If you are somewhere between your mid twenties and early thirties you might be experiencing a confusing time in your life. You are torn about your identity, your real purpose in life and the level of success you have achieved so far.
You constantly compare yourself to others your age. In your eyes, everyone else seems to have it all together. You let out a silent gasp when you see another baby announcement or engagement on Facebook. You wonder why your life is not going according to plan. The plan you thought was the ‘right’ path.
You are probably experiencing a quarter-life crisis, or as The Muse puts it, “a period of intense soul-searching and stress occurring in your mid 20s to early 30s” typically because you feel you’re not achieving your full potential or are falling behind.
But don’t worry because you are not alone!
You are not alone
I’ve had more than 5 jobs since graduating university and none of them in my exact field of study. I’ve worked as an invasive species controller, as a general labourer at a local mill, in the restaurant service industry and retail, and as an office assistant.
On my 25th birthday I woke up and thought “What the hell am I doing with my life?”. I was working a 9-5 job that made me miserable. That sucked every ounce of passion out of me and left me feeling helpless. My job didn’t motivate me to be a better person and I somehow knew that it never would.
The negative work environment would leave me feeling deflated. Like a big yellow balloon, I would show up every day with a positive outlook and over the course of the day my balloon slowly deflated. Or even worse, was trampled on and popped under the pressure. I was living from weekend to weekend and when Sunday night rolled around I’d have a serious case of the blues.
I felt like I was going nowhere fast.
I was stuck and didn’t know how to get out.
I didn’t realize it for a while but I was in the middle of a nasty quarter-life crisis.
To add salt to the wound, Dr. Olive Robinson author of Emerging adulthood, early adulthood and quarter-life crisis: Updating Erikson for the 21st Century says the quarter-life crisis dilemma tends to affect a certain type of person the most: those who try. If you’re driven to succeed, have strong ideals, and set goals you want to achieve by certain points in your life, you’re a prime candidate for the disappointment and confusion such a crisis often brings.
The above description is basically me in a nutshell! By being a go-getter, I set myself up to be disappointed. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Learning to weather the storm
So what did I do?
I didn’t quit my job, although I thought about it often. I knew it wouldn’t be a forever job but for now I was going to stick it out. And quite frankly, I needed the steady paycheques.
However, I did start focusing more on my life outside of work. My relationship with my boyfriend, my commitment to being healthy and my love for outdoor adventures.
Over the summer months I took on a second job serving part-time at a restaurant. I figured I’d keep myself as busy as possible. I could use the extra cash to do something I love down the road. I kept all my tips in a glass jar near my bedside table, dreaming of a fun trip I’d spend the money on.
In the fall I took a night-time accounting course at the local college. I re-discovered how much I love learning. It gave me another focus outside of work and a new skill which will be useful throughout life, whatever path I take.
My quarter-life crisis has mostly been about not feeling fulfilled at work and my own pressures about figuring out what I want to do career wise. I struggled with feeling like I was missing out on a dream career by not going back to university for a Masters degree in something that would actually result in a decent paying job. And one that I was also passionate about.
But recently my life has taken a new direction and in one month my boyfriend and I are starting a new journey by moving abroad with a one way ticket!
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
So how did I survive my quarter-life crisis and how do I continue to choose happiness?
How to overcome your quarter-life crisis
Stop comparing yourself.
We spend way too much precious time comparing ourselves to others. We scroll through people’s Instagram accounts and wish we had their life, their job, their relationship. But Facebook and Instagram are just highlight reels and they never show the whole story. They display a polished version of life, where everything seems perfect. Well, we all know that this is the furthest thing from the truth!
Focus on you.
When you’re unsure of what you want in life, are feeling stressed about not finding your ‘dream job’ or not having met ‘the one’ take a step back and focus on you. Start a journal and write down the things that make YOU happy and what you love about YOUR life.
A couple months ago a friend gave me a book to read called The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein. The book is a guide for how to transform your fear to faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in the book guides readers to release the blocks to what they most long for: happiness, security, and clear direction.
This book came exactly at the right time in my life, like the universe knew what I needed and she provided it to me. When you surrender your fears and let love guide you, you’ll be surprised by the doors that open for you.
Be happy for others.
Some of my best friends have recently gotten married, some are having babies, some are starting new careers, and others are getting puppies or buying their first home. What an exciting time in our lives!
Be thrilled for your friends who’ve most likely placed similar pressures on themselves to be at a certain point in their lives. Show gratitude for the friendships you have and realize that even if you’re taking a different path in life then them, it doesn’t mean you can’t be excited for them.
And honestly, how boring would it be if everyone did the exact same thing?
Don’t let anyone define you.
This period of your life is all about becoming aware of what your interests are. Try new things and when you find something you like, go with it. The sooner you let go of what others expect of you the better. If you have a university degree, don’t let it define you or what you’re capable of. You never know what you’ll like or what you might be good at unless you give it a try.
Be patient with yourself.
Allow yourself to try new things and along the way potentially have some false starts. Bury those unrealistic ideas of how your life is “supposed to look like” and just go with the flow. Things often have a funny way of working out. This doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams, but to stay flexible in pursuit of those dreams.
My mom has always said that “Rome was not built in one day” and she couldn’t be more right. Life doesn’t need to be completely figured out by the time you’re in your mid twenties! So be patient with yourself and realize that you have all the time in the world to figure out what you want to do with your life.
Onward and upward!
This can be a turbulent time in your life and getting through a quarter-life crisis is no easy feat. So cut yourself some slack!
Be patient, be kind to yourself, and put trust in the universe that you will be just fine.
There are still days where I catch myself having thoughts like “I should be further ahead in life” but knowing that I’m not alone helps. Talking with friends, I’ve realized that we’re all going through these growing pains at different speeds.
So please remember this! Everyone has their own path in life and you should focus on yours, not someone else’s.
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