Friday, October 4, 2013

Quarter Life Crisis....It Happens

We’ve all heard the old clich├ęs about a mid-life crisis—the stories about men getting motorcycles, women getting tummy tucks, or someone running off with a lover half their age. I’m sure middle age is a difficult transition, and mid-life crises definitely deserve the laughable attention they have been given.

However, there is a crisis that receives far less attention but is no less real—or ridiculous for that matter. It is just as much a crisis of identity and a second-guessing game that plagues the mind, keeps people from sleeping, enables those suffering to make some questionable decisions, and makes people go a little crazy.

This is the case of the quarter-life crisis, or as I have fondly started to refer to mine as the QLC. It rolls off the tongue a little sweeter, if nothing else.

I have debated on whether or not to write this now—or when I’m through said crisis, but I figured now is as good a time as any. At least, it’s all fresh right now, so there will be none of that sugar-coating stuff or stating obvious pretty lies like:  “it only gets better from here,” or “these are the best years of your life.”

What I can write right now is raw and real. Being in the mid-twenties sucks. Don’t get me wrong. It has its share of glorious moments, and for those I am quite grateful (however, this is not the blog post for fluffy, feel-good thoughts. This is my crisis post, and I’m determined to have it).

Sure, as twenty-somethings, we have a little bit of free time, we’re making good money, we’re all climbing ladders and working toward those awesome futures we’ve always wanted. If you’re like me, you have great people in your life, and most days, things are pretty good.

But, when the big 2-5 starts looming, so do a million questions, doubts, and overthinking every mistake you’ve ever made. At least, that’s what it’s been like for me—and for several friends who I have asked about similar situations in their lives.

The thing is, we spend our teenage years being told that we can be whatever we want to be, our college years being proven that that’s not exactly the case, and our twenties dealing with the harsh realities of the real world—a world that knocks us down a lot more than it picks us up.  

For most of us, we have bosses, landlords, and superiors. We have hierarchy in our lives. We’re kind of at the bottom of the totem pole, and even as we climb, there are plenty of people—and situations—that remind us of our place in the world.  

We have turmoil in the constant changing of certain friendships and relationships. The twenties are a time in which most of us are kind of floating. We aren’t tied to certain cities or to certain people—aside from a select few individuals. If we’re single and childless, we have no real responsibility to anyone, which can lead to a slight level of selfishness (although I’m not discrediting the importance of such selfishness once in a while). As a result, it’s hard to find people who stick around—regardless of the situation. Sometimes, we’re the ones running or drifting; other times, it’s someone else.

Either way, it doesn’t get less messy or less painful. Whenever someone leaves or a heart is broken, it is difficult. Still, this is just a day in the life of a normal twenty-something. We have our fair share of goodbyes and broken hearts, failed relationships and burned bridges. Yet, as we approach the ripe old age of 25 (some may hit this earlier or later, I suppose—but I’m two weeks away from being a quarter of a century old), we start to question whether or not we’ve burned bridges too soon, or if we should have given someone just one more shot. It’s not healthy. We know it’s not, and it leads to even more unhealthy behaviors—like losing sleep or an occasional night of binge drinking.



None of this helps; yet, we do it anyway. We overanalyze. We get caught up in a lot of useless “what might have been” scenarios or start to think that we’re horrible people because of the mistakes we’ve made.

Whether it’s work, relationships, friendships, self-identity, or a sudden hatred of your eyebrow shape, the mid-twenties are a heady time.

We begin to notice things like the fact that we have ugly toes, or that we talk too loudly, or that we’re actually bad drivers. We start picking apart little things we’ve always done and think, “Oh, honey, that’s why you no have.” Whatever the “no have” part may be, it’s like pouring gasoline on a bonfire when we begin to pick up on all of our little imperfections in crazed detail.

If you’re lucky like me, when you bring these things out into the open, your loving roommate will fill in the “oh honey” part for you and remind you that that’s, indeed, “why you no have.”

Much like those middle-agers, we go into an identity crisis that leads to stupid ideas. We get tattoos, go out and party until 2 a.m. on a random Tuesday night, date someone who’s totally wrong for us, and make our friends listen to forced, never-ending therapy sessions where we ask stupid questions like:  “What if this is it?” or “What if I’m doing it all wrong?” or, even worse, “Am I always going to be so screwed up in the head?”

We may even try to make a life change of some sort, but I think the most important thing we can do is to use this struggle to find out who we are, what we want from life, and what we need to do about it. Most importantly, we need to discover that we’re doing pretty damn well in the scheme of things.



Sure, there are probably some things we could have all done better and some decisions we wish we hadn’t made. But, we have two options:  1) We can dwell on those mistakes, or 2) We can look to someone older who’s made far worse decisions and validate our decisions because they weren’t that bad.

I’m kidding—at least on the second option. I firmly believe that the only real option is to learn from the past, chalk it up to experience, and move forward with a positive outlook toward all that we have done right.

Now, having said all of that, I’m sure that this would be a bit more helpful and full of good information, had I actually made it to that shining light on the other side of the QLC. But, even from inside the tunnel, I can see the light, and I realize that it’s all about making positive strides toward that place of acceptance.

To all my friends who have survived a QLC, good on you! To those who may be in one, let's grab a beer, because misery loves company. To those who have not yet had the pleasure of entering this time of insanity, gear up, buttercup. It’s coming.