When I decided to run away at the end of last year, throwing in my job to commence a desperate search for contentment and meaning, I had never felt so alone. At the time I was convinced I was the only person to have ever experienced the poignant feelings of failure and inadequacy that were undermining my identity. Yet from the moment I began writing about my journey, I became aware of an entire generation of people in the same position; feeling despondent and confused. Believing, as I did, they were lonely islands. Since the commencement of this year, I’ve received many emails and messages from people who’ve been where I am. Sadly, due to commitments and responsibilities, many find themselves in a state of stuckness, unable to break from the blue. But others answered the call for change and have shared stories of wonderfully positive personal outcomes.
There’s no shortage of research on the subject of the quarter life crisis. In fact, scientists and psychologists agree that the condition is nearing epidemic standards in the western world. Growth in levels of insecurity and depression are now affecting approximately one third of people in their mid twenties to early thirties, with educated professionals deemed most likely to suffer.
Author and expert Damian Barr suggests that in the twenty first century, people in this age bracket are experiencing pressures not previously endured until our forties. “Our 20s are not, as they were for our parents, a decade of tie-dyed fun and quality ‘me’ time,” Barr explains. “Being twenty something now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.”
As well, we’ve been raised by a media obsessed with granting us the empty promise of limitless possibilities. From the youngest of ages we’ve passively received the message that success means achieving everything. All at once we crave celebrity, yearn travel, strive to look excellent, desire to be experts in our field, attempt to develop and maintain quality relationships. This perception of what it means to be successful inevitably leads to a period of radical disillusionment when the superman mentality proves impossible. At this point, we’re either broken by our inability to do it all and are left feeling like failures, or else we’re torn by our seemingly unnatural and ungrateful lack of whim to have everything and seek things we don’t necessarily want for fear of being left behind.
Thankfully, there are some positive trends for quarter life crisis sufferers. Wonderfully, research suggests that these transitional dilemmas, which typically last around two years, often lead to individuals building and concreting for themselves greatly improved lives.
Researcher Doctor Oliver Robinson from the University of Greenwich in London posed four stages for the quarter life crisis. The first is characterised by an illusory feeling of being trapped within a job or a relationship; logically you know you can leave, but emotionally you feel that you can’t. The second begins with the realisation that change is possible, leading to emotional conflict and upheaval; a difficulty which proves a vital catalyst for positive change. The crisis then shifts into its third stage; the structuring of a new, alternate life and seeking broader personal clarity. The fourth and final stage consists of cementing fresh commitments which more closely reflect your inherent interests, aspirations and values.
Experts suggest that the way to emerge from the crux of a quarter life crisis is to plan for success and make clear goals. If you feel you don’t have enough direction to make long term goals, they suggest you start with shorter termed ones and work your way up. Having a creative pursuit has been found to help people through quarter life crises, providing an emotional outlet as well as a medium through which to explore and expose thoughts and feelings. Experts propose using this time of transition to pursue interests and the things you’ve always wanted to do. And of course, if you feel you need professional guidance, don’t hesitate; seek it. In life, we only ever get that for which we ask.
Though I currently feel no less lost than I was four months ago, I’m beginning to feel much more hopeful and certainly less alone. I truly think we’re going to be okay, guys. When I’m feeling particularly confused, I find it helpful to remember some words an old friend once gifted me. She said that nothing that is for you will ever go past you. So que sera, sera; what will be, will be. Just make sure your eyes and palms are ever open, quietly waiting.
If you’re interested in reading more, here are a couple of the articles I read while perusing the subject.