I’m sure everyone reading this has heard of the term quarter-life crisis. Some people, like me, might be living it. Right now, there are countless of articles floating around the internet with soulful advice about how to deal with it or lists about what to do and what not to do during these years.
If you don’t know, quarter-life crisis is known as the period of life from early to mid twenties and all the stress that comes with growing up and becoming “an adult”—whatever that means. Many have written articles about what it’s like to be in your twenties, about the identity crisis a lot of people go through during this period of their lives. But… does anyone do it justice? I don’t think so.
The truth is that, unless you’re going through it, you don’t know. And, even when you are going through it, you most likely don’t know how to explain it. I sure as hell don’t.
However, this is how I see it:
On one hand, you want to trick everyone, including yourself, into thinking that you have this adulting thing down. On the other, you can feel out of touch with reality if you honestly do feel like you have it down, because, are you being a farce? And then, there’s the guilt. Because… is this so-called crisis an excuse for your mistakes? Are you being an ungrateful a-hole? Do you really need to call it a crisis? Are you ignoring all the other different ways you might be privileged?
The many articles out there assure you that everyone your age is going through the same things you are, but how come there are so many of your peers getting married? Or starting successful projects? Or traveling? Or doing any of the things you wish you could be doing but haven’t been able to do? Where is their quarter-life crisis? (You ask yourself these questions while eating ice cream or chocolate on a Saturday night spent by yourself. I mean, probably.)
These same articles ask you not to compare yourself to others, to go at your own pace, to figure out what you need and want without checking in on how everyone else is doing. And yes, they’re essentially right. We shouldn’t do it. But it’s pretty damn hard not to. Especially when social media exists so that you can keep in touch with all those people whose lives you’re now envying. (And to make internet friends with people who like the same things you do.)
Not comparing yourself to others is a good advice to survive any type of life-crisis, so I try to follow it. It works a little. Whenever I’m feeling in the middle of a quarter-life crisis meltdown, I also try (try being the operative word) to stop for a second and think about what I have achieved at the age of 23, because the truth is, sometimes we forget. We tend to undermine our small successes in order to run after bigger dreams that may take a little longer to attain.
There’s a reason why there seems to be a tendency of older people thinking that “the new generation” wants everything right this moment! Because in a way, we kind of do want to have it all and have it now. This attitude leads us to somehow think we can skip the years of hard work that it takes for great things to happen. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of this. (If you haven’t, don’t take this personally and teach me your ways!)
That’s why besides not comparing myself to others and appreciating more what I have, I’m also trying to live by a new mantra: #DontSkipTheWork. If I want to become successful in writing, if I want to be healthier, if I want to travel more, I can’t hope or think these things will just happen to me. I have to set a base, I have to make sacrifices, I have to commit. But most importantly, I have to start doing instead of just planning. (Which is how this site/blog came to life.)
I’m sure there are a lot of hard-workers twenty-somethings that have been breaking their backs pursuing their dreams and making sacrifices, but haven’t gotten where they wanted to be still. Hell, I’m sure there are many thirty, forty, fifty-somethings in that same place. I don’t have advices. I don’t have the secrets of finding “success”, whatever your definition of it is.
What I do have is the belief that things happen for a reason, that I’m in the exact place where I need to be right now, that every period of my life has had its charm, that everyone’s going through a different crisis, that judging others leads nowhere, that I’m both special and not special at the same time, that letting go does wonders, that hard work pays off in different ways and that things will be okay somehow. (Also, perspective is key. Let’s get some.)
PS: Thanks to Mari and Christine for helping out with the editing.