The quarter life crisis is one that is often over-looked. Your parents say, “Honey, you’re being dramatic.” Your friends decide the only antidote is happy hour, after hours drinks, beers during lunch, wine and a movie, fucked up Friday, smashed Saturday, Sunday Funday. And you tell yourself that they’re all probably right, that you have to grin and bear it, pound the shot and figure out how to just get through this, you’re still adjusting to adult life, you have a job and that in itself is something to be proud of! And then you wake up and it’s Sunday and tomorrow, you have to go back to work feeling a little emptier than before.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a large part of you that feels unstimulated, unfulfilled and unloved. One of my favorite college professors once said, “There will come a time in your life when pizza, beer and a movie just won’t do it anymore. When you’ll actually have to face what you’re feeling instead of remedying it with a quick-fix.” My friend Chanel and I smiled at each other knowingly because that would NEVER happen to us. Pizza, beer and a movie always makes things better.
Well, I’m almost a year out of school and I’m realizing that my professor was right. There will come a time that you’ll kill a few beers, your pizza box will be empty, the credits will be rolling and you’ll be left feeling sick to your stomach and no closer to the mindset you were trying to achieve by “indulging” or “checking out” than you were before the pizza guy came. So now what?
Here I am, sitting in an office with windows that don’t open outwards to let in fresh air, listening to my CEO Mark scream at his new assistant Andrew about how Andrew can’t get his damn schedule right and how Mark’s water pitcher isn’t filled and how Mark’s extremely constipated and this is ALL ANDREW’S FAULT. I’m not even the one getting yelled at and I have to take a break, excuse myself and go hyperventilate in the bathroom and tell my reflection that I’m beautiful and lovable and it’s all going to be ok. My coworkers send each other catty emails about who’s leaving their dirty dishes in the sink, the “right way” to book the conference room and how someone isn’t paying attention to the chore calendar. Another one of my coworkers only eats El Pollo Loco for lunch and we all share one bathroom. I Tinder at work sometimes because I’m so bored and I need a game.
When I first got this job, I was over the moon. Receiving this job offer was a lifeline for me. I was stuck in an internship at a production company where I “volunteered” four days a week for no pay. I was continuously promised a paying gig but four months later, I still had zero income. I was sending my resume out to hundreds of jobs, hoping one of them would stick. Thankfully, one of them did. I got an interview at a Management Production company where I would be a development assistant in both TV and motion picture lit. I majored in creative writing and literature in college so this was seemingly a perfect fit for me. Plus, I was getting paid and could cover my rent on my own without groveling to grandma.
The first few months were wonderful, probably because in comparison to my last gig, this was heaven. I was reading and writing constantly. No, it wasn’t my own material, but that was ok because at least I was in a creative industry. I’m not sure when things started to turn for me but this feeling of elation was fleeting. I worked extremely long hours and I barely had time for myself. When the weekends rolled around, I worked so hard during the week that I just wanted to go out and have fun. Yet, I would end up getting smashed, only talking to my friends at the bar and eating mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers at Jack in the Box at 3 AM, completely hating myself the next morning. The guy I was dating ended things with me because he turned 30 and wasn’t where he wanted to be in his life professionally. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t date me and figure his life out at the same time. I was adding to his life, I was giving it love and meaning, right? How could that be a negative?
Now, I think I understand.
I haven’t been doing my own writing because I’m so exhausted and empty, I have nothing else to give when I get home at night. I’m an assistant so I’m an extension of two people. I don’t have my own identity. If I do good work, it’s reflected on my bosses. If I screw up, it’s reflected on me.
I understand paying your dues. It’s necessary, it’s a part of life, it’s how the world works. But the thing is, I’ve started to doubt the end game that I’ve been working towards. We tell ourselves to grin and bear it because someday, it will all be worth it. Yet, just maybe, I don’t want the end game I’m working towards. I’ve always been terrible with change. Even though I’m extremely unhappy, it’s so hard for me to make that first step and dispel the overwhelm.
Sundays are always my worst days. I freak out because it’s the last day before the work week and Monday morning staff meetings give me anxiety. One Sunday a few weeks ago, I laid in my bed and sobbed for a good two hours. I had just come back from a “ladies brunch” at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica and I was miserable. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME? I have good friends, I have a nice apartment, I work in entertainment and live in one of the most exciting cities in the world. So what gives?
Happiness looks different to everyone. What I’m slowly realizing, is that it may take on a different manifestation for me than I thought.
In college, I found myself at the bottom of a hole I couldn’t get myself out of. I was forced to leave my undergraduate career and seek professional help. When I returned to college, I wondered if I should switch my major to psychology. I felt the need to give back to others as I had been so selflessly taken care of.
After I was done sobbing that Sunday, I started researching alternatives. I googled creative writing therapist and other made up jobs. I came across graduate programs and zeroed in on one that actually excited me. This was an emotion I hadn’t felt in months. I would undergo training to become a Body Pyschotherapist. I would help patients move through traumas in other ways besides just talking, through movement, art, expressions of self. But what would people say about this career change? I would forgo LA and entertainment to be a dirty hippie in Boulder and study Holistic Psychology? I would, GASP, move home to New Mexico to live rent free and take prerequisites at the community college and work in a restaurant before going to graduate school?
Well, yes. Maybe I will feel differently in a few months. Maybe I will return home and realize I’m insane and that entertainment is the industry for me and fly right back. But maybe not. I’m owning this quarter life crisis because what else are we supposed to do with it? I’m going to honor it because if I don’t, it will drive me crazy. I want to do a pilgrimage before I go to graduate school. I want to have the time to do yoga again. I want to read and write for pleasure. I want to be around to see my little sister grow into a young woman.
So, here’s to all my fellow twenty somethings who feel too old for their age and simultaneously like a small child. Here’s to all of you who work your asses off and have nothing to show for it when you come home but you keep doing it because you don’t know what else to do. Let yourself freak out. Embrace your crisis, let it in and show it the audience it deserves, whatever it may look like to you. Maybe it’s in the form of adopting a golden retriever puppy. Maybe it’s buying a new comforter and studying feng shui and re-designing your room. Maybe it’s selling your furniture and moving to Nicaragua to teach English and be a surf bum. Maybe it’s breaking up with the boyfriend that you don’t love anymore but you’re too afraid to be without. Maybe it’s the principle of saying “yes”. Maybe it’s saying “no” more often.
Any decision that we make right now, twenty somethings, isn’t permanent. It’s ok to change our minds. It’s ok to do things differently than others.
Give in to the crisis and welcome her with open arms.