Your twenties are supposed to be a walk in the park, right? What could go wrong in a time when you are supposed to be hanging out with your friends telling jokes in a coffee shop all day? Seems like a pretty good life. What most people don’t tell you about being in your twenties is that you will most likely be hit with a painful experience conveniently summed up in the term “quarter life crisis.” A quarter life crisis happens some time in a person’s twenties when he or she experiences an overwhelming sense of confusion about identity, purpose, and the meaning of life as a whole.
I’m sure there are many of you out there who are going through this tough time. Trust me, I understand. I’m still recovering from my quarter life crisis that came over me when I was newly 20 years old. It hit me after watching Donny Darko for the first time. All of a sudden, I felt the responsibility I had to take to make my life a success and the inherent meaninglessness and fragility of life come crashing down on me like (spoiler alert) the jet engine that crushes Donny at the end of the movie. This feeling of being lost in the world followed me around for months, but what made matters worse was that I felt like I was the only one who was feeling this way. I thought my early twenties were supposed to be fun care-free time. Was I the only one getting it wrong? I’m here to tell you that you are not alone in feeling confused, isolated and even terrified at this point in your life and it can get better.
There are two things that helped me recover from my quarter life crisis: awareness and wellness. Today’s tips will make sure you’re aware of the possibility of experiencing a crisis by knowing the symptoms and the possible causes for the crisis. Meet me back here next Tuesday for my tips on wellness in the face of a quarter life crisis.
Signs of A Quarter Life Crisis
- An overwhelming sense of confusion
You question all your life choices and constantly feel lost even around familiar places or people. You may have had a set plan of how your life was going to play out and now you are questioning everything you thought you wanted in life.
- Nostalgic longing for “the good old days”
You might not have loved being in high school, but in the middle of a crisis you might find yourself wishing you could have lunch in the cafeteria with your friends again. You may even start taking trips home more often just to feel closer to a simpler time in your life.
- Difficulty making choices
Forget choosing careers, where to live, or who to date, any decision at all will seem overwhelming. When you are having a quarter-life crisis choosing what to drink with lunch takes a serious internal debate.
- Isolation and deep thinking
Nothing says “quarter life crisis” like spending all of your alone time thinking about heavy topics like the meaning of life or the nature of evil. It’s okay if you spend some time alone reflecting, but too much time spent brooding on darker subjects can make a crisis last longer.
Possible Causes of A Quarter Life Crisis
1. Being far from home
Having to deal with major life problems far from the comforts of home and the help of your parents can really kick off a quarter life crisis. Don’t run back to your family’s house just yet, because leaving home is a normal part of growing up and should not be avoided. However, you should prepare yourself for the amount of freedom and responsibility moving out or moving far away can bring.
- Having to make serious choices about the future
Big choices that question your idea of what your future should look like can easily bring on a crisis. Having to choose a major, a job, or an apartment can stir up questions of whether or not you are on the right path. You may have the sudden urge to study chemistry even though you’re a dance major or move out to a rural town when you’re looking at apartments on Craigslist. Watch out for these big choices and make sure you really know yourself and what you want before you change majors or sign a twelve month lease.
- Questioning your beliefs
Once outside the sphere of your hometown, you will encounter people from all different walks of life and belief systems which will make you question your own. Working towards personal growth and challenging your preconceived notions are good things, but work on developing new beliefs before you completely throw away the old ones.
- A rosy picture of how your 20’s should be
Society is great at giving everyone unrealistic expectations and it sure does a pretty good job at telling everyone how great young adulthood should be. Whether it’s sitcoms painting an unrealistic picture of how “fun” adulthood is, or your parents’ friends telling you to “live it up while you can,” don’t let other people’s notions of young adulthood leave you thinking your life should be perfect right now.
The Golden Takeaway: Don’t think you’re the only one feeling this way or that it’s not normal to go through a quarter life crisis. The majority of people I’ve talked to have experienced some form of a quarter life crisis in their lives.
For Families: Be mindful of the possibility that the young people in your family might be struggling with a quarter life crisis. They might not have a mortgage and three kids to care for, but a quarter life crisis is nonetheless a real problem to face. Nothing makes a crisis worse for young adults than their older family members telling them they have nothing to worry about.
So you learned what a quarter life crisis looks like and what might cause one to happen to you. Now it’s time to learn how to recover from this chaotic period of your life. Be sure to read my second post in this series, Quarter Life Crisis: Wellness.
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