If you remember flip phones and unlimited minutes after 8pm, or the pinnacle of early 2000s fashion (bell-bottom jeans and layered tank tops), then you might find yourself as a now twenty-something asking, “When the hell did I become an adult???”
They’re not kidding when they say life comes at you quick.
One moment you’re being sent off to college to have “the best years of your life”, and the next you’re entering the big and scary “real world”.
From 18-21, a lot changes. Maybe you moved away from home, switched majors once or twice, found a great friend group, fell in love for the first time, discovered a passion, started a new hobby, or had your first heartbreak.
Those few years of young adulthood are full of eye-opening experiences that shape our identities, dreams, and relationships. During this time, we feel free to make mistakes, experiment with our ideas about the world and ourselves, and live life perhaps a bit more freely with the knowledge that we don’t have to grow up just yet.
But then we do grow up.
It feels instant and all-consuming, but most of all inescapable. Here enters, the quarter life crisis.
It’s not full of red sports cars and new wardrobes like our dear friend the mid life crisis, but rather, full of financial uncertainty, constant comparison, career questioning, and countless efforts to be taken seriously.
As social media’s first guinea pigs, we’re pretty damn good at seeing something online and asking ourselves “Why is that not me?” or “Is that what I should be doing?”
It ranges from “FOMO” for social events to seeing everyone on LinkedIn get a graduate degree. And we can’t forget the Instagram posts with captions like “Our new home!” “She said yes!” and “Meet our new puppy!”.
In this new phase of life, it feels like everyone is moving at vastly different paces and yet somehow, they all seem to be faster than yours.
So if it feels like life is hard, it’s because it is.
Let’s look at the big picture for a second – we grew up in an economic recession, experienced extremely competitive academic environments, and successfully graduated with bachelor’s degrees only to need 5 years of experience just to earn minimum wage.
Not to mention, the impact COVID-19 has had on our budding careers, financial growth, mental health, and relationships is overwhelming. The “real world” is not the same world our parents grew up in. For many reasons, that’s incredible, but it also challenging.
Maybe you moved back in with your parents and struggle to maintain a sense of autonomy while sleeping in your childhood bedroom.
Or maybe you’re doubting the career path you’ve chosen as you watch your peers make money, get promoted, and afford apartments you and your bank account could never dream of.
Maybe you find yourself saying, “By the time my parents were 27, they already had a house and two kids” or “When will I finally have it all figured out?”.
The intense need we feel to have a sense of direction is fueled by our longing for certainty and comfort.
As children, our identity is rooted in being a student, a sibling, an artist, an athlete. We grow older only to find that our purpose transcends our grades, relationships, and hobbies. This is equally terrifying and exhilarating – the ultimate existential dilemma.
Perhaps a quarter life crisis can be seen as an opportunity to redefine what adulthood means to you.
Take time to consider what you value in life, what brings you joy, and what doesn’t.
Invest in yourself and the relationships that make you feel authentic to who you are.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes, to take risks, and go at your own pace.
Life is not one size fits all – both the path you choose to follow and the pace at which you navigate it, is entirely up to you.
Part of this life stage is learning how to differentiate your needs, goals, and identity from the expectations of others – the result is unbelievably freeing.
Hi, I’m Madison Hamzy, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
You can experience more fulfillment in your life and relationships! I’m here to support you.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Madison