what makes you happy right now 🙂

  7. Thanks for the follow and for this post! I will be 26 on Friday and the term “quarter life crisis” has come up more than once as of late. We are supposed to live uninhibited and care free, enjoy our “golden years,” and simultaneously settle into a career, find a spouse and have kids. A decade just doesn’t feel like enough time! Thanks again-looking forward to reading more.

  8. So I just turned 20 and don’t have these things to worry about quite yet, but I’m glad I read it because my combination of dreams that Id like to achieve in my twenties just won’t be possible. As you said you can’t want a family, children, house, good job, and to travel the world all at once. It’s unrealistic. So although I have plenty of time, reading this was a big help 🙂 thank you!

    • I’m glad that reading this provided you with some clarity 🙂 It’s not a bad thing to want all of those things, I think we all do deep down, it’s just unrealistic to put such a rigid deadline on achieving ALL of it… life is better when we go with the flow!

  9. You’re so right, there’s a famous quote by Mother Teresa that I think is very applicable to this post, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  10. This rings so true… I’m almost 35 now and life is nothing like the one I sketched out for myself as an innocent teenager. Sure, it’s scary. But the truth is, even people whose lives tick all the conventional boxes have challenges — and a different set of responsibility. The beauty of not having ‘made it’ is you’re still free to define or redefine yourself. Not married? Fantastic — the best relationship of your life is still ahead of you. Still renting? You’re not saddled with mortgage worries and home repair. No kids yet? It means you’ll be older, wiser and more prepared when (if) they arrive.

    Thanks for stopping by Irresponsibility. Glad to have found your blog!

  11. I have always been excited about getting another year older. I try to enjoy where I’m at when I’m there so I’m not looking back quite as often wishing I was there AGAIN. There is a lot of pressure out there, that’s for sure. I was one of those with a plan for getting married and then I had (still have) a plan for having kids. I even had a plan for WHO I was going to marry when I was little. In some ways my plans have panned out and in others things are VERY different. I just roll with the punches! Or at least, I try to.

  12. I totally agree, I think that the main thing is that you are living life as much as possible and making use of every opportunity given to you and not just “existing”.
    As long as you are working towards something: working towards goals be they tangible ones or not, then you are on track for you as a person.
    Maybe you want to be more organised, or loose some weight, get fitter, get to know your neighbours better, be a volunteer, learn a new instrument or skill, spend time with someone who needs it… these things are just as valid as achieving a pay rise or getting a specific job by a certain date.
    There will always be crisis moments in your life, job changes, losses of loved ones, expectations unfulfilled, financial struggles, relationship or health problems: they are no respected of age so “mid-life” crisis’s can come in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s…
    … it’s how you deal with it all that makes the difference… and that’s easier said than done. Good character, fortitude, good grace and perseverance are always better than a list of paper achievements or social conformities.
    Love who you are and make the most of you life, you only get one chance at today, there are no practice runs.

    • Very true! I love how you articulated that. Having goals, both short term and long term ones are essential to get yourself out of a rut and keep progressing. Life is all about rolling with the punches 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  13. Yes, yes this is all true. I am mid way through my quarter life crisis – people expect so much so soon. I think the older generation are piling on that pressure, my parents they did not go to university themselves so had this ideal that when I left uni I would jump straight into a well paid job. This of course did not happen, whenever I go home I am ambushed with questions on why am I still working at a restaurant, being told I have wasted my education, being asked constantly when am I getting married, when are they getting grandchildren. I am 24yrs old why am I expected to have everything figured out already. Pressure like this has caused me a lot of depression over the past 2 years after uni ended. I think it is hard now you are expected to have a full-time well paid job, kids, husband, good house, all sorted by 30! Like life doesn’t go on after that. I think in media woman expecially are rarely portrayed as being over the age of 30, often tv story lines are about people in their 20s having fun – after 30 its like your life ends.

    • Ahh I can completely relate to everything that you’ve said! Parents can definitely be a major source of the pressure, so sometimes it’s best to just let their words go through one ear and out the other, otherwise we’d go crazy! I agree with you about the media. TV shows that do portray single women over 30 always make them seem so desperate and man-crazy, (Mindy Project and New Girl), and they definitely reinforce the idea that being single and uncertain about your career post-30 is something to avoid. The character’s ultimate goal is always to secure her happy ending, which is only ever suggested as being with a husband and kids. Look at Jennifer Aniston too, she’s 45 and the entire has been piling on the pressure for her to settle down and have kids for years… I don’t know how she copes but someone else is always worse off than you :/

  14. Sooooo true! At the age of 20 I had 2 jobs and my own apartment in NYC. I was pressured by my mom to move out by the time I hit 18 and got harassed every day till I moved out at 20.

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