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. 🙂