“Am I actually happy?”
“Do I even like this job?”
“Is it lame that I haven’t moved away yet?”
“WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE????”
Ah, so you’ve made it. You’ve arrived. Welcome to your quarter-life crisis. Welcome to the phase of life during which you will come to question all of your values, all of your decisions, and all of your so called dreams. Welcome to the land of soul searching, and the endless reel of “what-ifs.”
When someone casually asks you “So what’s next for you?” a huge neon question mark flashes in front of your eyes and anxiety and panic hit you squarely in the face. Like, why does something always have to be next? How are you always supposed to know what’s next? Why can’t Aunt Brenda just leave you alone already?
It’s completely normal to have a quarter life crisis. I mean, it’s gotten to the point where it’s almost not normal to not have a quarter life crisis. And it can encompass literally any or all areas of life. Job. Relationship. Lack of relationship. Money. Living situation. You name it.
While there is no easy solution to figure out your picture perfect life plan, there are little steps you can take to relieve your mind and to begin sorting out your life a bit. These steps may include trying out a new path, or they may include building your confidence back up and working towards feeling good in your current life situation. Either way, it’s clear you need something to change, or something to help you survive this little catastrophe.
1. Try experimenting with a side hustle.
Open an Etsy account and sell something crafty, or consider starting a podcast or blog. If you add something that has value and meaning to you, your 9-5 will fly by. Plus, you will have something to look forward to, and you will be traveling down the magical path of self discovery! And if you like your new gig, you may consider trying to find a full time job in the same arena, or eventually, becoming your own boss! Also, side note: please don’t tell me you “have no talents.” Because you do. Experiment. You don’t have to be the best at anything, you just have to have the drive and motivation. Research how to make natural make-up. Create miniature succulent gardens. Crochet dog blankets. It doesn’t matter. Just experiment!
2. Learn to stop the comparing yourself.
So, you are letting comparisons get the best of you. It’s easy to do. Without even knowing it, you’ve probably been e comparing your own life to all of your friends’ lives. You’ve most likely gone down the dangerous path of wondering if your own success is as shiny and golden as your best friend’s success. Or, you may have questioned how your friend has the stamina to go out every single night while you feel way too overwhelmed to go out even one day a week (…or one day a month). Here’s the truth: comparisons do not add anything good to your life. They rob you of your joy and they essentially just wear you out and bring you down. Why compare anyway? You don’t have the same job, the same life, or the same anything. Happiness is different for everyone, as is success. You have to define each quality of your life by your own standards. Plus, maybe you like staying in and watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns with your roommate. Maybe you look forward to your 8 pm roommate tv date. That doesn’t make you any more or less valuable than your friend who goes out every night, you just prefer different lifestyles. When it comes down to it, you really just have to live a life that feels good to you.
3. Remember that it’s completely normal to feel like you are in a crisis right now.
According to The Guardian, 86% of millennials are affected by the quarter-life crisis, and these millennials report experiencing feelings of loneliness, insecurity, and even depression. So just as a wake up call, you’re most definitely not alone in this. It’s also important to realize that your quarter-life crisis doesn’t need to make you panic, and it doesn’t need to be the big bad wolf in the room. Maybe this crisis is exactly what you need to spark change and growth. Maybe it will be the push you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, whether it be with your career, your relationships, or even your lifestyle. This whole crisis can really be the perfect opportunity for you to reboot your life. It doesn’t have to be a breaking point or a low.
4. Don’t let your past job experience or your degree define your future job, school, or life.
Recent grads have a tendency to think that their career path is already carved in stone by their undergraduate degree. But, news flash, it’s not. Your degree is not your identity, and your interests may have broadened or massively changed since college. If you are interested in something new, why not give it a shot? Take an online course, read more about it, find a part-time job in a new field, or even volunteer. The hardest part of trying something new is just opening your mind to the idea of it. Start small. It may just be the greatest step forward you can take.
5. Find a mentor.
This will inevitably help you to feel more in control, and less alone. And if you think finding a mentor is impossible, think again. There are teachers, coworkers, bosses, family members, friends’ parents, and online role models who will all be more than willing to share their secrets to success. Summon up your courage and start asking around. Sometimes learning about other people’s paths can help you decide what might be best for you.
6. Try not to let everything hit you at once.
You have time. It’s common to experience heightened anxiety in your mid to upper twenties because you think everything has to be done immediately. You think you have to figure everything out right away. Try planning more long term goals. It’s not the end of the world if you have to push things forward for a few months, or even a few years. Your twenties aren’t the last chance you have to explore or to live. News flash: cafes and bars still let you in once you’re 30. Dream jobs open up when you are 35 and even 47. 29 isn’t the end of your age of self-discovery, or the end of your success.
7. If you recently went through a breakup, or if you’re chronically single, you might be panicking about your future, and/or about your lack of relationship.
Please pause and take a nice deep breath. you need to stop thinking in extremes. I know it’s not easy, but really, no more of this “I’ll never find someone,” or “I’ll never get married.” If you want to be with someone, you will be with someone. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, being single is a choice, and many times, you are single because in the moment it is the best choice for you. You’ve chosen not to settle for someone who isn’t your Prince Charming, and that’s admirable! Use your time being single to shape your own life exactly how you’d like it to be. Water your own flowers rather than waiting for someone else to come water them. Being single can truly be a gift – it can give you the chance to fully develop on your own, so that when you do meet someone, you will be capable of being in a healthy and happy relationship, and a relationship that you will feel confident in. If you can learn to start owning your relationship status, you won’t feel so anxious or insecure about it.
8. You are probably craving forward progression, but are simultaneously feeling lost, with no direction.
And when we feel stagnant or stuck, it’s a total buzzkill. So even if you don’t have a full plan, you can still take little steps that will help you to feel a little bit less lost. The first step is to start asking yourself questions. How do you want to spend your days? What would make you feel fulfilled? How much money do you need to live the life that you desire? What would your hours be like? What would your work life balance be? Take your time with these questions, and remember to answer them based on your own values, rather than asking someone else for their advice on what you should want. These are answers that only you know, as you are the only one who has to live in the life you create.
9. In your twenties, you are going to learn that sometimes relationships no longer serve you.
Whether they are friendships or romantic relationships, you will find that some people no longer empower you or compliment you; they no longer lift you up or make you a better version of yourself. The friends to hold on to are the friends who make you feel good about yourself when you are with them. These friends allow you to be authentic and comfortable; they accept you and love you even when you ugly cry in front of them for hours. Don’t cling on so tightly to friends who are simply friends by convenience, especially if they are weighing you down, or worse, not even caring about you anymore. These types of people really do tend to leave you feeling worse about yourself, or disconnected and insecure. I know it’s tough, but if someone is wearing down on you emotionally rather than putting rainbow sprinkles on your ice cream, it’s time to say bye bye.
10. And last, bring it down a notch.
Slow down for a second and catch your breath. Whether you believe it or not, life isn’t out to get you. Transitions suck, I know. Change is hard. But you’re not going to fall behind if you take your time. Maybe you’re not ready for grad school yet because you need another year or two of life experience to learn what you really want. Maybe you haven’t fallen in lasting love yet because you are still learning about yourself and about what makes you feel fulfilled and happy, or because you still haven’t learned how to be on your own. Maybe you’re living at home now so that you can save money to move out later into a place you will absolutely love, when your income is more reliable. There’s no order that you have to do things in your twenties, and there are no expectations or finish lines. You may feel like you are in a rut now, but really, you are just working towards something better.