Lost At 26: How It Feels When A Quarter-Life Crisis Hits Unexpectedly

by Stuart McWhirter

One of the biggest misconceptions about life after college is that everyone immediately feels lost.

We all fantasize that we’re Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate," and we have absolutely no idea what to do with our lives now that the days of lecture halls and library makeout sessions are over.

Sure, there’s an anxious feeling between graduation and your first job, but in reality, once you land whatever that first foray into the real world is, you feel pretty content for a while.

When I first moved to New York, I was fortunate enough to land a coveted spot in the NBC Page Program, which is a year-long program in which you get to work on shows like "Saturday Night Live" and give hungover tours of the famed 30 Rock building to French tourists.

I have to say, it was probably the best year of my life. As strange as this may sound, it wasn't the best year because of the job and all the fun celebrity stories from it.

It was the best year because I was 22 years old, out of college and on my own in a huge metropolis, making real money.

For the first time in 22 years of living, I didn’t have some bullsh*t job on the side while I was in school. It was the first time I was the true breadwinner. That’s how it feels to be 22 and 23.

You have the same liver you had a few months back in college; you still go out way too much, but the only difference is you have to make it into work the next day and power through.

Being 22 with a full-time job in New York never made me question why or what I was doing. I was just doing it because it was fun to have a steady income and to go out to party every night.

The real time when you start to question your life, your path and what the hell you’re doing is after the first couple years of being an adult start to fade.

I’m now 26 and have been somehow living and surviving in New York for over four years. From ages 22 to 25, I just kind of went with it.

I woke up, I did my thing day-to-day; I went out to every bar and nightclub I could and I didn’t care I didn’t have much to show for it.

Today, I woke up a 26-year-old male and thought to myself, 'What the hell do I have to show for the last four years of my life? I’ve had a hell of a lot of good times over the last few years, but am I doing what I want to be doing? What’s my actual legacy going to be?'

I think the scariest thing about your mid- to late-20s is everyone on his or her own private plane going in a thousand different directions. I log onto Facebook and I see the first girl I ever kissed now has two kids.

I see friends who have made it as musicians and now have a net worth of well over $500,000. I see myself, and I see someone who’s been rolling with the punches for a few years, but might need to wake the f*ck up.

So, no, life after college isn’t that scary. At least, it’s not apparent of how scary it can be.

When you’re 22, you have the rest of your life to figure it out. When you’re 26, you start to realize you’re still young, but there’s no better time than the present.

Time to stop making excuses, stop going out way too much and step up to the plate. The first step to a quarter-life crisis is accepting that you’re having one. The next step is making it your b*tch.