A quarter-life crisis? Maybe not so rare.
It’s hard to capture a deep-seated feeling of unease on paper, but the dictionary sums it up as “a crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life.”
But if the quarter-life crisis is real, how come we don’t talk about it?
Many choose to reject its existence, dubbing it melodramatic. But considering that many, if not all, young adults around the country are united by these feelings of self-doubt, indecision and complete confusion, the fact that the quarter-life crisis isn’t openly discussed is troubling.
On one hand, the idea can sound obtuse, especially when earlier generations grew up with the Great Depression or the Vietnam War. As products of technology and opportunity, college students of today exude some sense of vitality. This vitality is so, that from the outside looking in, nothing seems worth lamenting. This mentality is detrimental. With the pretense of immense opportunities ahead, the fact of the matter is, this crisis remains an unfortunate secret.
But what is it, really?
Between those notorious teenage hormones and balancing everything that’s recommended and required to live and, moreover, to succeed, college is grounds for turbulence. At every corner, the dreaded, loaded question of “What to do after college?” lingers and weighs heavily. Creeping self-doubt swirls between the boy who didn’t text back, the resume that was ignored and number 27 on that orgo midterm. And let’s not forget the student loans and dismal unemployment rates.
As college students, we’re stuck between the naivety of childhood and the harsh reality that can be adulthood. We don’t want to turn cynical, but we refuse to be foolish. We wonder at what point does passion stop and impracticality settle in. We feel concerned that these emotions may derail what are supposed to be the best years of our lives.
Of course, this can’t compare to the real-world tragedies that others go through every day. Knowing that we’re in this position of privilege, however, makes us want to make the most of it (hence those grandiose ideas of bettering the world), but honestly, we don’t even really know how to do that.
How do you deal?
The quarter-life crisis is part of growing up. Tears of frustration aren’t something we can put a Band-Aid on, but there are a few realizations that can soothe some angst-ridden college souls.
The first is creating dialogue. Our community is full of open ears. Being honest about vulnerabilities brings people together. Instead of isolating each other for feeling completely normal feelings regarding adulthood, people should work together to take on these quarter-life crises with full force. There is comfort to be found in knowing that other people are fighting the same battle and that your feelings have validation outside of yourself. Perhaps talking about how to deal with the crises now will breed a generation of adults who can and will better the world.
Second is realizing that the aforementioned balancing act is less a curse and more a blessing. There’s no other time in life when we can do everything we do in college and get away with it. These are the stories that will make our future grandchildren wish they were our best friends. Maybe the best part of this crisis is the reminder that we still have more than three-quarters of our lives to go, and that decisions we make now don’t have the staying power to break us.
The third realization: Letting go of preconceived notions of adulthood is key to maintaining coveted optimism. Society preaches to get a useful major, a stable job, a spouse and a few kids. But it’s necessary to recognize that these guidelines aren’t fixed, they’re simply milestones that the typical person uses to measure his or her life. We don’t have to be typical. We can measure our lives according to that time when we learned Greek or when we conquered our stage fright or when we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
It’s understandable that the traditional milestones are used: They’re tried-and-true paths to normalcy and, occasionally, some standard definition of success. But we don’t want to grow old only to wonder who we could’ve been and what we could have accomplished had we not taken the path of least resistance.
Lastly, it’s necessary to filter out what we want from what the people around us want. Armed with the knowledge that crises, like time, do pass, we need to spend time with ourselves and truly get to know who we are and what kind of adult we want to be, sans white noise. It might be quiet, lonely and scary, but that is OK, because we know we’re not alone. We’re never alone.
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