A quarter-life crisis is a period of intense soul searching and stress occurring in your mid-twenties to early thirties.– TheMuse.com
Part of the troubles you will go through as a fresh graduate is a quarter-life crisis. I always thought that my 20s (after graduation) will be the best time of my life. I made a list of places to explore, books to read, people to visit and lots of other fun activities to indulge in. Not until I found myself going to work with several questions on my mind and returning from work dabbling through those same questions.
I felt like I was trapped. All inspirations lost. Like there is something I am not doing right. Of a sudden, I started feeling lost, scared, confused and even lonely. I found me re-evaluating my career directions (my dream job), my relationships and what exactly it is I want for myself.
I can remember at the beginning of it all, posting a WhatsApp status that read: “You can be in the midst of people but yet feel lonely.” I never knew I only caught the quarter-life crisis flu.😄
The quarter-life crisis occurs in one’s twenties, after entering the real world” (i.e., after graduation, and/or after moving out of the family home).– Meredith Goldstein
[And] if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, “perhaps there is a way to avoid this quarter-life crisis of a thing”, think not. In Erik Erikson’s classic lifespan theory he wrote: experiencing a crisis holds potential for distress and deterioration but it’s only after establishing this personal identity in adolescence that young adults are able to form intense, usually romantic relationships with other people. It is during such difficult periods that a person is motivated to search for new understandings about self and the world, and to find new ways of coping with life’s challenges.🤔
Thus, the quarter-life crisis contains the seeds of change and transformation that tend to be ignored when life is going smoothly. So you just have to deal with it rather than try to avoid it.
Listening to Adam Smiley speak of his quarter-life crisis in a TED talk I came to realise we have a lot in common. Armed with extra knowledge, let’s talk about helping you climb out of the quarter-life crisis.
How to Escape the Quarter-Life Crisis
The first step to getting yourself out of the quarter-life crisis faster is that you need to first know who you are and what you want: your values and what you want out of life. There are several resources to help you with that. If you haven’t gotten anyone already, do let me know. It’s part of the journey.
- Find believers.
First is to move into an environment filled with people going in the same direction as you are. If you want to be a musician, go hang out with fellow artists. The magic behind finding people whose goals align with yours is that you will automatically find accountability. They will become your support network and help make sure you succeed. To find believers, talk to friends and mentors. Make them know your burning passion about this thing you so want so they can point you to any resources they know.
- Raise your curiosity
You don’t have much friends or mentors in other fields? Relax. Think of any career you’d like to be in and take short courses and case studies in them. Fortunately, Reddit and other internet forums have a lot of these case studies. A simple Google search would reveal short courses and more case studies on whatever career you wish to explore. Reading up on other disciplines that attract you opens up your mind to other career options and also helps answer the question: is the right career for me.
- Take a side hustle
Nothing exposes you to the real behind-the-scene of a career than having it as a side hustle. This offers first-hand experience and leaves you wondering, “Is this the career I want for myself?” Side hustles can be another job, volunteering, passion, or anything that keeps your explorer spirit alive.
- Don’t allow your degree to define you.
Looking at the fact that less than 20% of my classmates are into agriculture since graduation proves something to me. You need a degree to compete in today’s world, that’s a basic rule. But you don’t need a degree to pursue reality. So, get a degree but don’t rely on your degree to achieve your life’s task.
- Reduce the noise.
Common man, stop comparing yourself with others. Trust me, I know it’s painful feeling left behind. I once used to feel somehow of me. When I look at my friends, where they are, the jobs they do, I felt bad for me. Well, I turned to my mindset for an answer “maybe there’s a lesson I need to learn from where I currently am to make it to where I should be.” So I spent more of my time trying to understand me. How to go from having nothing to building an empire. The skills of the future. My passions and values. Generally, I had to try to understand who I am, where I am coming from and where I am heading to.
There is this little concept I developed for trying to be the best version of you while keeping a tab on the world.
The idea is to look up to people who are where you want to be — this is your vision. Seeing their success will make you uncomfortable. Then you have to tap through the strength of people who are where you currently are. You need them for daily motivations and to reduce overwhelm in trying to follow the entire footsteps of your vision. Lastly, spend some time with people below you — this helps you feel good about yourself. It’s a baby step approach to living your dream lifestyle.
- Make the ask. Hustle.
Studying how the labour market works and why things happen the way they do I get to realise that, if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no — introvert or extrovert is not useful here. If you don’t put yourself out there, you will never see the light. There are several opportunities out there. There are vacancies everywhere which are not been advertised. To find your way into these jobs you need to learn the art of conversation. You need to learn to walk up to a stranger and start a meaningful conversation. You must learn to go for what you want: a job, a business deal, scholarship, anything.
The heartbreaking part of it all is the amount of rejection that is going to come with meeting people. But then, who cares. If this is the only way to get out of this miserable quarter-life crisis and find meaning for your life, why not do it. Besides, you are also learning how to be bold.
The realisation of what I truly want led to the above thoughts. They now led to the thought of quitting my teaching job. Exploring a lot of digital skills and de-cluttering my thoughts. It wasn’t as though I planned to leave when everyone expected, I planned to leave the moment I realized this is not the real thing. Staying here will only increase my frustrations all day and worsen my backache every morning as I prepare for work.
In the end, I only took this period to understand that I am responsible for myself. You are now responsible for yourself. The crisis is a transition from a kid who relies on daddy and mummy to tell you what to do, to an adult who has to figure out everything for themselves. So, don’t you worry pal, it’s going to be fine. Put in your best and never allow any opportunities to pass you by.
To your success and more grace to you as you climb out of this crisis.
Further reads and research: A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Case Study of Quarter-Life Crisis