Are You Experiencing A Quarter Life Crisis?


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quarter life crisis
Does getting dressed every morning in clothes that you buy for work, to drive through traffic in a car that you're still paying off, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave empty all day so you can afford to live in it ... feel meaningless?

If so, you might be experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis.

There's a transitional period in every person's life of leaving adolescence and entering adulthood.  Nothing is really established at this point in our lives.  We're told that our opportunities are endless, that we need to study, work, earn the best possible money, raise the best possible family and make decisions that will affect the rest of our lives.

To those of us who are easily over-stimulated and like taking life slowly, this time can be an overwhelming period of our lives that can lead to stress, feelings of isolation and depression.

Decisions & Societal Expectations

My spirit animal was a cat running across 4 lanes of traffic.  That's how I once felt facing the world.

We've often heard of people suffering Midlife Crisis' but many of us haven't heard about the sufferers of Quarter Life Crisis'.  And no wonder - it's a fairly new affliction affecting our modern generations.  We are the generation of hyper-stimulated, eternally distracted technology addicts after all.

But it's not only that.  Unlike previous generations we have an unprecedented amount of choices flooding us left, right and center.  Certainly, this can be immensely valuable but it's also a great source of stress.  There are so many decisions we have to make that will shape our entire future.  We've gone from a care-free childhood full of comfort and stimulation, to a critical point in our lives where everything is solely our responsibility and fate to decide.

It's no wonder then that experts describe having a Quarter-Life Crisis as a sense of panic and impending doom that your life (career, relationships, etc.) isn't where you'd like it to be.


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Quarter Life Crisis Symptoms

The moment you finish college your diploma feels a little like a trophy and a lot like a receipt.  It's pretty unsurprising then that the need to give up every dream to pay off the large sums of debt usually induces a crisis.

Occurring between the ages of 18 to the late 20's, people experiencing quarter life crisis' can also find themselves hitting a rut even before college, when they have to pick their future field of employment, amongst a million other weighty life choices.

Perhaps one of the most troubling things about facing a quarter life crisis is that important decisions must be made too quickly, and societal expectations must be met constantly.

Your life feels like it's going too fast and is filled with too much pressure.  Suddenly you're thrown out of school and into stress and problems without having received a chance to learn about yourself, or discover what you really want from life.  In essence, you're stuck.

Experiencing a quarter life crisis can also make you feel immensely lonely among other people.  Not only do you feel lonely, but you can also feel anxious and cynical about many aspects of your life.  You can also face deep feelings of existential emptiness, the same kind that can be described in one of my previous Involution articles.

Quarter Life Crisis Insecurity

The first symptoms of the Quarter Life Crisis come in the form of insecurities about your life.  You begin to wonder if you've done anything substantially important with your life so far and you feel unworthy.

Looking around, you feel like everyone is moving forward and is making something important out of their lives except you.  Suddenly your friends are getting married, getting jobs, finishing degrees, or moving away.  Change becomes your enemy as you try to cling to the past, but you eventually realize your attempts are futile.  Life is leaving you behind.

On the lighter side, facing a Quarter Life Crisis can be a time of re-evaluation and self discovery.  It's a time where you can slowly understand more about yourself, learn about your true aspirations and find your greatest faults.  Here are some of the things Quarter Life Crisis sufferers face in this transitional period:

  • Confusion of identity.
  • Insecurity regarding the near future.
  • Insecurity regarding present accomplishments.
  • Re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships.
  • Disappointment with one's job.
  • Nostalgia for college life.
  • Tendency to hold stronger opinions.
  • Boredom with social interactions.
  • Financially-rooted stress.
  • Loneliness.

Conclusion

Personally, I can tell you that facing a Quarter Life Crisis doesn't last forever.  With time, patience and experience it slowly fades away and depending what you do with it, it can provide a positive impact on your life.  On the other hand, facing a quarter life crisis can also cripple your life if you end up following the crowd, comparing yourself to other people, and living up to your peer's and parent's expectations.

Just think about it this way: why go through a Midlife Crisis, when you can evaluate your life when you're young, figure out what you really want to do, and get your existential crisis out of the way?  There are always two sides of the coin.

Join our Quarter Life Crisis Facebook Group to show others that they're not alone!

Take our Quarter Life Crisis Test to find out if you're going through one!

Photo by: Luis Sarabia


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  1. Confused says

    This is me right now. In 2 weeks I’m going to be 25 and I am freaking out! I graduated from college 2 yeas ago with a degree in political science. Ever since I was little I thought I wanted to go to law school. Looking back on it, I think I chose this path for the wrong reasons. So while I was in college, my views changed and I realized that law school wasn’t for me. I continued my political science degree in hopes that I will become passionate about law school because that’s what my mom wanted.
    So after years of stress and anxiety, I finished my degree with a less than stellar GPA. I then considered grad school but that fell through because of my GPA. So now I’m working on getting my teaching certification, but I’m less than enthused about this, but my mom thinks it’s a good idea and she wants me to get a job with health insurance.
    What I really want to do is teach abroad, but I don’t think my mom will go for that. I’m an only child and have been living with my parents all my life so I understand her worry, but it’s like she won’t let me make my own decisions. I just have a lot of insecurity and I think I have an inferiority complex. I’m just so confused and I can’t find the answers.

    • says

      It’s natural to feel confused in this stage of your life, it’s the moment society as deemed ‘pivotal’ in making decisions that will affect the rest of our life.

      It’s unfortunate; we spend most of our childhood studying and are given little time to actually get to know ourselves, who we are, what we want, and yet it is during this period we are demanded to make a decision for the future. A decision based on what our parents want, what our church wants, what our society expects from us, what our friends are doing but nobody allows us to decide what we want to do.

      Confusion can be paralyzing, it’s about making a firm decision no matter what the cost. Living ‘safely’ doing something we don’t really enjoy just to keep our parents and peers happy is not truly living, it is merely surviving our of fear of discomfort.

      If you want to teach abroad, go ahead; be prepared others will disagree but also be aware that by doing so it will provide you the necessary space from other people to find yourself. It might not work out to be something you enjoy for the rest of your life, but during the process you’ll develop the confidence in yourself and space necessary to decide what truly fulfills you.

  2. Insecure GF says

    Hi Mateo

    My boyfriend is experiencing some of these symptoms. He´s unsure of everything and we’ve already broken up twice. The main issue is that I’m always keeping tabs on him. He´s been like these for over two weeks.
    And im worried about being too late to try to help with the crisis. Give him time and cut him some slack. Im very scared and i dont know how to help him.

    • says

      Hola Insecure,

      It’s wonderful that you’re so involved and concerned with your beloved, but often these crisis require time, space and plenty of it.

      It depends on the level of crisis he is in, an identity crisis, an existential one or the beginning of a spiritual awakening all have different degree’s of intensity and different needs.

      Sometimes on top of all that they are experiencing, being in a relationship can make it even more difficult as you feel ‘guilty’ that you can’t be fully there 100% for the other person yet at the same time not wanting to be completely alone and forgotten.

      Lending a helping hand and a shoulder to rest on is all you can do without demanding or expecting much to happen till things take their natural coarse.

  3. Florian says

    I meet myself several times in this text. I am 24 and never had a girlfriend. I still live in my room in my parents house. I always had the plan to expand the house with a second living area. And now as I want to start with this plan next year, I struggle. Hardcore. One of the biggest problems I have is, that I think that I will never ever get a girlfriend when I fulfil this plan. I always think, that no girl will ever take a guy who is “living with his parents” at this age. This wouldn’t be a problem. But I am very lonely and I long for a girlfriend quite a while. And so I really struggle with my life at the moment and I have very depressive feelings and thoughts. I really like the sentence
    “On the other hand, facing a quarter life crisis can also cripple your life if you end up following the crowd, comparing yourself to other people”

    But thats always easier said than done.

    • says

      Hola Florian,

      I can understand the frustration you must feel, I’ve met many people in the same situation.

      My experience is that it is all matter of the attitude you have toward your circumstances; some people will feel miserable about it and others will look at it as a challenge to grow and improve.

      I remember one of our students was in exactly the same situation, but when he realized that living with his parents not only saved him a lot of money to use to dress elegantly, afford a nice car and attend events like dancing classes, zumba, church private functions where he met his wife who actually admired and appreciated he was such a family oriented person so as to stay at home living with his parents till marriage (many Asian, Latin, Greek and Italian cultures value that a lot).

      It’s all in the way we frame things in life. Stick in there and find a new way of perceiving your current situation and I guarantee it will make the world of difference. :)

      Warmly,

      Sol

      • Florian says

        Hello Mateo,

        Thanks for your reply and the kind words.
        Nontheless I am very frustated and even suffering depression because of that.
        I sincerely hope to come out of this struggle. But at the moment it isn’t looking that good.

        Flo

        • says

          You will come out of that depression, every does eventually.

          The interesting thing about many of these mental sufferings is that the more attention we give it, the more it perpetuates itself.

          If you are worried about getting anxious in social setting, you develop social anxiety. You become afraid of being afraid, or become more depressed because you feel you’re depressed.

          Reality is a play of attention, wherever you direct that attention will attract whatever has captured it.

          • Florian says

            Thank you Mateo for your kind and helpful words. I hope you are right.

            Just 2 questions:
            1.) How old was the student when he got married?
            2.) Could Involution help me get better again? Become happy again?

            • says

              The student that got married was 30 when I met him and he got married at 32.

              The Buddhist have an interesting way of interpreting “happiness” and that is, a lack of suffering. They don’t believe we can become happy, we are all naturally happy. But they believe that we can get rid of what they call ‘dukkha’ or suffering.

              Involution is a system of work we’ve developed to get rid of all these perceptions of life that make us suffer and allow you to be your authentic ‘happy’ self. Even happiness is something illusionary as it comes in contrast to moments of suffering. What we aim for with Involution is to go beyond happiness, to experience “joy” which is moments of inner peace that aren’t part of the happy/sad emotional roller coaster.

              I’ve had such interest in Involution from our readers online that I’m considering implementing some of my real life Involution work into an online “Course” of sorts for our website in the near future :)

    • says

      Hola Doraemon,

      If you finish your Bachelor and decide to change your path in life at least you’ll know that you tried this path of careers and studying and it didn’t fulfill you. It will save you the doubts that some people have of “what if’s” later in life.

      There’s a different kind of value when a spiritual beggar chooses to live like a beggar or when a prince chooses to live like one. One doesn’t have any other option while the other has given up significantly in order to live that lifestyle.

    • Anthony says

      Don’t give up hope, I finished my bachelors at 25 after transfers from 2 2 schools in two states( Ohio and NYS)