How To Cope With Your Impending Quarter-Life Crisis

A quarter-life crisis: that moment when you ask yourself what the heck you’re doing with your life. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your relationship, but you stay in it because you’re in your mid or late 20s and time’s a ticking (you’re not that young cat you once were!). Many of your friends are either engaged or married and you’re afraid of change at this point in your life. You are not as resilient as you once were and the unknown has become an increasing source of fear as you inch toward 30.

While age 30 is not objectively old, sometimes you still feel as though you are a senior in high school, on the cusp of your next step, but unable to commit to that plunge into maturity. A major issue is your career — or job, if you are still unsettled with the implied definition of “career,” as it insinuates commitment and is associated with adulthood.

Maybe in college, you started working toward a certain path and realized late in the game that your coursework deviated from what you actually wanted to do. Changing gears in the midst of your degree was too cumbersome and dropping a class to pick up another was a daunting task. Thus, you likely remained in a program you despised and proceeded on a path to a career you knew you could never love.

Maybe you also feel a tinge of emptiness. You have yet to fulfill a certain yearning in your life and you may not know explicitly what the yearning is — you just know that somewhere within you, it exists. It may be the desire to travel or learn a new language or play a sport — whatever it is, part of you thirsts for some kind of adventure to ignite your spirit. A piece of you that is eager to uncover your undiscovered identity.

What Now?

It is never too late to turn things around.  All you need is the courage to embrace change, which may not be easy, as change rarely is. However, consider the following three philosophies, or mantras, if you will, that will make the process less painful.

1. Life is beautiful.

Many of us take for granted the simple things in life, like a laughing child laughing or an elderly couple holding hands. It is these small events in life that will bring peace. We often focus too much on the superficial or materialistic aspects of life that, in the end, will grant us nothing but disappointment and dissatisfaction.

There will never be a sufficient amount of material goods for an individual if this is the main pursuit. People who become entrepreneurs to be rich, rather than to share passion they hold, will only discover that whatever dollar amount they may achieve will never be enough. A goal of a million, once attained, will immediately grow to two million, two eventually to three and so on. Until the next level is achieved, they will not be happy. If we actually stop and appreciate all that we already have, we may realize that we are already so fortunate, that the beauty for which we hope and wish has been evident the whole time.

2. You’re going to be just fine.

A wise man once told me this and somehow, the phrase changed my entire perception of life. At first, when he spoke those words to me, I was angry: thoughts raced through my mind. What does he know about my life? He has no idea what I am going through. How does he even know everything will be fine? What if everything isn’t fine? After I cleared these contemplations from my mind, I took in what he said at face value. “You are going to be just fine.” I had to say it to myself a few times.

I applied it to all the circumstances in my life. If I drop out of my program at school, will I be just fine?  What if I don't get a job right away? I thought this through and came to the realization that yes, I would really be just fine. The matters were not life threatening and I began to comprehend that nothing happening in my life would be the end of the world.

If I was in a relationship, or not. If I continued to be in school or decided to resign. If I chose to pursue teaching or marketing. What he said was really so simple that it almost felt impossible that it could be true. We often blow things out of proportion and fail to see situations from holistic or aerial views. If we take the events in our lives and compare them to the grand scheme of things, it becomes obvious that all the energy we waste on worrying can be used much more efficiently elsewhere.

3. Your happiness starts with you.

Many times, we blame others for our misery.  We are unhappy because of our jobs, or relationships or because a friend always cancels plans last minute — whatever the reason may be, it is usually an external problem. What many people fail to realize is that once a person changes his or her perspective, the world around them alters.

You can look at the same wooden dresser for ten years and see nothing but the ugly shade of brown and some scratches — this was the case for me until one day, when I decided to take my life by the horns, do what made me happy and embrace all that I am. Nothing had to change except for my perspective.

I literally looked at a dresser that had been mine for 10 years — a boring and plain dresser at which no one would take a second look, and suddenly, for the first time, I saw how well it complimented my room and how beautiful it looked with a vase of flowers on its surface.

I noticed the vividness of the shade of brown and the fact that it made my room feel warm. The dresser made me smile. Before this incident, I would have thought someone to be quite odd (or just plain crazy) if a dresser had the capability to make him or her feel jubilant. Today, almost everything has the capacity to bring me bliss because I can see beauty almost anywhere.

Most of us pay no attention to our surroundings because we are always searching for more and better. Why can’t we just choose to be happy? Well, that's just it — we can.  Happiness is not an object or hidden treasure waiting to be found. It is a choice waiting for your decision.

What’s Next?

Now that you’re willing to make changes in your life, it is really only a matter of how you choose to go about it. Two ways to approach change: The light switch approach or the gradual approach. The light switch approach refers to a drastic, 180-degree transformation — breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, quitting your job or booking a trip.

This audacious route isn’t for everyone and may be problematic, as it allows for one to potentially evade issues. The gradual change involves a starting point of an unsettling aspect of your life.  Do you feel guilt about being with someone who you know is not “the one”?  Is going into work tomorrow so dreadful that you would rather endure a day of eating no carbs and running on the treadmill for hours?

Attack an issue in your life that you know you won’t able to manage for much longer. From here, slowly take on change — slow and steady wins the race, as there’s no time limit. Don’t do anything to please others. Do what makes you happy — choose you.

Photo credit: Theo Gosselin