5 Things I’ve Learned from the So-Called Quarter Life Crisis

Kaye Leah
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
8 min readMar 30, 2019
Photo by Bino Le on Unsplash

From the drafts that have been sleeping for more than three years, this is the one I wanted to finally hit “publish” to on this particular midnight. It took me long enough, I suppose. But if you’re asking why it took so long… Well, two things:

One, it was the last day of March in the year 2019, which, to me, segues my sensibilities to the fact that I only had three years left to be called a thirty-something citizen of the world. Two, it was this particular midnight that I can honestly say to myself, “I have survived the so-called Quarter-Life Crisis.”

What exactly is the QLC, you ask? From a more academic perspective, clinical psychologist Dr. Alex Fowke says that this is “a period of insecurity, doubt and disappointment surrounding your career, relationships and financial situation.” People between 18 and 35 face challenges like identity confusion, uncertainty, and internal conflict because they fail to reach the expectations set for themselves.

In layman’s terms, as explained by the Urban Dictionary, “it is an age where a lot of people start developing a more realistic outlook in life and start feeling that if they haven’t accomplished certain things in life, they thought they would by then that they may never.”

My definition? It is that point in your life where you feel like a doppelgänger of whoever you think you are supposed to be. But since you do not have a clear idea of who you really are or have lost sight of your own self, things become rather complicated.

You feel that you are stuck in a rut, with no hope of fulfilling your dreams. You find yourself misunderstood. You begin to feel different towards people you thought you were friends with. At one point, you may even find yourself thinking, “Why am I friends with this person again? Who am I again? Please remind me.”

The QLC has a way of making you feel ugly — downright platypus ugly. Your clothes don’t look good on you, and absolutely nothing you try on would make you feel better. Then, there are those days when you feel so emotional because it’s as if you have been bloated for a hundred years. It becomes so difficult to lose weight. Instead of losing it and try desperately to keep it off, your body keeps gaining even more weight even if you still eat the way you did five years before you were 32 years old.

In short, the word that describes QLC in its truest sense is “blah” — everything is monotonous, at times even bleak. You feel you have lost your ability to taste, see, hear, feel, and speak. So yes, The QLC really does exist.

This phase will either bring out the best in you or the worst, and I truly think that the key to surviving this depends a lot on the perspective we have on things, which is why I started writing about it.

5 Things I’ve Learned From Surviving the Quarter-Life Crisis

#1 People Change. Accept it. When we learn to accept this early on, we save ourselves from life’s most painful ironies. We cannot expect that those around us would stay the same, nor can we expect to stay the same ourselves. When life happens, change is inevitable. This applies to our relationships with people we know and hold dear.

The people you thought you knew very well and have come to trust may be the very reason why you are hurt or frustrated. It is at these times when it is better to let go. Knowing this brings that sense of assurance and contentment. He knows what He is doing. He knows who we are and who ought to be in our lives. He does things for a reason. It is helpful to find rest in that.

On the other side of the spectrum, those you do not know well or least expect to care may be the ones who would help you get up and encourage you. Realize that although people change, people can also surprise you. I have seen this happen many times, and it is humbling to be cared for by someone we would otherwise not pay attention to or take for granted. Here we learn that life is not just about us.

#2 Life is not a Recipe or a fixed Time Table. Life does not always come in a recipe with precise steps. Things do not always go as planned. If you are a planner like me, this can be devastating.

I grew up with to-do lists that include details about what I should have accomplished at a certain age. I know where I have to be two days from now (how to get there, how long it takes, what to do, who to talk to), how many minutes it takes for me to finish my morning coffee, how many years I will put in studying or staying in a job, things like that. So if this “plan of action” is changed by unexpected circumstances, my switch flips to that ready-to-panic mode. I had to learn to get over that.

We need to live in the present and be mindful. If not, we lose ourselves ever so subtly. We should not rob ourselves of the joy of living in the moment. “Carpe diem” comes into play here. We should leave room for adventure and the surprises of the dailiness of life. If we don’t, we will end up like workhorse with a massive lack of creativity, imagination, and pixie dust — all essential to living. We need to let go of being too strict with the expectations we have for ourselves to remember that life should be lived out and not just planned.

#3. Be Curious. Always Love Learning. Let me make it clear. “Be curious” here means being curious about what you can still do and who you can become. The problem is we hesitate to go beyond our comfort zone, so we end up in a vicious cycle of mediocrity and routine. This leaves us unfulfilled in work, in our goals, and even in our relationships. Why not say yes to things that you know will help you maximize your potential and know more about yourself? Of course, we all know that no one is perfect. We are flawed human beings, but this does not mean that we get stuck in this mindset and not do anything about it. There is such a thing as being able to work on our weaknesses and further cultivating our strengths.

Do not be afraid of taking risks to test your skillset. Invest in education. Learn a new skill. If you don’t understand something, look it up and read about it. Study what you love. Make it intentional. Interact with people who are deemed experienced and experts in the craft that interests you. Ask the right questions, strike a conversation. Learn from books. Learn from people. Be personable and appreciative — this goes a long way. And yes, don’t forget that it is okay to smile. “Smile more, talk less,” as the play Alexander Hamilton wisely says.

These are the exact things I found to be true and have brought me to what I love doing today -writing, content writing to be specific. If there is a person who was too comfortable with being an introvert, that would be me. It took that simple step, that “yes” to writing 300 words per week, that opened doors to many opportunities. It takes a nudge from people who know and care for you to begin fulfilling your dreams. Saying yes to that makes things happen.

#4 Grow where you are planted. Nothing happens by accident. There is always a reason why you are where you are now, why you know the people you know, and why you are there at this particular place and time. You are not an accident or an afterthought. I cannot help but recall what Esther 4:14 says, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Wait, what? Royal? Me, in a “royal position?” Hold on….

Yes, and yes. I am sure this is true to you, especially if you understand the meaning of “embrace a higher calling.” When asked, “What do you do?” Many will answer by stating their profession like, “I am a doctor,” “I am a chef,” “I make donuts,” “I am a soldier,” “I teach,” “I am… I am..” But come to think of it. Is that everything? Why do you think did you want to be a doctor? Why are you an engineer? Do you want to build bridges? How does that make you a person of influence?

I believe that our profession or job includes service — service in its purest sense. Service to others, and service to the Lord.

Any job that we think is mundane is ours for a reason. We feel any role we feel is “not us” as of the moment has a reason. The desire to fulfill our dreams has been intentionally placed there for a reason. We were given responsibility, and it is not at all easy. Everything we have now is a stepping stone that leads to that.

I must be frank. The journey to fulfilling our dream is not easy. Why? Because dreams are intimidating, they are BIG — larger than life, bigger than we expect. We need to learn how to be faithful to the process of gaining knowledge, acquiring skills, and developing the right attitude.

Grow where you are planted is what this process really means. Have a good work ethic. In time people will take notice and give you bigger tasks.

Never underestimate meeting deadlines and going the extra mile. Be a blessing wherever you are. It opens doors. At the end of the day, we should remember to ask how we made life better for other people around us by what we say and do. Life makes more sense that way. It becomes fulfilling because you see yourself as a channel of blessing in this dreary humdrum.

#5 The Quarter-Life Crisis teaches us that we live life in Seasons. We have to learn to sway to how the wind changes.

The word that entitles this state of existence is Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 says it beautifully:

“There are seasons to cry, seasons to love, seasons to give attention, seasons to ignore. Seasons to fight, seasons to be passive. Seasons to go the extra mile, and seasons to just sit still and wait. There are seasons to dream, to fail, to strive, to think, to create.”

At the end of the day, it is what it is. Nothing is permanent. We are not indispensable. Life is fleeting, and so are we as human beings. We are merely stewards of the times and seasons entrusted to us. This includes the people we were meant to meet at a certain time in our lives. This is true with our jobs, the responsibilities and roles we have to play. We can have these for a short period of time, for a good fifteen years, for a lifetime, but the principle is the same — we are stewards of what is entrusted to us. And we cannot do it alone.

We are fragile, in need of wisdom, and of constant attention. These are the exact reasons why I love Sting’s music and lyrics. One song entitled “How Fragile We Are” is one of my favorites.

When Esperanza Spalding performed alongside Herbie Hancock at the Kennedy Center Honors as a tribute to Sting and his music, I was blown away. It was nothing short of magnificent. Sting, himself, was brought to tears by her performance because of how great an artist she is, and because of how real Sting’s words felt as she sang while playing the double bass.

“How Fragile We Are” makes so much sense, especially when we talk about the so-called Quarter-Life Crisis. So, to end, as I officially bid adieu to the QLC, I hope you find your sense of solace, too, knowing that “this too shall pass.” You are not alone.

Originally published at http://kapekaye.wordpress.com on March 30, 2019.



Kaye Leah
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

I write anecdotes as cinnamon & nutmeg for everyday conversations. #kapekaye