Overcoming Your Quarter Life Crisis : A Survival Guide to Being 20something in the Year 20-something
Welcome to Adulthood. It sucks here.
I have recently discovered that mid-twenties, despite all of its youthful glamour, are actually right when the awkward stage you were sure you left in middle school is resurrected with a crippling vengeance. This horrible and unsolicited demand to be a functional adult blindsides you quite suddenly — your badge of student-hood (read: viable excuse to forego responsibility and make questionable decisions) is revoked and replaced with a stupid certificate of adulthood that you didn’t even really ask for in the first place.
So far I have found that adulthood is like putting together a puzzle and you don’t even have the image on the top of the box to use as a point of reference. So you keep trying to force these stupid pieces to fit together and they just don’t. They might even be those annoying pieces that so nearly fit, and you’re all like, “you know, I can live with this, it’s pretty close,” but then you can’t because it makes everything uncomfortable and ever so slightly off and so you can’t deal with it because you can’t fool yourself. You know it’s in the wrong place and it’s messing with your hypochondriac OCD. So you pour yourself another mug of coffee — which by now you have discovered as a necessary means of survival as opposed to its previous function solely as an Instagrammable accessory — and back to the drawing board. But then you rationalize the drawing board is actually just your bed because you need a nap because this adulthood thing is overwhelming and overall the stupidest thing quite literally ever. But then you have to get up and feign responsibility because there are no snooze buttons on these biological clock things and so the Quarter Life Crisis alarm is just relentlessly blaring even though I just need like five more minutes!!
If you’re one of the lucky few twenty somethings that has it together, well good for you, no one asked. Ha, jk. Really, I am just envious and trying to be just like you when I figure out how to grow up.
Anyway, my 25th birthday has come and gone, leaving me in utter shock and fear because nothing has happened how it was supposed to and aren’t I old now? 25 was the deadline and I seemed to have just flagrantly missed it. I ashamedly look back at my 20 year old self, scrawling out what are now past due “where I see myself in 5 years” goals and lists and welp.
But, in many a commiserative conversation, I have found this mass hysteria of ill-equipped adulthood plagues more than just myself. In fact, a lot of my fellow millennials are having a tough time making the transition, and I have to wonder why.
From a general standpoint, millennials are not functioning on the same timeline that our parents once were. We are living in a world where technology dominates what used to be a fertile job market.
Degrees are no longer guarantees. Gone are the days where you choose a major and automatically filter into your field upon graduation. Education entitlement is futile and obsolete.
We are a generation largely intent on chasing dreams, taking risks, finding ourselves, before we settle down with families and life insurance.
But then we get good and over the twenties hill and work ourselves into a panic because we roll out the comparison reel and marinate in a stew of inadequacy and confusion.
“I haven’t accomplished enough.”
“I haven’t earned enough money.”
“How do I even?” “I can’t even!” “How can you expect me to even when I just literally can NOT.”
“I know it all, right? But then again, perhaps I know nothing.”
“Oh, so you actually expect me to pay for my college tuition? With interest??”
“I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but here I am and… ???”
“Who am I and why am I and how did this happen???”
The Survival Guide
So as I navigate this hysteria, I have come up with a survival guide. Because being twenty-something in the year 20-something is really freaking hard. And we need to know how to handle that fateful knock at our door when Quarter Century comes, quite uninvited, ready to move right in with bags full of responsibility and bills.
- Don’t be afraid to keep your dreams alive. It is our first response to jump ship from our ultimate goals because we feel rushed or pressured to function responsibly, but take that pressure and transmute it into productive urgency and motivating ambition. Turn dreams into grown-up plans with deadlines and action. Success comes in a million ways, whether it is the complete realization of that goal, or learning, or finding yourself along the way.
- Stop thinking you’re so old. In fact, every person older than 25 right now is reading this and rolling their eyes at my rather youthful naiveté and I will probably glance at this in a year or so and shake my head similarly. Just because your bucket list isn’t completely checked off as dictated by your 20-year-old self, does not make you unaccomplished or inadequate.
- Stop comparing. Everyone has their own issues even if their Instagram feed may not give off that vibe. (I mean does yours? If it does, you should probably start off your fledgling adulthood by deleting all your business from social networks.) It is so easy to peek at someone else’s safe-for-social-network life, curated with drama-less selfies and foodporn, and deem ours less than. But in most cases, you don’t know their story much past their car selfie. There are equal amounts of struggle behind that front-facing camera. And even if there’s not, that is not your business to worry about.
- Stay open-minded. Even though, by now, you have perhaps graduated from everything you can possibly graduate from, keep learning. There are possibilities and potential in every corner, and a mind that functions in positivity and possibility is the stuff of opportunity.
- Explore. The world, yourself, opportunities. Just explore.
- Find yourself. It is cliche. But it is so necessary. These are the times when we need to really get acquainted with who you are and who you want to be and then reconcile the two into a mutual reality.
- Make mistakes. Don’t be so afraid to fail. It is the best teacher. And don’t let failure beat you. It is not a sign that you should give up, rather it is a checkpoint for you to become stronger. It is ok to get it wrong. Now next time, you have a point of reference for you to get it right.
- Stay passionate. Pursue it now. Eliminate the what ifs. Better to answer those what-ifs now so you don’t have to be hit with them during the even more awkward mid-life crisis.
- Stay positive. Stay persistent. When in doubt, keep a positive mindset. That is the game changer in many a dark situation. Life will throw plenty of curve balls and rejection; your positive persistence is key to hitting those home runs.
- Pave your own way. Separate your decisions from society, friends and family. They all enjoy exerting their opinions on how to conduct your life, and though they may mean well, you have to make these calls for yourself. That is not to say to reject the wisdom from those who have validity, but internalize those suggestions as just that: suggestions; not directions. And then figure things out for yourself.
- Hold yourself accountable. Most of us have probably spent a couple of decades being held accountable by third parties — parents, teachers, clergy — that it can be a bit difficult to figure out how to hold yourself accountable without someone looming over our shoulder. But this is key to this whole responsibility nonsense that we have to confront. Create deadlines and expectations for yourself. Learn how to prioritize effectively.
- Well, I hate to curse at you, but it begs to be said. Be responsible. Remember all those years you begged for freedom? Well here it is and it has this nasty and inevitable side effect called responsibility, whose only cure is to embrace it.
- Keep your sense of wonder. Adulthood cultivates routines in most of us, which is certainly a good thing when you’re trying to navigate this world filled with responsibility, but it can also curate a rather boring and jaded lifestyle. Don’t forget to enjoy this ride. Don’t forget to pay attention to the little things. Don’t forget to give yourself a break from the mundane.
- Keep your real friends close, and subtract the excess. Make sure you don’t get too busy adulting that you forget to socialize. Friends keep us grounded in this busy and stressful grown-up world and it is too easy for us to get wrapped up in our responsible schedules that we go months without intimate interaction.
- But don’t be afraid to minimize. Growing up in an age defined by social networks, many of us have curated widespread and relatively meaningless groups of chatter via seemingly endless platforms where we are constantly available to anyone who sends us a notification. Adulthood is better navigated with genuine and/or productive company, so forego the dead weight. You do not need 3000 Facebook friends.
- Go off the grid. Value your me time. Though it is great to network and socialize, the best way to discover ourselves is without the distractions or external stimulus.
Originally published at Pursuit of Daydreams.