Ahh the 'quarter life crisis' - this may be a phrase you've heard banded around satirical news articles aimed a lost millennials. However, there is now growing evidence to suggest this a) is actually a thing and b) it could be a potentially important and healthy phase for young adults to go through.
At 28, I myself am probably in the throes of my very own Quarter Life Crisis. I have just spent the past 18 months working for a travel company, I currently have no big life commitments; i'm not in a serious relationship, embedded in a particular career and I haven't even committed to a place (or country) to live in just yet. To some, it would feel unsettling being in this position at 28 (my mother in particular - if she'd have had it her way - I'd be a GP married to an accountant, about to pop out my first child and having coffee with her at John Lewis' every Saturday...) Anyway, after wading through a lot of panic, worry, insecurity and a few million 'ohgodistheresomethingwrongwithmes' - I discovered the QLC (we'll call it that for short) is not something to be ashamed of or worried about at all - and there are some fast emerging benefits. So, if you are finding yourself in the throes of what seems like your very own QLC and you're feeling ashamed, anxious and lost - read on and I'll do my best to put your mind at ease.
Dr Oliver Robinson, a specialist in Adult psychological development has studied this new phenomenon and developed 4 distinct stages of the Quarter Life Crisis; (1) Locked-in (2) Separation/Time-out, (3) Exploration and (4) Rebuilding.
The usual age of onset is around 25-26 and it often starts with a person either losing suddenly, or beginning to question a big commitment they've taken on; a career choice, a relationship, buying a property or other potentially long-term commitment. Anyway, here are some key things to remember and to help you through;
1) Commitment is the keyword - the QLC most likely arises through doubts about huge commitments - often to do with our career and who we are setting up home with. This is not a bad thing - doubting the big commitments in your life is not a bad thing - at all. I read somewhere that who you decide to spend your life with is one of the biggest determining features of your future happiness, financial situation and even your health - closely followed by your job. You will spend over 40 years of your life at work so doubting your career and re-evaluating things when you're 4/5 years into a chosen path is a fine - and likely a very good thing.
2) You always have permission to change, grow and adapt. When I look back at who I was when I was 20 vs who I am at 28, thats only 8 years, but there is a lot of difference in so many areas. Even in that short space your values and motivations may be turned on their head and what used to excite you might now bore you and vice versa. If no one has said it to you yet, then hear it now - You are allowed to change your mind.
3) When it comes to love, choosing to build a life with someone that you don't truly love for all those scary reasons that make us cling to someone: because you're afraid - either of hurting them or to be alone, because everyone else is coupled up, because who will I go to weddings with? because all our friends are friends, because I'll miss their parents etc - will only result in hurting you and the other person much more in the long run. We all deserve to be with someone who we truly love (like we know we love them - its a no brainer.) and who truly loves us too - this includes that person you're secretly not so sure about. If you're privately wrestling with the idea that maybe they're not the one, be brave and speak up. Sometimes we can be with someone who is completely perfect but we're just not feeling it. This wont change, and you cant think yourself into loving someone - because its about your heart. Raise your doubts and talk it through, and if need be, let them go so they can be free to find someone who can love them completely. It doesn't matter about the sofa you've bought together or if even you're literally days from getting married - being true to yourself is always the right thing in love. No matter how much of a storm it causes the time to do this is now, while you're young and before there are any children involved. This way you can set yourself and the other person free to find people who will truly make them happy. and you never know, after time apart, you may even find that they were the one after all.
(n.b. If you've done this and now you're now sailing the high seas of a QLC, well done, you are not a failure - and it may feel crap now but it wont feel that way forever - I promise.)
4) The QLC can be really really fun . At 26 I made my big broken hearted self join a cheerleading squad. Having come of age in the era of 'Bring it On' , I knew I was making my 13 year old self very very proud. I was the oldest member on the team and remember finding it completely hilarious reading the list of birthdates of the competition squad and realising I was on the only one born in the 80s. It didn't matter at all and I made some wonderful friends, rediscoverd a confidence I'd lost and have some amazing memories from that period of my life - not to mention I now own a REAL made-to-measure cheerleader uniform. Yeh baby.
5) You will no longer settle. The Quarter Life Crisis is really just about losing everything to start again and build better. This time more informed and more aware. The next house you build will be on much more solid foundations - not sand. And don't forget - as with a lot of things in life - clarity always follows a storm.
So if you're starting to question every big life decision you've ever made and selling everything you own and taking a one way flight to Brazil is starting to look like an attractive option - don't worry. You're fine. Questioning things is good and just trust in yourself that you'll be brave enough to make the changes if you need to - and if you end up in Brazil - well there's a story to tell your grandkids!