The Quarter Life Crisis: Balancing Practicality and Passion as a Twentysomething

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Published: August 23, 2018

I did everything I was “supposed” to do. I went to college. I chose a major that I knew would get me paid and allow me the financial stability and freedom I was so accustomed to, having grown up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. I graduated with a job offer in hand, pushing back my start date to travel to Europe for a month, and was proud of all I had done to get to that point in my life.

But not long after I had settled into my cubicle those first few weeks at my big-girl corporate job, I fell into a state of unhappiness and confusion, and wondered how someone in my position could feel so uncertain and unfulfilled. Hadn’t I done everything I was supposed to? I was on my way to owning my first property, contributing to a retirement savings, and following the American Dream.

Following the traditional blueprint of school, work, marriage, kids, retirement seemed so much easier than trying to figure out what my passion was. I saw my peers in college going after degrees that seemed much more interesting, but I heard my parents’ voice in my head anytime I considered switching majors: “What are you going to do with that? You could have gone to a state school for that; it would be much cheaper.” Because of this, I compromised by taking electives I enjoyed, and decided that this is what comes with having your parents pay for your tuition.

I eventually established a routine after I settled into my job: wake up for work, put on a fake smile, come home and sulk on the couch until the next day. I was stir crazy. Fridays came and I’d frantically contact all my friends longing for some type of event for us to connect. It got worse as time went on. The few times I did hang out with friends, an incessant, nagging voice in my head reminded me of the loneliness that awaited me when I got home.

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All the while, I never dared to share my feelings with friends because, I thought, who was I to complain when some of my peers were struggling to find worthy jobs? And even if they did truly care how I was, I didn’t want to soil our moments with my negative feelings. I beat myself up mentally trying to convince myself that my life could be so much worse, that I in fact was to blame for my unhappiness because this was the path I had chosen.

It was a late night at the gym when I finally lost it. I was up with my mind racing and thought a good workout might fix it. Midway through a weight lifting set I broke down in tears, finally allowing myself to feel everything I had been trying to deny. I was unhappy and unsatisfied and didn’t know how or if I would overcome it.

I started searching online, typing in “life after college” and I found a few blogs that finally put a name to all the madness I had been feeling: Quarter Life Crisis.   I fit all the signs, and hit every item on the checklist. I felt so relieved to finally have a term to describe my feelings. Through my search I found and took online courses aimed at helping me to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I started by first understanding my values and then using said values as a compass for the next step to take in my life. It helped me to finally have a method that I felt could actually result in satisfying change.

I finally started to share what was going on with my friends, and surprisingly, they completely empathized. They understood and wished I had spoken up sooner.

Knowing what I know now, I’d advise my younger self to relax into the moment, and that never at any point will I have everything all figured out because that’s life: it constantly unfolds. I would tell myself to first start by noticing and jotting down the things that I used to do that made me happy and start doing those things. I’d also say to be explicit and journal the things I was grateful for. Most importantly, I’d say to drop expectations as to how my life “should be” and instead be open to what it “could be.” Life is not about how ready you are, it’s about how flexible and adaptable you can be to the things it may unexpectedly toss your way.

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About Lexi D

Lexi is a 20-something navigating life on her own terms. She shares ways to cope with life’s stresses on her YouTube channel: Youtube.com/LexiDarcel.

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