I remember a few years ago when I was in my late teens, I was hanging out with a friend who was about to turn 26. I asked her if she was looking forward to it; she undoubtedly said that she is and she can’t wait to be 30. According to her mid to late twenties were the worst years. I couldn’t believe it, I thought these were supposed to be the best years of your life. She said “they are the worst and most unstable years of your life”.
I assumed the most confusing years were the ones you are in college; when you transition from being a high school student; mamas child to an adult. With optional yet compulsory classes to attend. A new city or town to learn, few bills to pay and expectations to meet. Little did I know, she really knew what she was talking about. Your mid to late twenties are the years where you kind of go through an existential quarter life crisis.
It is a period of severe discomfort, un-fulfillment, confusion, anger, discouragement and frustration. It is also the period where you start questioning everything; yourself, your parents, your friends, your course or work, your faith and why you are still here or if your life has meaning. I tried to sum up the 5 things you go through when are having a quarter life crisis and how to refute them:
1. Asking yourself on a daily basis what is the purpose of your life.
Wake up, go to school or work, go to the gym, call your parents, hang out with your friends and go back to sleep to repeat the same cycle again for the next 5 days. You frequently ask yourself if this is what you are born to do, if this is as good as life gets, if this is the life that you imagined you would have when you were 10 and didn’t know any better. You question your decisions, or your course or even the country you live in until you no longer feel like you know who you are and what you want. This feeling can consume you and when you find yourself in this identity crisis, you just need to realize that you do have a purpose and you are not the only who is not content with their lives and you are not the only one struggling to find the meaning of your life or who you really are.
It is normal to feel this way, but the good news is- you can change it, but one step at a time, answer one question at a time, alter one routine at a time, think one thought at a time, because life will reveal to you who you are and what you want eventually, but if you are too busy trying to rush life to answer your burning questions, you will never know if the answers you are getting are the right ones for you or if the changes you are making are adding value to your life.
2. You make terrible, and I mean terrible love choices.
You find yourself in very toxic relationships, or “almost” relationships, or undefined relationships, or unrequited love. When you are not sure about who you are or what you want, you search for instant gratification and tend to pick partners who are just good for the moment, over time, you realize that they don’t treat you well or respect you. They ignore you or make fun of you or just think of you as someone to pass time with and you would be surprised how you will enable that kind of behavior because when you feel like a mess, everything messy is appealing. It is easy to feel stupid and be hard on yourself when you look back at these choices, but the truth is crisis or not; anyone is prone to making wrong love choices, it takes a few wrong ones to appreciate the right one, and it takes a few lessons to finally get it right.
As long as you keep loving yourself as you go through this crisis, as long as you do not define yourself by how your love interests treated you, as long as you don’t generalize these experiences and think everyone will break your heart, you will understand that this is also a normal part of the human experience. Especially when it comes to the matters of the heart, things can be a little bit wobbly and it does not require crisis management, it just requires time, patience and self-awareness.
3. You will fight a lot with your parents and friends.
When you are going through a quarter life crisis; every week brings a new challenge, because every week you are a different person. This dissonance tend to offend those who are leading more harmonious lives, most of the time, they are the people closest to you, and they don’t usually get it, so they point fingers and accuse you of being a bad friend or bad son/daughter or just a bad person altogether. This is the hardest part because it is hard to take their words in stride, and it is hard not to feel like you have let the people who love you the most down. You will be flustered and caught between trying to defend yourself and trying to please them, when you find yourself in this battle, don’t try to please anyone but yourself. Because this is your life, and you are trying to make sense out of it, but if you lose yourself in that process by trying to attend to everyone’s needs, you will never be able to get out of this crisis.
You will resent those people for hindering this process, you will find yourself blaming them instead of focusing on your issues, you will feel isolated, detached, misunderstood and lonely. When you do, feel all those feelings wholeheartedly, throw tantrums, and have meltdowns. Feel them with every inch of your body and all your soul. Feel them until you no longer have to feel them, until they no longer consume you, until they no longer take away your light. Because the real crisis is denying ourselves to feel sad, or lost or confused. The real crisis is trying to pretend that we are happy when we are not, the real crisis is fooling ourselves in order to fool people into believing we are fine- nobody wins.
4. You will compare yourself to those around you.
We are all guilty of this. We compare our lives to our friends and our peers and wonder where we went wrong. Why did he get the gig you were yearning for? Why did she get engaged to the guy you liked? What do they have that I don’t? One of the worst things you can do when you are at your lowest is to compare yourself to those who are at their highest, or compare in general. The truth is there are many things you want or wanted that didn’t happen but it doesn’t have to be because of anything you lacked or a weakness on your end. It is just not meant to be part of your story, or it is not your story. Everyone has a different story in this life, and to compare yourself to someone whose story is different than yours, is to set yourself for a lifetime of misery and discontent.
Maybe the highlight of your story is not your twenties, maybe the highlight of your story will come later, maybe the highlight of your story is much bigger than you imagined therefore it is taking more time, maybe the highlight of your story is you. The bottom line is that it is not a crisis to want to be better and achieve bigger things, it is a crisis when you compare your life to others and dwell on how unfortunate your life is compared to them when you two are leading different stories with different endings. Each story comes with different struggles and different battles you know nothing about. One day, when your story sparkles, you will wonder why you even thought of anyone else and wasted years of feeling inadequate over something that was not meant to be yours.
5. It is not a crisis.
Finally, a quarter life crisis is not a crisis! It is simply a natural progression of personal growth, an evolution of yourself. You are growing up, you are learning, you are discovering new talents within you, meeting different people, and going through experiences that challenge your thoughts and beliefs. You are exploring life, you are getting through adulthood at a time of endless choices, options and opportunities and a bunch of absurd expectations and instructions and rules. It is hard not to get sucked in, it is hard to be content, it is hard to be stable when you feel that something better might be out there, or that you are capable of doing much more.
But it is not a crisis. It is not a crisis to fail and try again, or love and get hurt, or grow old and not grow up. It is not a crisis that your life is not great by your mid or late twenties, it is not a crisis to fall behind, or fall short or mess up sometimes. The manual of life doesn’t really embrace all kinds of people. As long as you can still smile when you are hurting, or support a friend when they are down, or take care of a dog, or help out a stranger, or help an old lady crossing the street then you are not going through a crisis. As long as you keep trying to love yourself, and trying to manifest your talents, and trying to evolve into your authentic self, you are not going through a crisis. It is not called a crisis, it is called life.