True Tales Of Being Stuck In A Quarter-Life Rut (And Getting Out Of It)

The quarter-life rut is a struggle many 20-somethings can relate to, but this stage doesn’t have to be a pit of quicksand. It can be an opportunity for growth and new beginnings—a chance to better yourself and to come out stronger than you ever thought you could be. Here are 6 true tales of people who did just that.

1. “I’m lucky in that I found a job I love right out of college. A year ago, however, my boss explained that my entire department had to relocate to the satellite office across the country. Since I’m not all that comfortable with change, the news made me a little nervous. Luckily, I had the good sense to consult my older brother about the impending transition. He encouraged me to embrace the change — to tackle it head-on rather than let it scare me. And he was right! I’m young, and the move gave me a chance to explore a new place, meet new people, and learn about myself. I’ve really grown since we relocated and I’m proud of myself for diving right in instead of shying away from what turned out to be an amazing opportunity.”

— Johanna, 25

2. “For a few years after graduation, my college roommate and I lived together in an apartment and it almost felt as if school had never ended for us. Life was awesome, probably because it was so familiar. You can imagine how surprising it was for me to learn that my friend would be leaving our cocoon of a life together to travel the world on her own. I felt left out, and I didn’t know what to expect from day-to-day life without her right by my side.

But the day after she left, I made a pledge to myself: Every single day I would challenge myself to do something new. It could be as simple as introducing myself to someone or eating at a restaurant I’d never been to. Little by little, I expanded my boundaries and I felt so great about it. I realized that there was value in stepping outside my comfort zone.”

— Rita, 24

3. “For three straight years in my early 20s, I worked as an assistant to a high-powered executive. The experience was tough, but I stuck it out because I knew I was learning a lot. Still, there were many nights when I would question my situation. In the end, though, that high-powered executive hooked me up with an interview that changed my life for the better. She had a strange way of showing it, but she respected me professionally, and she saw that I had potential. So she arranged a meeting that ultimately led me to my dream job. Today I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.”

— Fiona, 27

4. “I’ve always been super athletic. I was on the lacrosse team in college and now that I’m in the real world, unwinding at the gym is the most precious hour of the day for me. I love running for miles on end in the quiet of a park or losing myself in a great workout. So when I tripped on the sidewalk and broke my leg one afternoon shortly after my 25th birthday, I was pretty bummed out.

Soon enough, though, I realized that I had to reshape my outlook. Instead of looking at my injury as a massive inconvenience, I started to frame it as an obstacle to overcome. Every day I woke up and reminded myself that I was one day closer to leading an active life again. I also grew to appreciate other activities like reading. I remembered that I could escape through a book or a great film just as I could by running long distances. Today, I feel better about life overall because I know I can handle just about anything.”

— Rett, 26

5. “When I was 24 I still hadn’t found a full-time job that I was truly passionate about. I was making enough to support myself, but I was doing so by bopping around from part-time gig to part-time gig instead of building a career.

One day, I realized that not having a ‘real job’ had less to do with the ability to find one and more to do with the fact that I hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to do.

So on a whim one morning, I decided to drop everything and take a road trip. I took three weeks to myself and drove to places I’d always wanted to see. I tried not to think about the future and really just immerse myself in the moment—to enjoy the trip, pay attention to my surroundings, and really talk to people. It was the most rejuvenating experience I’ve ever had. It might sound corny, but it really gave me clarity. I realized that I don’t need to have ALL the answers ALL the time. Finally, I developed a true sense of direction.”

— Leanna, 25

6. “About two months before my 25th birthday, my boyfriend of four years and I broke up. It was mutual, so not a devastating situation. Still, the breakup sent me into a bit of a funk because I’d always envisioned myself marrying him. I used to think about what our lives would look like—where we’d live (three-bedroom house, GIANT kitchen, vegetable garden in the backyard), how many kids we’d have, and what we’d do on lazy Sunday afternoons. We were young and in love and I thought that was enough.

Anyway, after a month or so I started seeing things in a fresh light. I realized that I wasn’t defined by my relationship status and that there was so much more to do in life than pine over an ex-boyfriend! I knew it was time to make some changes. Finally, I applied for the job in communications I’d always wanted, I started going out more with my girlfriends, and I made an effort to spend more quality time with my family. I even enrolled in a ceramics class! I wanted more for myself and I decided to go for it.”

— Tonya, 26 Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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About the author

Nicole Tarkoff

Writer based in the Philadelphia area. Person who really loves her dog and watching cooking shows. Check out my writing on Thought Catalog and follow me on Facebook! Connect with me and submit your work on Collective World.