What is a Quarter-life Crisis?
I loved my first job. I would wake up with a bounce in my step, filled with eagerness and anticipation for the day and what it might bring. Four years later, unfortunately, it was a different story. I dreaded my alarm going off. I constantly felt a sense of anxiety each morning and I hated going into work. I felt stuck, like a hamster on a treadmill, running so fast, constantly exhausted, but never going anywhere.
I realised my assumptions about life had all proven false. I had wrongly believed that if I worked hard, went to uni, and got a good job, then I would be happy. Turns out, this wasn't the case. I was in my twenties, I had a good job and a comfortable lifestyle, but I was still not happy. I felt lost, scared and lonely. But do you know what was the worst part? I didn’t know what was happening to me, why it was happening or how to fix it.
Today, I understand. I was in the middle of a quarter-life-crisis, and I didn’t even know it.
Are you having a quarter-life crisis?
If you are in your 20s or 30s but feel jaded and uninspired, instead of energetic and enthusiastic like everyone expects you to be – you could be experiencing quarter life crisis too. Do you feel trapped by your life choices, like your job, relationship or both? Are you lacking direction and feel uncertain about your future? Are you feeling depressed or anxious, but can’t put your finger on why?
In our 20s and 30s, we start to ask ourselves the big life questions:
- "What am I doing with my life?"
- "What's the point of it all?"
- "Do I even matter?"
- "After this, what next?"
These questions can be paralysing.
Why is this happening?
Even though it feels like you’re the only person on earth feeling the way you do, you can be assured that you’re not. Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood and discovering who you are is no easy task, and it takes an emotional toll. Discovering your values and aligning them with how you want to live your life is hard work, and is even harder for Millennials. Here are four reasons why:
1. We have more stuff
We are living in a golden age of cutting edge technology, advanced medicine and smashed avocado, so why aren't we happy? I can feel the older generation looking at us and thinking "What do you have to be depressed about?" These unspoken expectations create feelings of guilt and shame when our inner world doesn't match our outer world of abundance.
I was told that if I didn’t go to university I wouldn't get a good job, I would have no money and life would suck. So I went to university and got a good job. But guess what? Education + (average) job did not equal a happy life. A steady job may have been an important value for the generations before us but our generation is looking for something different to fill the void. This may be something our parents can't relate to and can cause them great angst when we give up a 'good job' to pursue alternative career paths.
3. Social media
The quarter-life crisis is exacerbated by social media and the constant comparing of our seemingly average lives to the highlight reel from other’s Facebook feeds - torturing ourselves by cyber-stalking ex-boyfriends, married friends with babies, or single friends in exotic lands. We know it’s not reality, but we compare ourselves anyway and deepen our feelings of inadequacy and failure.
4. Lack of real community
Despite the increase of connectedness via social media, mental illness coupled with social isolation is a growing concern amongst the young Australian demographic. Being in a real-life community provides protective factors such as regular social interaction, receiving practical and emotional support and most importantly, creating purpose through deep and meaningful relationships with one another.
Busy lifestyles and condensed city-living has resulted in people becoming disconnected from their communities, which can make it harder to find appropriate resources and supports to help them when going through a crisis.
If you believe you are going through a quarter-life crisis, just remember it's a normal rite of passage. Use it to think about what you want out of life and take action on your goals.
Try talking to a friend about how you are feeling - they may just be feeling the same. Or, consider speaking with a life coach or other mentor that can help give you some outsider perspective. Either way, know that you are not alone.