The Quarter-Life Crisis (QLC) is real. It’s essentially a midlife crisis for young people (usually between ages 22-35) but worse because you’re supposed to be carefree, drinking, partying, and looking the best you ever will in life yet you don’t understand why you feel “empty” and numb to it all. Although you appear to be “living your best life,” you realize your current situation does not bring fulfillment, purpose, or happiness, and you feel lost in how to change things for the better. These feelings can stem from two perspectives,
- Feeling stuck in an adult role you don’t want
- Feeling unable to enter the adult role you want
For me, the QLC hit when I had accomplished my goals– I was making a great salary, living in Manhattan with a full social schedule from Tuesday to Sunday, a cool job on Wall Street, and a new relationship. I was a self-made badass, I was told, but I didn’t feel like one. I finally had the life I had fought for and I was not happy. I just felt empty.
I was one of the first ones in my friend group to experience the QLC. I remember close friends not understanding why I would be so depressed, telling me to switch jobs, do more yoga, and read self-help books. I tried all of them, but none would help get rid of that constant feeling in my chest that made it difficult to breathe, think, and feel. It is a state of mind that can easily be associated with clinical depression, but in most cases the two are separate. This is why it is so important for me to speak about the QLC because I would have felt so much better knowing that I was not alone.
With that said, I will attempt to share with you in a concise manner what the QLC is based on my experience, my friends, and all the online material I have read. Below are brief explanations of the QLC stages:
- Denial: you realize there is something wrong; you feel sad, angry, anxious and somehow numb all at the same time. Yet, you tell yourself it must just be a bad day. You associate how you are feeling as a result of a clear issue in your life – bad relationships, evil bosses, low-paying jobs, annoying roommates, dictator parents, ….etc
- Finding Band-aids: Ok, I got this, I can reintroduce purpose, fulfilment, and happiness into my life. I am going to do meditation. Shit! That didn’t work, onto yoga, that is more my thing anyways. This stage will lead to temporary relief, and it is also the most dangerous. Depending on how many Band-Aids you find, you will only prolong the process.
- Acceptance: Shit, I am screwed! You have identified the real issue and even if you won’t admit it to yourself, you know exactly what must change. In this stage, it is important to know that you are not alone. It is also important to do some research about the QLC and find solutions on how to cope– more information to come in another blog post.
- Change: Unarguably the best and worst phase. You start to create the change you want and need in your life. It may be difficult, uncomfortable and even painful, but it will pay off tenfold. In this stage, it is important that you find a support network that understands the situation and reminds you why you are making this change. When you begin to redefine success and happiness to others around you, opposition is inevitable. This is unfortunately part of the process because many people around you are still in the denial phase and prefer to maintain the status quo.
Now that you have a brief idea of different phases of the QLC, you are on the path to recovery. The first step is awareness. Awareness is realizing the red flags and acknowledging your thoughts and emotions. Having gone through the QLC, my one piece of advice is to follow your initial instincts and don’t make any impulsive changes until you do your research. For example, people told me to just quit my job and change careers, however, I wasn’t ready at that point, and had I listened, I would have probably ended up unhappier in the long run. I know it’s clichéd – but life is a journey encompassing the good and the bad and this phase might seem like the worse thing but it isn’t. Once you get through it, like most obstacles in your life, you will come out on the other side a stronger woman than ever before.