I was 25, still living with my parents, had a steady job, no boyfriend, and a heck of a lot of student loans. As much fun as I was having going out with my friends every weekend and blowing through every miniscule paycheck I received, I was deeply unhappy and plagued with the question: What do I want to do with my life?
Three years later, I’m 28, married, have a dog, rent a townhome and am at a job where I see myself staying until I retire. A lot can happen in three years. I didn’t see it three years ago, but I was going through something everybody goes through. It’s called “life.” Maybe you’ve heard of it?
The quarter life crisis and being scared of the unknown
In my case, I nicknamed this tumultuous time of my life “the quarter-life crisis.”
I was in such a rush to be at a place where I wasn’t constantly in flux that I wasn’t enjoying the process of living through my 20’s. In fact, my 20’s had turned out to be the antithesis of what I had envisioned. I wasn’t going out every night, meeting the man of my dreams, landing my dream job and living it up in my red convertible which I had bought with all the cash I was making. Where was my Prince Charming? Why was I still struggling to make ends meet? Why couldn’t I afford to move out on my own while all my other friends seemed so put together?
Comparing myself to others was a recipe for disaster. Everyone has their own financial circumstances that can affect their socio-economic status (I personally liked to believe that everyone except me had inherited some vast fortune—but you know, whatever works for you). I felt like my career—for the whole three years I had been working since I graduated college—had been sputtering along.
It’s okay to feel lost sometimes
“Is this all there is?” I would ask myself.
I was in such a rush to get to where I was going, that I wasn’t stopping to enjoy the present. Of course, it’s always easier to look behind you and say “I’m glad that’s over.” Now that I’m married and have settled down a little bit, I am really taking the time to just enjoy my everyday life. I’m in no rush to have kids, and I’m content with working my way slowly up the corporate ladder. I’d like to buy a house, but I see that as a goal we can accomplish in a few years—not something that needs to happen right this instant.
Surviving the quarter life crisis is about a few key pieces of wisdom
1. Take one day at a time: It’s completely acceptable to not know everything and to just enjoy the present moment. The struggles of interviewing for jobs and going on a ton of bad dates are the kinds of things that build character.
2. Be proud of your choices: I work a desk job. For some reason, I felt that for my life to have meaning, I had to work at finding the cure for AIDS or feeding starving children in Africa. But it’s okay to work a nine-to-five. I love a steady paycheck and I love that my work doesn’t come home with me after 5 p.m. Just because I’m not contributing to world peace doesn’t mean that what I do doesn’t have meaning. I’ve just found my true happiness in something other than my career.
3. Have personal goals and financial goals and work toward them: It can be too easy to just constantly walk around in a state of confusion. Fight off a case of the woe-is-me’s by creating goals for yourself and sticking to them. Revamp your resume, attend networking events, go on a blind date—whatever it is, do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and gets you one step closer to where you want to be.