Why the Quarter-Life Crisis Should be Taken Seriously

Recently, someone asked me, “So how’s senior yearare you enjoying it as much as you’d hope?” I quite literally laughed in that person’s face. Whether you’re in college or not, ages 2122 are not as “enjoyable” as one would hope. These are the times when seniors in college are desperately trying to keep their grades up, find a job, remain involved in their activities, and stay above water. We are approaching a fork in the road: find a job, find a graduate school, or find yourself. Before I left for Denmark, my road appeared straight and narrow. First I would go to law school, then I’d work for a firm. Boom. That’s nice and easy. After traveling the world for six months, my road grew from 50 states to 196 countries. I discussed this issue with my good friend Michael over lunch one day. We discussed the feeling of being pulled in every direction, and we came to the same conclusion: we are experiencing the quarter-life crisis.

So what exactly does this mean? Isn’t this supposed to happen when you’re mid-life? Growing up, that’s what I was expecting. Around 40-50 I would freak out that I was aging, and go out and buy a Lamborghini or something of the similar nature. What has recently hit me in the face is that I am still extremely young but have some life-changing decisions to make. Not to mention, finding a job itself has turned into a bloodbath. My grandpa was vice president of a successful company before he turned thirtyand he did it without a college degree. My mother tries to convince me that obtaining a job isn’t as tough as I make it out to be. These days you are expected to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Your resume should be painted in gold and. The icing on the cake? Social media is a nightmare. Another piece of advice my mother gave me was: always check your social media accounts. Her company constantly checks the prospective employee’s social media accounts. In a photo, someone could just be having fun with a couple of friends. However, your photos and actions could be misconstrued by a third party viewer. As children who have grown up in the technological age, this is not necessarily news to us. This information, however, is beginning to take effect.   

Most people question my stresses by saying, “You’re only 21 years old, you still have plenty of life to live, so how could people your age be having a crisis?” In psychological terms, Erik Erikson discusses the developmental steps an individual takes throughout one’s life. When you’re young, you battle with trust and mistrust, and once you’re a young adult (12 to 18 years old), you’re struggling with Ego identity versus role confusion. And then BOOM! You’re an adult and into intimacy versus isolation. We are all currently in the stages where we hope to find love as well.

Michael and I also joked around that people our age are out here getting engaged and having babies, and we are trying to find what to wear the next day. Not only do we have the stresses of being monetarily successful, moving up in the hierarchy of life, and keeping our overall sh*t in order, but we are also expected to find love. In the next few years, we are supposed to find that perfect someone who can put a ring on our finger and provide us with babies and a picket fence. (The picket fence and babies may be an exaggeration.) As a 21-year-old, I’m constantly asked when I’m going to find my soulmate and settle down. All I want to do is scream out, “I haven't even figured out my own future, so how could I go and find someone to ‘settle down’ with?”Also, why would I want to settle down when there’s still so much of the world to be explored?

All of these questions are a part of the unknown. As much as I wish I (or the Career Development Office) could answer them, I can’t. Only time can. If you know me at all, patience for the unknown isn’t always my strong suit. From all of this, all I have to say is that it may be more difficult to get the perfect job right out of college, you may not find the love of your life on Tinder, and relatives may constantly be adding pressure to your shoulders which are already burdened by the pressure you place on yourself.

I am here to tell you (and myself) that things don’t always work out the way we dream it, but don’t let that stop you from dreaming. The stress you feel is normal. As difficult as it is, take it a cup of coffee at a time. I can tell you that nearly everyone is experiencing the same stressors to a similar extent. Take solace in the fact that this is a taxing process we all must go through. And we will see each other on the graduation carpet.


Image Credit: Buzzfeed, Lady Bits and Bobs, Mom.me