Here’s the thing about being in your 20s: you have no idea what you’re doing. You have no idea what the future holds, what you want to pursue as your life work, or even what you’re going to do right after college graduation. This is not a bad thing: we don’t always have to know the next step. We can dwell in possibility and just enjoy the present moment. Okay, who am I kidding: easier said that done. Let’s be honest, who in their right mind can enjoy the present moment when it seems everything is centered on the omniscient question of “What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?” I hear some form of this question almost everyday: from professors, family, friends, and even the homeless guy that sits outside Subway. Before you know it, you’ll be forced to explain in extensive detail exactly how your American Studies major will prove relevant in the job market, if you want to go to graduate school or take some years off (and what will you be doing? And why? And exactly for how long because you know how hard it can be to return to school after being out of the classroom for so long!), and where would like to be in twenty years. Oh, and by the way—do you see yourself married with children one day? Welcome to my world: that of the quarter-life crisis. Here are further conformations that you have entered this precarious stage-
1. You Google “What should I do with my life?” Five minutes later, you search: “What is law school like?” Because, well, why not.
Who else looks to Google as a shoulder to cry on? Anyone? …Oh okay, just me then. Regardless, I’m sure you and I can both agree that sometimes the future is a scary concept. And sometimes you’ll look anywhere for some sort of solace to the unknown questions, including—but not limited to—Google, fortune cookies, and magic eight balls. It’s all part of the healing process and I’m here to assure you such actions are completely justified. Sometimes the problem is you have too many interests and thus too many ideas for possible careers—everything sounds good to you, so how are you supposed to narrow it down? Maybe it’s the opposite: you’re not really sure what you’re into or what you want to pursue further. You’re still figuring that out, despite the foreboding presence of “The Real World” which threatens to make an unruly entrance. The temporary solution to both of these dilemmas for the 20-something can be found in asking for clarifications about your future to…well, anyone.
2. You ask friends, family, and the occasional perfect stranger, “What can you see me doing? As a career? In five years? In ten? HELP ME.”
Quarter-life logic: you might not know the answer to these looming life questions…but maybe [fill in name of designated person here] does! This is a natural reaction that comes from the relentless questions. Can you blame me for asking the school librarian where she could see me working in twenty years? Can you blame me for cornering my friend and making her call her mother to have her answer some of my questions about the future? And I made her mother use her set of I Ching to determine what my future had in store? Can you blame me for that? Will I still have your respect and love? I just want answers, okay? Stop giving me that look!
3. You’re tempted to avoid meeting new people because everyone you meet asks about your plans after college and beyond. And frankly, you’ve had enough of it.
“Nice to meet you too—AND NO I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE, OKAY?!” Sound familiar? Been there, done that. The result of the quarter-life crisis is the sudden and constant need to isolate oneself from the demands of this cruel, cruel world. No more, you think to yourself as you sob into your pillow one particularly long night, enough is enough—we all have limits! We all have breaking points! I AM BUT A MERE MORTAL. This is what we consider an “all time low.” Let’s just take a moment of silence to let that image of you sobbing into your pillow really sink in. It probably wasn’t you at your best. But guess what? It’s okay. Even though you have officially cracked, it can only get gets better from there.
4. After you finally hit rock bottom, you suddenly morph into this incredibly profound person.
Despite the inner turmoil, the soul searching, and the bad poetry you wrote in an attempt to voice your struggles—you overcome. Dear reader, we have reached the final stage in this intricate game known as the quarter-life crisis: acceptance. When you accept that you are experiencing a quarter-life crisis, you laugh at the stupidity of it all because you aren’t supposed to know the answers. You aren’t supposed to have a 10-year plan or a no-fail guide to success. That stuff doesn’t even work anyways (believe me, I’ve tried). Instead, you realize maybe all you’re supposed to be doing is…well, living your life. Enjoying it. Enjoying where you are, in all your uncertainties and confusion, and having a good time regardless. Doing what makes you happy, surrounding yourself with people who support and love you. When this epiphany has been realized, your entire being changes. Now, you find yourself responding to questions about your future in a very mellow, philosophical manner. Someone asks, “What job can you get with a history major anyway?” And you calmly breathe in and out, offering a genuine smile. You respond: “If you continue harassing me with these questions, I will set the police on your ass. If you continue interrogating me, I will have no further choice than to take legal action.” And then, with a quiet dignity you recently developed, you walk away, forcibly slamming the door into this person’s face as you exit. You are finally at peace.