Jul 13, 2009

So what is a quarter life crisis, anyway?

My boyfriend recently started a 6-month internship with a company here in Portland. He immediately became a part of the young'n's club at the company, a group of employees under the age of 30 who go out to lunch every once in a while and chat. At the first meeting of the young'n's club, one of the young women who had only started working for the company recently told the boyfriend that when she'd first found out that she had gotten the job on a Friday afternoon she was ecstatic. And then she spent the rest of the weekend crying, because she realized she'd be working for the rest of her life.

Hello! Welcome to your own personal quarter life crisis!

Of course, this isn't the only way people experience a quarter life crisis. Generally speaking, a quarter life crisis is that emotional blech that happens some time after finishing your formal education and some time before, I can only assume, you get comfortable with the whole being a grown-up thing. (I question whether anyone ever really gets comfortable with the whole being a grown-up thing. If they did, things like lotteries wouldn't be so popular, because no one would be looking for ways to escape their lives as is.) Quarter life crises can come in many forms: it can be dissatisfaction with your chosen career or general insecurities about your achievements; it could be financial overload; it could be that you've moved far away from friends and family and are struggling to build adult relationships. Whatever the reasons, you're probably feeling lonely, disappointed, anxious, insecure, confused, and maybe even a little envious of those who seem to have it all figured out.

For me personally, the quarter life crisis has manifested itself in the form of a single question: "What the hell am I going to do with my life?" And it's been a question I've been trying to figure out the answer to for many years. The results of not knowing the answer to this question have been manifold. I often feel like I'm drifting through my life, purposeless. I'm unhappy with my job. I'm unhappy with myself. I struggle with setting goals and making future plans. I feel, in a word, stuck.

I'm really not sure what I'm supposed to do about this little problem of mine. I'm no life expert, and I haven't met any life fairies who have been willing to share any answers. So really, the only solution I've got for now is simply to keep trying, keep looking, don't give up. I'm sure if I keep pushing forward, I'll eventually find something that fits, right?

Maybe this is the only solution there is for people who are going through a quarter life crisis. Your biggest problem is that you feel like you're not living the right life. The only choice you have is to keep looking for the right one, to try new things and make mistakes and try something else and keep hoping eventually you'll figure it all out. It doesn't always sound appealing. Sometimes I wish someone would just send me an anonymous letter that says, "This is what you're meant to do." But... It's either keep searching or settle, and I don't know about you, but I've never been a fan of settling.

A ceramics professor comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece. At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot

- Mike Arauz


  1. I had a major crisis of sorts after buying a house. Within months I had sold it and moved to Austin. I now feel like home ownership represents everything I DON'T want to be!

  2. Oh man I totally went through the same thing. I had a moment sitting at dinner, living still at home, being unemployed and being 25 that I was like, OMG WHAT AM I DOING? You'll get through it.

  3. I'm about to be 25 in a few months and I'm trying to avoid the emotional crack of the Quarter Life crisis. The thing I'm doing to try and avoid it is to surround myself with people in the same situation as I am - I have friends who are 23, married, buying a house and its hard for me to talk about my issues with them, because as much as they say "I understand" ...they really don't.

    I think more than anything else, this new "Quarter Life Crisis" is a wake up call to all of us to stay focused. Don't stay a teenager too long. Grow up. One might argue that growing up isnt necessary to lead a full life...I think it is to an extent.

    So many avenues to look at...

  4. I just found your blog & had to comment on the quarter life crisis.

    The quarter life crisis doesn't have to happen @ 25, but it's more in between mid 20s to 30. From what I have seen & semi-experineced it, basically after a few years of work we realize what we worked up from college & jobs just doesn't really provide the happiness we were expect. It's the realization of the difference from expectation vs reality.

    Look up the Google talk from Bess Vanrenen, she describes it better

  5. I've been having a quarter life crisis since I was 22. ;) But thank you for the reference! I'll check it out!

  6. I think I may just be in a quarter life crisis, but I have the support of a friend who is in the same position as myself..i'm about to turn 23...been single by choice for over a year now after a long term relationship, going back to studying part time in 2010....and even though i'm really enjoying life and have a lot more looking up for me now...I have a strange empty feeling, like something is just missing????