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Overcoming My Quarter Life Crisis

October 01, 2010 By: Anna Marie Category: Opinion

By Amanda Kennedy

In this computer age, we are able to self-diagnose virtually anything via the Internet. Today, my worst fears have been realized. Hello, my name is Amanda Kennedy and I am suffering from a quarterlife crisis. A quarterlife crisis (QLC) is defined as “feelings of confusion, anxiety and self-doubt experienced by some people in their twenties, especially after completing their education.” In other words, a QLC is the result of realizing that you are nowhere near where you thought you’d be at 25, or “the period where twenty-somethings freak out.”

Where did I think I’d be? Hard to say really, but I saw marriage, success, money and the ability to make a decision, possible without a commitment. As my friends began to get married, balance their checkbooks, move to other cities and pay off their student loans and credit cards, I began to realize that I was lagging behind. So I did what any normal 25-year-old woman would do in the same situation: I pressured my boyfriend for an engagement ring and enrolled in graduate school. I am still waiting for the ring but have taken the leap back into the comfort of academia, where I can attempt to postpone “the real world” for at least two more years.This is ironic, considering that the reason I am in crisis is because of college and the crazy notion that I would graduate with a good-paying job in PR, climb the ladder to greatness, meet the man of my dreams, get married and earn a hefty salary before I turned 30.

At 21 all that seemed attainable, at 25 I realize it was delusional. Having to leave that “college bubble” comfort zone at 21 was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I had no job, no boyfriend, student loans looming and no clue what I was supposed to do. Dealing with the dreaded question “What are you going to do now?” was too much to handle. I found myself actually avoiding social situations because the same old “I’m not sure” just wasn’t cutting it. I bounced from job to job for two years, moved to Washington, D.C., moved back to Pittsburgh and spent four months searching for a career. And I am not alone. One visit to www.quarterlifecrisis.com (yes, there is a website for everything) and the hundreds who flock to its message boards confirms that America is filled with mid-to-late-twenty-somethings living each day in crisis mode, dealing with the realization that we will be the first generation to actually be less successful than our parents. One such poster, a 25-year-old law student writes, “I guess I’m just feeling a bit like I’m being pulled in too many directions and I’m not even sure if any of those are the right directions. I really want to know if any of you are feeling or have felt the same way and how do you deal?” Another twenty-something in Massachusetts writes, “I still live at home and am just feeling overwhelmed by the feeling that I am stuck—I guess what I am asking is, how do you really know what you want to do?”

This QLC phenomenon began with the New York Times bestseller, Quarterlife Crisis: the Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Winer. It was realized by the generation graduating without jobs, trying to find a mate and dealing with their feelings of inadequacy. The economy surely hasn’t helped this occurrence. The United States Department of Labor reports that at the end of August 2004, there were 8 million unemployed Americans. Assuming that number isn’t improving anytime soon, what’s a twenty-something to do? One of the major criticisms of the book is that it doesn’t really offer any solutions. It does a heck of a job identifying the problem, but where do we go from here? Because unless we, as a group, decide to get over it there will be another book out in two years titled Post-Quarterlife Crisis: Waiting for Midlife to Roll Around.

Personally, I have made some strides. Graduate school has given me a direction, my job has given me a cushion, and my boyfriend has given me someone to take it all out on. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with money, jealousy of married friends with money and jealousy of happily married friends with money and jobs they love.

This phenomenon was identified in the first place because we love to compare ourselves to others and worry about what we don’t have. In this America of the crazy notion to “keep up with the Jones’s” is it ever really enough? Are shows like “American Idol” and “The Apprentice” setting up a sixteen-to twenty-year-olds for an onslaught of “tween crisis” because they aren’t self-made businessmen and women with record deals? Only time will tell. My solution is simple: stop. Stop comparing yourself to your friends who are married, because you know what? 50% of marriages end in divorce. Stop comparing yourself to people on TV because TV lies and no one is that pretty all the time. Accept the fact that being in your twenties is hard and that college is over. Is it possible? Probably not. But if college taught me anything it’s that as hard as something is, looking back you will only remember the good times. I will warn you of one thing though, stay away from this quarterlifer when midlife rolls around.