Perfecting The Quarter-Life Crisis: Why Losing Your Sh*t Is Completely Okay

by Monica Simon

Ah, the quarter-life crisis. You know, that time in your 20s when you are done with college and you realize you have no idea what the hell you are doing. The career you thought you would love, you actually hate; although, hey, it doesn't matter — there are no jobs anyway!

You're single with no prospects in sight. All of a sudden, you find yourself panicking and wondering, “What's wrong with me?” With the preceding generations constantly pointing out how 20-somethings are lost, directionless and irresponsible, it's easy to become overwhelmed.

Facebook doesn't help, either; you see all these announcements about people getting engaged or getting into law school and it feels lonely. You start to wonder why everyone else has their sh*t together without you.

I was in that boat for a long time. When I graduated from college with two degrees, I had my future set; I was going to get a good job, marry my boyfriend and live happily-ever-after. Soon enough, though, that dream fell apart.

I needed to move to a city where I knew no one in order to get a job that wasn't all that glamorous. My long-term relationship fell apart and I was left completely alone, wondering where to go from there. Oh, and I had student loans. A lot of them.

At first, I was angry and bitter – our generation got screwed. We are all fully aware that there will be no social security by the time we retire. And even if there is, half of us will be using it to pay back the student loans for the educations we can't use. I felt lost and hopeless.

It's interesting how older generations view us to be constantly partying, planning our next trips. In their eyes, we always want to have a good time. Why don't we take anything seriously?

Well, I would argue that we have found the good in life through being directionless. It's easier to have fun when you don't feel like you have a clue what you are doing.

I have a friend who decided to be a lawyer, then changed his mind and took the MCATs and then changed his mind again. The thing is, that's a freedom generations before us did not have. Most of us can say our parents were married with a baby or two by age 25.

Why would we want that? How boring would it be if all of our big life decisions – marriage, kids, career – were all cut out for us by 25? What would we have to look forward to?

No, our generation doesn't want or need the security. Much like social security, we're not sure all of these things that were promised to us – the good job, the perfect spouse and retirement – will be waiting there for us. We're not even sure we want it.

So, while we figure it out, we're having fun. We change our minds and then we change them again. We bask in new experiences simply because we understand we have one life to live and no one knows when it will end.

Finally, we realize that our careers and the American dream don't have to define our happiness; we define our own happiness. There's no rulebook for this journey.

Without completely losing our sh*t and direction, we can't come to terms with the uncertainty of life and then choose to deal with it regardless.

A quarter-life crisis is uncomfortable because it tears apart the template from which we've been working since kindergarten. Generally, we've been taught that school leads to financial stability, then marriage, then kids. The end.

Suddenly, with the faltering economy and uncertainty of job stability, creating new goals and focusing on different expectations is a necessity. It's easy to understand why we are left wondering, "Now what?"

Well, here's what: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Enjoy the freedom you have to change your mind and then change it again. Party, socialize and take chances.

Take a spontaneous trip to the beach and enjoy the freedom of not having kids or a mortgage. Run the marathon no one thinks you can do. Prove people wrong. Above all, live on your own terms. Learn from your mistakes. Maybe you won't find your direction right away, but you'll definitely have fun in the process.

Maybe our generation will always be lost and spontaneous and irresponsible; maybe, that's not fun for the people who want us to have the mundane jobs that will pay for the ever-shrinking social security fund.

However, something tells me we smile a lot more than the people who came before us, and maybe that's why quarter-life crises are perhaps the best times of our lives.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It