Quarter-Life Crisis Revisited


The phrase, “quarter-life crisis”, always sends me back in time, to the tiny little bedroom of my tiny little Upper East Side apartment.  It was about five years ago, and I was sitting on my queen-sized bed, which took up the entire width and most of the length of the room, talking on the phone with one of my best friends from high school.  We were both in our third year out of college.  She was a psychology major, working in insurance sales.  I was in law school.  We were both single.  I remember spending almost four hours on the phone with her that night, rolling around in my bed and giggling often as we analyzed and obsessed about our respective futures.  During that call, we were each online researching divorce rates (tailored to our demographic), psychologically profiling ourselves and of course, consulting our Inner Realm horoscopes.  We discussed the various “signs” and “existential coincidences” that we had each encountered, begging the other for some new perspective on What It All Means.  We were grasping at straws, desperately seeking the answers to the rest of our lives.  Together, we decided that we were in quarter-life crisis.

Lately, as readers of this blog can attest, I have been having serious anxiety about my life and purpose.  In fact, I would venture a guess that perhaps this is my quarter-life crisis.  And that got me to thinking: what really is a quarter life crisis, anyway?

Unfortunately, time constraints require that I look no further than Wikipedia for the answer.  According to Wikipedia, a quarter-life crisis occurs when, “[a]fter entering adult life and coming to terms with [their] responsibilities, some individuals find themselves experiencing career stagnation or extreme insecurity.  The individual often realizes the real world is tougher, more competitive and less forgiving than she/he imagined.”   The Wikipedia article goes on to explain that a quarter-life crisis will occasion some or all of the following symptoms:

  • feeling that the pursuits of your peers are useless
  • confronting mortality
  • watching time slowly take its toll on your parents, only to realize you’re next
  • feeling insecurity regarding the fact that actions are meaningless
  • feeling insecurity concerning ability to love yourself, let alone another person
  • feeling insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluating close interpersonal relationships
  • lacking friendships or romantic relationships; experiencing sexual frustration and involuntary celibacy
  • experiencing disappointment with your job
  • feeling nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
  • loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies
  • desire to have children
  • feeling that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you
  • experiencing frustration with social skills

Whoa.  If I had a quarter-life crisis five years ago, I am clearly having another one.   Although this time, I would would have to add “fantasizing about being your dog” to the list of symptoms.  Regardless, I have to say that the anxiety I felt more than five years ago was a mere tremor compared to the massive earthquake that shook my life after getting married/reading the Twilight series.  Fortunately, this is extremely encouraging for a couple of reasons.

First, this is black-and-white evidence that I am not alone.  Despite the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to find many others who feel the same way, it’s nice to see that our common denominator is more than a random identity of discontent and isolation.  This thing that we’re all experiencing is actually a completely normal, systemic affliction.

Second and more importantly, reading about my existential angst in the context of a quarter-life crisis is black-and-white evidence that my angsty friends and I will get through this.  A crisis is defined as a point in time or one period in a larger sequence of events.  This means that a crisis, by definition, can not be permanent.  The chances are good that everything will work out and we will each achieve equilibrium.  Such is my Monday zen.

As a side note, in writing this post, I had to take a peek at my Inner Realm horoscope, for old time’s sake.  I was floored:  

“Taking your life more seriously and trying to turn your goals into a reality seem to be your priority issues.  You are working very hard to make things work out.  You are handling life with much more maturity.  Your ambition and energy are reflected in what you want to accomplish.  Changes are around you, but you are not going in the direction you imagined.  You seem tired of letting life run you and are taking the bull by the horns and seem more in control of your own destiny.  There is lots of activity, hard work and determination in your career.  What a wonderful time to get a promotion or look for a better job.”

I shit you not.  I have to go call my friend from high school.


2 Responses to “Quarter-Life Crisis Revisited”

  1. Sometimes I feel my quarter life crisis is just one never ending crisis. I love that you have thought about being your dog. I thought I was alone in that. I have fantasized about being my cat. I get really envious some days when I see him lying on the couch for hours at a time and then happily and contently staring out a window. I wake him up on purpose when he starts purring in his sleep. Is that abuse?
    While I was reading those symptoms, I mentally turned them into a checklist. I think I suffer from most. I definitely wish I was back in elementary school. My biggest concern was which Barbie I’d get for Christmas or if my parents would find out I was charging Scholastic bookfair books to their tuition tab.
    I do think that this crisis we all experience has to end, one way or another. It may not always end ideally, with any of us getting a great/happy job (or the naysayers about law school scams being banned from the internet so my mind can rest) or feeling fulfilled with all aspects of our social lives, but I think at some point we all either move on or accept what we have to do. I guess that’s optimistic, right?
    On a side note, I love checking my horoscope. I know 99 percent of the time my day never turns out the way it says but I think as an Aquarian it’s my duty to read it anyway. Today’s said I should fake a smile for the world because if I continue to do that, I’ll get happier. I’ll give that a try.

  2. If you haven’t heard it already:

    By the way, do you really think that a systematic affliction should ever be considered “completely normal?” I mean, I know within the context of the society we happen to find ourselves in such a thing is likely an every day occurrence. But I guess my contention is, as a group of people with the intellect and resources to work collaboratively to create the environment we live in, shouldn’t affliction, especially a systematic one of this kind, be not normal? And for that matter, as you wrestle between transitioning from what you thought that you wanted, probably in part for unhelpful reasons, toward what you do want, because life is worth living before dropping dead, I salute you and the struggle that must accompany the beautiful, beautiful journey you are on.


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