A friend of a friend of mine wrote this
Since a lot of the posters are aged early to mid twenties..here is something they can ponder on
something to think about...
Here's an article I wrote as a response to many of my friends questioning their lives. haha! (hope you're not one of them)
Having experienced doubts, insecurities, confusion, failed relationships, strife, pain and et al. 2-3 years ago during my mid-twenties has certainly made me a stronger, wiser, objective, and
decisive man today. Just after I graduated, I remembered that age when I was casted in the midst of reality, expecting certain things to go my way and had specific concrete goals to complete within a specified timeframe. Let see... Two Master's degree by 30 (MEng. and MBA), get married by 28, six figure salary by 33, a house by 31, and the list goes on. Time for a timecheck: I got my MEng but there is no way I'm going to achieve an MBA by 30 so that's off my list. Get married by 28 -- I'm already 28 and I dont see anybody right beside me. Since I failed to meet the first two, I might as well forget the house and the six figure salary. When I was in my mid-twenties, I already realized and admitted that I was never going to meet my high expectations as I jumped from one job to another attempting to find a direction in my life. Doubts about myself and my abilities, confusion, and insecurities engulfed me.
But luckily and as I entered my late twenties, I was able to passed that phase that fogged my direction. Nothing really changed in my life -- I still have not acheived those earlier expectations. What changed was my deadline. I don't put a strict deadline anymore when
I should achieve them. Funny that you find your direction and peace once you reduce your expectations and take things one step at a time.
Equipped with solid experiences in life and relationships, I was always able to communicate and relate to people's lives well. A lot of my younger friends are now in their mid twenties and I was extremely surprised that their experiences are very similar to mine. Is this a phase I asked. What the heck is going on? I talked to adults (40-50) and they do not remember ever being confused in their mid twenties. This suggest that this phase in life is only relevant
to us, the generation X babies. There are only few citations about this phase, now called the quarterlife crisis (QLC), because it is fairly new. Why does it only apply to us? keep reading. The earliest sign of the quarterlife crisis was written by Douglas Coupland in his 1991 book Generation X, where he coined a synonym: the mid-twenties breakdown, which he defined as 'A period of mental collapse occurring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments, coupled with a realisation of one's essential aloneness in the world. Often marks induction into the ritual of pharmaceutical usage.'
Hence, this is why people often feel QLC in their mid twenties where they are fully out of the structured environment of schools.
'Fox's Ally McBeal is making its retail inroads with a new line of 'loungewear' aimed at women in 'quarterlife crisis' and women with 'double standards to live up to.'
From my experience, QLC is definitely more pronounced in women. The new generation women are now faced with intense pressure from two fronts: Great expectation to succeed in their career, and get married before a predefined time dictated by the general crowd. In contrast, men only have to worry about being successful in their career. QLC is definitely the result of putting too much pressure on yourself and stems from the expectations of various contributors -- parents, society, close friends, etc... Not meeting these expectations awakens the quarterlife crisis. Quarterlife crisis suggests instability, and sometimes this instability shakens romantic relationships to a certain extent.
The Quarterlife crisis became more defined as Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner wrote in 2001 a bestseller book called 'Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties by fellow twentysomethingds'. The authors interviewed hundreds of Gen Xers and
discovered that all have the same struggles and insecurities as we adjust to adulthood and the real world. Hence, the famous saying 'Welcome to the real world!'.
T.J. DeGroat wrote an excellent article titled 'the Quarter Pounder
http://www.hatchmagazine.com/story.phtml?id=149' about Quarterlife Crisis. It is essentially based on the book written by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner. I encourage you to read that article.
Just to summarize the article, the source of the confusion lies on this build-up: Moving from a defined school environment where you can achieve mini goals relatively easy (e.g. high marks, school event participations, president in a school club) to the outside world, where it is a jungle and your goals are not being met fast enough (e.g. salary increases, love life, vertical promotion). All this suggests that in school, you have predefined goals and it is so easy to achieved them. You also have your peers that you can compare to and you are relatively in the same level as them. Typically, this type of environment builds confidence, optimism, and great expectations bloated by the praise that we get from parents, adults,
and et al. When we go through thetransition to the outside world, all these expectations break down. Your friend down the street will soon become a millionaire. Your bestfriend is getting married. All of sudden, some of your friends are moving ahead while you are stuck behind struggling to adapt. Your ambition, confidence and optimism are suddenly crushed. As I quote, 'Unfortunately, what I see happening a lot is that recent graduates enter the real world full of ambition and enthusiasm -which is then crushed,' says Abby Wilner, co-author of the national best seller 'Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties.'
The dot-com era provided young adults in colleges big dreams of big salaries and excellent careers. Being an engineer, it was common to hear an engineer to start 60K fresh out of graduate and earning 100K in 3 years time. Among my peers, this became the norm and expected. When the bubble bursted, the expectation was not reduced. Perhaps, the structured school environment shielded us of what was really happening outside the walls of our institution. When we graduated in the millenium, the industry was already sour. Not being prepared, we constantly seek for that field of gold. Some made it, but to the
majority, they died before even reaching the middle of the battlefield. The futile attempts resulted in confusion, self doubt to their abilities, hopelessness, and thereby experiencing the
awakening of the Quarterlife Crisis. What is wrong with me?
A full blown QLC does not necessarily happen immediately. It is a build up and it hits most of us 2-3 years after we graduate, taking us to the age 25. We struggle and work long hours, resulting an unhealthy social life, and it makes the search for a prospective partner even more difficult. Even established relationships can take damage from career domination if neglected. Unfortunately, in our struggle to meet predetermined goals, we may begin to lose touch of reality. 'It is very easy to get swept away in the monotony of day-to-day life until
you wake up one morning and find that you don't recognize yourself in the mirror anymore.'In a sense, the Quarterlife Crisis is an awakening'
We begin to find reasons why this is happening to our lives. Why am I depressed? Why cant I reach my goals? Why is my life not moving? All this suggests that you have made unrealistic goals right in the beginning, and did not make any room for mistakes -- a perfectionist attitude. I am not suggesting that you should blame yourself. This unrealistic goals stems from what society (e.g. parents) expected from us. This stage of confusion suggest instability and it will shake anything including well established relationships. A 'quarter-lifer'; will seek for changes -- be it move to another country, travel, find a new adventure, go back to school, or even change our partners. A desire to change means that we are tired of life, and we are tired of failing to meet our expectations. You just want to get away from everything.
Again, the Quarterlife Crisis is an awakening. It awakens you to reality. It awakens you to change your expectations. I believe that once you reach a certain age, acceptance to your situation becomes your greatest ally to weather down your confusion. Acceptance to your
situation means alleviating the pressure you put on yourself, or it means reducing your expectations in life. It's okay -- we're not superman. No need to rush. Take things one step at a time.
Changes in your life is also considered a positive move, and hence QLC is an awakening. It is time to assess what you truly want in life among a multitude of choices. From Oprah Winfrey: 'The 20s are the time when you're finding out who you are. And so if you're ever
going to be lost, 24 is the time to be seeking and finding yourself. Don't beat yourself
up about it... you always feel like you're not doing enough, you're not getting ahead. You wish you were doing more, and why -- why aren't things more settled? They're not supposed to be in your 20s.'
The article I mentioned above also suggests that Gen Xers like us have too many choices, and this contributes to our confusion. The 20s is the time to truly find what you want in life (e.g. professional vs entrepreneurship). To most of us, the dream job that we sought for
during our college years is not exactly the dream job we had in mind. Often, we find ourselves as mindless robots working under the umbrella of these corporations. Again, our work environment failed to meet our expectations. QLC is indeed an awakening to positive
My point is this: Each one of us have gone or will go through this stage. It is normal so don't worry. I encourage you to find your direction and your passion in life first before settling down
permanently. Trust in yourselves, have patience, and trust that eventually, you will find your direction. A fresh new start per day. Time to take the next stage in life.
From experience though, I can attest to this: Ultimately, if you can go home to someone you love, someone that can put a smile on your face after a crappy day at work, then in life, you have made your living. Perhaps you may not agree, but that's just me...