Coming to Terms with My Quarter Life Crisis

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Lisa Rogers

September 14, 2016

Adulthood was filled with such promise when I was 18 and headed off to college. I don’t know about you, but I was under the impression that by checking all the boxes, by performing well in school and being involved that somehow “adulthood” would be awesome; that all of a sudden I would be given a giant “you did it!” sticker. But to be honest, it feels a little bit like showing up to a birthday party and finding out there is no cake.

I turn 25 this month. I am one year into my post-graduate career. I have been successful in many things and not so much in others. I have made friends and lost them.  

This is me and my Quarter Life Crisis. Urban Dictionary defines a quarter life crisis as occurring “sometime in your twenties, a few years out of school and still feel as though you’re waiting for your life to begin.”  Bingo. More and more I hear this term used, particularly by women in my life, but no one really talks about what it looks and feels like or how it can take an enormous toll on you.  No one prepared me for this.

Some hallmarks of my personal crisis:

  1. Restlessness. Throughout my life I have bounced from one stage to the next; education (re: life) sets you up to think this way. We are a society and educational system built on milestones. We celebrate graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc.  Whenever you check one box, there is another one to work toward. Until graduation from college, there is not much time for young people to think about who they are in absence of these milestones. We become defined by them. At least this happened for me. Now that I have met a number milestones, I don’t know what to do with myself. On multiple occasions I have told my partner and friends that I “just need something to look forward to.” I am inclined to think that there is always something better than the present. I can’t help but think “What’s next?”

  1. Envy. I am pretty open about the fact that I have a serious case of Facebook envy, but in reality this envy expands into my everyday life as well. The more I think about it, the more I think it is rooted in competition against other women in my life. I have always been a competitive person, but I think it is so much more than that. As I struggle with figuring out who I am, how can I avoid animosity toward others in my life. I want to be happy for the accomplishments and milestones of my friends, but it is challenging because I’m often left feeling jealous and left behind.

  1. Dissatisfaction. As a result of the aforementioned points, I find that being in the midst of this Quarter Life Crisis causes me to be dissatisfied with my life now. This is absolutely ridiculous; I have so much to be grateful for in my life, so much to look forward to (!) and so many friends and family members that care about me and vice versa.

So, why am I writing about this on the Women in Student Affairs blog? Well, I hope that this resonates with readers and makes you feel a little less alone. Secondly, I have found that the main thing that makes this Quarter Life period so challenging is that I am keenly aware of the way I am feeling. I think about it, recognize it, and ruminate all while knowing I probably don’t need to feel the way I’m feeling. In my student affairs study, we focus so much on development and moving students to the next step, but I think we also do this to ourselves, our peers, and our colleagues. How do we begin to help our colleagues and students be okay in the unsettledness that is post-grad life?

Though I have no solutions for those of you looking for one, I have found a couple things that work for me: 1) Practice gratitude daily - in a journal, to a partner - just do it, 2) Find something that fills your heart whether at work or not, 3) Identify someone you can talk to about your struggle.  We are not alone, nor should we be.  If we are more open about the struggles faced at the quarter-life period, we can better assist each other and ourselves in this journey.

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