Quarter Life Crisis

So what, so I’ve got a smile on, but it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head. Don’t believe me, don’t believe me, when I say I’ve got it down.
– John Mayer, Why Georgia

Ever since I hit the big 2-0, everyone has told me that my twenties will hold the best times of my life. In some aspects, it’s true. I’ve finally managed to find a stable relationship, I’ve traveled independently, and I am holding down a fulltime job. Kudos to me. But I’ve also found that, four years into my twenties, I have been challenged more than I ever thought I would. Please understand, I do realize that in the grand scheme of things, my complaints, my concerns, my problems, are all very small. I do know that I am privileged, I do realize that I have more opportunities than most people around the world will ever have, but I also know that there are plenty of people in their twenties going through the same things as me. And I know that one person’s problems do not trivialize another’s. A lot of us are thinking the same thing, and with me turning a quarter of a century old in a mere eight months, I am full on freaking out. Sometimes, everyone needs to whine, vent, and bitch a little. It gives us that natural glow. And furthermore, it keeps us sane.

At the heart of it, most of us in our twenties are trying to figure out our place in the world. Does what we do really matter? At least for those in the middle class and even the more privileged, there seems to be a certain malaise with everything we do. Take me, for example. I am pursuing my MBA, which I highly enjoy, but because I did not want to take out a six-figure loan (and subsequently pay it back for the rest of eternity), I am working at a job that yes, pays for my degree, but it’s also one where I feel like nothing I’m doing truly matters. Or maybe it’s my micromanager of a boss. And yes, I know some people out there will be like, “Sam quit your bitching, at the end of the day, you don’t have to pay for your MBA.” To which I would respond, “You’re such a poet. Did you know it?” But all kidding aside, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for me and anyone else to feel stuck. To feel dissatisfied.

Les Mis

So where did the quarter life crisis start? Well, with higher levels of competition, we Millenials are under a shit ton of pressure. Pressure to graduate from a top college, pressure to land an awesome job, pressure not to screw up. Let’s be honest, for me, the primary reason I’m getting my MBA is so that I can achieve a higher paying job (in hopefully a field that interests me). Yes, I do love to learn, but I could easily learn things on my own by reading, experimenting, and not necessarily sitting in class for a few hours a few nights a week – and then doing the lovely commute home. Just get out of my way, Prius.

Maybe it’s because of the economy, or maybe because it’s due to our helicopter parents, but either way, the life choices we have to make are slightly overwhelming to say the least. There’s no map for how to do it, and even if there was, the only places on that map would be uncertainty, instability, and maybe even insecurity.

Full House GIF

In 2011, The British Psychological Society identified five stages of the quarter life crisis. The first is a feeling of being trapped by a job or relationship. The second phase includes a feeling that change can happen. The third is where we take action – we quit that job we hate, we end the relationship that’s bad for us, and then we experiment. The fourth phase includes the restructuring phase – where your life looks something like a construction site and you’re looking to rebuild. Lastly, the fifth stage is where we discover new areas and commitments that align with our passions, goals, and interests. Sadly, many of us, including myself, are still stuck in that first stage. We desperately want to shake things up, but we feel that we can’t. Maybe we are too scared of the consequences of potential failure. I have said many times how much I wish I could just quit my job, and go and live in Europe for a year (something that’s been on my bucket list since I was thirteen). But those wily commitments manage to keep me here – actually, it’s just one commitment – I need to finish my MBA first. I do know, however, as soon as I get that degree, my life will be rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. Not only will I gladly resign, but I plan to take at least four months off to go travel. I mentioned earlier that I have traveled independently, but I have never made it to Europe.

So here I am, eight months from 25, and I’m basically an emotional mess. I don’t know how my parents did it, but they owned – not rented – their own house by 25, also got married by 25, gave birth to a legend (and rumored superhero) at 26, and my mother has been in the same job, with the same company, for over 25 years now. For one, I’ll just give my parents a massive round of applause, but two, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around any of those things. I’m 24 and can’t imagine affording a down payment on a house (at least not without some parental help), I’m nowhere near ready to get married, and the idea of children (at least at this point in my life) makes me shudder. Basically, the way I feel about having kids right now is the way I feel whenever I lay eyes on Bagul. That creepy ass pagan god in Sinister. I’m in this weird flux here, and I guarantee I’m not alone in this. Want to start a club, guys?

Who Am I

I guess the only way to get through my impending quarter life crisis is simply to just live it up and live it out. Yes, I feel stuck in my job. But I also realize that it’s temporary – it’s a means to an end. At some point in my twenties, I will live in Europe for some time. I will get a job in a newsroom. I will eventually get married and maybe have kids (sans the Bagul image). Alan Lakein, author of How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, writes about how important it is to list out your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals and characterize them in order of importance. Once you have your goals listed out, write the steps under each goal of how you will come to accomplish it. And maybe that’s what I should be focusing on. The goals I want to will accomplish, and how everything I am doing is helping me get one step closer to them. Yes, there is a ton of emotional upheaval and a lot of indecision, but despite all of that crap, I still think I am moving in the right direction. And so are you. And in the meantime, just stock up on paper bags to get you through those panic attacks.


  1. I should write a response to this entitled “Drunk: How most 20 something’s are coping with their quarter-life crisese”; seriously this is a very positive take. I just whine and party to avoid the ominous unknown. One thing I will say is that it absolutely does not go away once you finish grad school lol, talk about experiencing panic mode to the fullest extent!!!

  2. Michael Lin says:

    Love the post and the advice, I’m not even at that first stage I guess (unemployed) but I can’t wait to see what the rest of my twenties brings! Good luck to you.

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