Monday, June 9, 2014

The Quarter-life Crisis

June 5th marked my first month as a real adult. My first month holding down a real adult job. My first month legitimately worrying about money and insurance and credit cards and bills. My first month realizing life after college isn't all it's cracked up to be.

My first month as a "real adult" was a roller coaster of emotions, and thus set off the most intimidating, confusing, and exhilarating time of my life, or,  what I now affectionately refer to as my Quarter-life Crisis.

After having talked to several of my friends who have graduated within the last year, I discovered that this whole quarter-life crisis thing isn't exclusive to me. In talking to my friends, we've come to the conclusion that no one tells you about the creepy depression that sets in after you graduate from college, and that no one tells you how hard working life is going to be, and that no one tells you how to be happy when life as you know it has literally turned upside down.

Thus, here I am. Telling the world about "The Quarter-life Crisis" as I know it. In the hope that maybe the world can help me through mine, and that maybe the next unsuspecting 22-year-old who finds herself walking across the stage on graduation day won't feel as terribly, hopelessly lost as the rest of us do.

How to know if you have fallen victim to The Quarter-life Crisis: 

1. You will feel lost and confused every. single. day.

What you once knew was your life goal, your 10-year plan, your dream job, or whatever you call it will seem a little less appealing for no good reason at all. You'll find yourself second guessing every decision you've made up to this point, and you'll wonder if the path you've chosen is actually the right one for you. Even if you have a job, you'll always be wondering if grad school or a different career path is right for you. 

Up until the moment I graduated from BYU, I knew I wanted to be a sports reporter or features writer. I wanted to get to know people and things and stories and share everything I learned with the world. Now, however, I've found myself wondering if I even want to be a journalist. I find myself asking myself if I should go to grad school to be counselor or to study marketing or if I should go into teaching or if I should try to break into the PR world. At the end of the day, nothing seems to make sense anymore.

2. You will feel alone.

Even though you're not alone. There have been weeks that I've been social every night of the week, and yet I still come home and feel a little empty inside. 

Up until college graduation, our minds are always occupied with something: homework, tests, projects, internships, applications, whatever. There's always something on your mind and on your to-do list. But after you walk across that stage, all of that changes. Gone are the days when you always had something to do or something to work on when you got home. And once those days are over, you won't really know how to fill your time or know what to do with all the extra brain space you suddenly have. 

What makes matters worse is that your friends who are still in college just don't get it. There is no way they can possibly imagine the void you're feeling, which will just make you feel more lonely and pathetic.

3. You will feel overwhelmed. 

Everyone around you will ask about your new job, what kind of benefits you have, if you've started building your credit, what is the next step you're planning to take in your professional career, if you've started a 401K plan, what you're investing in, when you're going to get married, where you want to live for the rest of your life, if you've thought about life insurance, how soon you can get a promotion, and a number of other questions that will force you to think about the daunting future that is ahead of you.

But really though....
You will be forced to think about how advertising executives, magazine editors and CEOs got to where they are. You will be forced to think about exactly how you plan to achieve your dreams, because up until this point everything has been pretty abstract, if you really think about it. You will be forced to learn about things like credit and interest rates and other important things that up until this point have only mattered to your parents. 

And you will inevitably wonder how you will ever be able to make it all happen. You will seriously wonder how (or even if) you'll be able to cut it as a successful adult in the 21st century. 

4. All of your emotions (especially the bad ones) will be amplified.

When things are good, you'll feel happier than you usually do because this is your life and it's awesome. But when things are bad, you'll feel more sad and empty than you usually do because this is your life and why isn't it everything you dreamed it would be?

Full disclosure: I went through a breakup during my quarter-life crisis (seriously, avoid that if you can....). And when things didn't work out, I felt like my world had been ripped apart. I didn't know what to do anymore. I had been through several breakups before, but I suddenly didn't know how to get over the deep, painful sadness I was feeling. I had never felt that kind of anger and sadness and hurt before. The new, amplified sadness you will inevitably feel will rock your world, and it'll be terrifying because you probably won't have experienced anything like it before. 

Conversely, once you figure out how to be happy (which I still haven't really figured out....anyone have any good tips???), your happiness will feel richer, deeper and more fulfilling. A good friend recently told me that life is only going to get harder the older we get, which, of course, means there is greater potential to feel more sadness and heartache. But if things are going to get harder, they're also going to get happier and more fulfilling. So you might as well just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. 

5. Your priorities will change.

Staying out until 2 a.m. on a week night will no longer sound like fun. Inviting the guy you've had a crush on for four months over will no longer seem like a good idea. Going shopping for a new outfit just because you can will, all of a sudden, sound very stupid. Instead, all you're going to want is a good night's sleep (because, believe me, you're always going to feel tired), a few good friends to hang out with on weekends, enough money to fill your tank up with gas, and to know that everything is going to be okay. 

I've found this part of The Quarter-life Crisis to be kind of disheartening. I'm 22! Just a young pup! I should be out skydiving and blowing money on dumb crap and living the dream, right? But it's been shocking to see how quickly I've stopped feeling like a carefree college student and started developing the mindset of a responsible adult. It's scary and weird and I don't know how I feel about all of it.

6. You will realize that you, and you alone, are in charge of your destiny.

The good news is you literally have the world at your feet. All of the confusion, uncertainty, change and newness will combine to make the most exciting time of your life. You will realize that your decisions are completely your own. Not your parents', not your professors', not your bosses', not your friends'. Yours. And that's pretty freakin' cool. 

You will realize that you can let The Quarter-life Crisis, with all its ups and downs and weirdness, defeat you and force you into becoming an unhappy person, or you can use all of the strange emotions you're feeling to fuel your fire. Despite how confusing and weird your life has become, there's something exhilarating and exciting and empowering knowing you are in charge.

And so, I've decided to let The Quarter-life Crisis show me just how strong I am and how capable I am of doing whatever the heck I feel like doing. Though I still don't know what my next career move will be, and I certainly don't know enough about 401K's and investing and credit, I do know that I can choose to be happy on a daily basis. I can choose to believe in my future and my potential to do great things. I can choose to believe that God has a plan for me and that no matter how confusing and weird things get, everything is going to be more than okay. 

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, everything is going to work out. And we'll all end up exactly where we were meant to be. And we'll all be really happy that we didn't just make it through The Quarter-life Crisis, but that we beat the living crap out of it.

1 comment:

  1. The Quarter-life Crisis seems a lot like a Mid-life Crisis or a Becoming-a-senior-citizen Crisis. I think you've aptly described life. So, keep the faith, opt for a good mood, shop if it takes the place of a psychiatrist, eat healthily and hang on because it's likely to be a bumpy if exhilarating ride.

    P.S. I enjoy your writing, so no quitting that!