A Need to Reset: The Quarter-Life Crisis

At some point over the past year, I came to a realization that I imagine many others around my age already understand: Time is moving fast, and is only moving faster. And while I’ve come to terms with this unfortunate fact of life, I can’t help but feel this need to fight against it, like I can’t live a happy life unless I can do what it is I want without Time as a constraint. The problem I’m facing is:

How do you fight against Time?

You don’t. You’re given a hand and now you must figure out how to play it. In my case, rather than fighting against Time, I’ve been attempting to fit as much as I can with what time I’m given. I want to see the world; I want to meet new people; I want to have meaningful relationships with my friends; I want to write, to record, to do so much…and through it all, I want to discover myself.

At the crux of all these wants comes one need necessary for this all to happen: money. This shouldn’t be surprising — it’s a reality we’ve all come to accept. What’s important is to note its effect on Time. For a large chunk of my day, I’m at work, and by the time I get home from work, I lack the drive or energy to do much else. I eat dinner, take care of errands or homework, fit in whatever leisure I can, and suddenly I’m faced with the end of my day. When you rinse and repeat this every day, Time seems to move faster and faster.

Meanwhile, aside from the daily battle of routine, a cloud of things I want/hope to accomplish looms over my head, growing. “It’s been a year and a half since you’ve gotten your job. What have you managed to do?” I’d think to myself. “You’ve traveled a few places, you’ve made new friends, you’ve paid off a few bills here and there. But now what? You’re not 22 anymore.”

That’s right, no matter how good I am with time-management, Time is still moving forward. Now I have to start thinking about how I’m setting myself up for the future. Is my career on a trajectory that’s good for me? Do I have any plans to get married? Own a home? Have kids? What about my parents — what will happen with them?

I’d be lying if I told you my mind is preoccupied with all of these worries — it’s not. They’re all buried deep in the back of my mind, but they’re there, and I think about them every so often. But somehow, in small bursts of activity, I try to tackle everything one-by-one. I force myself to devote a day, or at least a few hours, to addressing one thing on these lists, whether it’s résumé-editing, writing papers, or anything I can call productive. What I’ve found is that balancing my wants and my responsibilities isn’t so much overwhelming as it is exhausting.

Maybe that’s it: I’m just exhausted.

I can’t even claim to have a hard life. But, at some point over the past few years, while getting caught up in routine and responsibility (even with spurts of fun here and there), I’ve gone from living my life to merely existing in life. What good is that? What’s the point of merely existing?

The moment I asked myself that question was the moment I started having what many told me was, “The Quarter-Life Crisis.” I can’t give you a good definition of what a Quarter-Life Crisis is. A Mid-Life Crisis usually involves some sort of denial of one’s age, usually in the form of irresponsible purchasing decisions that one would have made at an earlier age, but at 24, I’m neither at an age where I wish I was younger, nor am I in a financial state to make such irresponsible purchasing decisions.

What I can say is that there’s this strange sense of…panic. I don’t mean that I feel like the world is going to end soon, but even during the most casual of interactions, there’s a voice in my head telling me that something’s wrong, that I’m wasting my life. Responsible actions like going to work or getting groceries made me feel like I’m wasting my life away. Even something as worry-free as a Friday night out with friends feels completely off. It’s as though I’m on the brink of missing out on what I really should be doing in life, and if I take a wrong step, I’m suddenly 40 and regretting my earlier decisions (which I suppose would be a nice segue into my Mid-Life Crisis).

My plan of action was to muffle this voice, to find a way to ignore it. I would make sure I was busy as much as I can — working, traveling, finding little projects to do here and there. I’d shift my mind’s focus to anything but this feeling of off-ness. I’d even get stuck cringing at myself over past regrets. This constant changing of focus, from work to friends to family, from past to present to future, finally made this exhaustion overwhelming.

And that is when I accidentally stumbled upon the Reset button I so desperately needed. A few months ago, I had made the decision to fly to Arizona and spend some time with my mom’s side of the family. It was the odd period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when everyone is at work, but things are still festive. Knowing I wouldn’t get to spend much time with my family there, since they’d all be at work, I had the idea of taking a bus to California and go exploring.

What I quickly discovered is that any idea of plans I wanted to make to go to California fell apart. I was left with a week and a half of doing nothing in Arizona. And…I was perfectly okay with that.

Doing nothing was exactly what I needed.

I didn’t need to worry about work. I didn’t care what my friends were doing while I was gone. I didn’t think about past regrets or future uncertainties. It was just me and myself: no interferences, no routine, no responsibility (though I did have a comfortable couch and Netflix at my fingertips, which was nice).

My family was constantly apologetic for not being able to spend time with me. My aunts were annoyed that I came with absolutely zero plans, considering I don’t come to visit that side of the country very often. And yet, I insisted it was exactly what I wanted, without knowing exactly how much I really needed it.

It wasn’t until I returned home and dove back into my normal lifestyle that I realized the effects of my escape from reality. I wasn’t feeling that nagging anxiety anymore. I began appreciating the smaller moments in life again, without it being another blurred memory. I felt refreshed, like my life had reset.

At the end of it all, I wish there is a moral to this story, but there isn’t. No, the moral isn’t do go seclude yourself and get yourself figured out. That’s something I needed, but that’s not necessarily what someone else needs. I’m not even sure I’m completely over this so-called Quarter-Life Crisis.

But, at the very least, I was able to sit down, reflect, and write this down — something in the long list of things I wanted to do.