Opinion: My quarter life crisis

Student journalist Imogen Atkins shares her experiences of her quarter life crisis.

Let me tell you, a quarter life crisis is a real thing!

We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis and accept that it’s a thing so why not acknowledge that a quarter life crisis does exist? It may be a relatively new concept, but it is a real affliction.

Let me list a few things that may sound familiar:

  • You feel disconnected from your life and confused about your next steps
  • You’re disappointed in your day-to-day, but overwhelmed by all the possibilities out there
  • You’ve realised being an adult ain’t all it is cracked up to be
  • You panic when you think about everything you were supposed to do by age 30
  • You begin to wonder if you’ve done anything substantially meaningful with your life so far and you feel unworthy

Gen Y grew up with the promise we could be anything we wanted to be, and if we worked hard enough and did everything right, we could have it “all”. Sounds incredibly exciting, right?

Personally, I couldn’t wait to be a ‘grown up’ and be this fashionable city dweller, with a great group of hilarious friends all trying to make it in the world; downing cocktails, having dating adventures and taking hot yoga classes three times a week and all the while I had found my dream job.

As life had it, it didn’t turn out how I imagined it would. Feeling a bit like a failure and thinking ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’ I came to the conclusion that I was going through a Quarter Life Crisis (QLC).

I found that the reality of being a grown up started to sink in after the safety of school was over and the realisation that university was not like the movies. I felt everyone was moving forward and making something of themselves, except me.

No one warns you that the ‘dream job’ is a myth, or that ‘the one’ doesn’t exist and that ‘happy endings’ are something you pay for at certain massage parlours. Unlike previous generations, youth today are faced with continuous decisions that could make or break our futures. These important decisions are expected to be made quickly and at such a young age that it can leave you feeling depressed, anxious, and discontent.

In this day and age with the bombardment of social media, it’s hard for anyone not to become a victim of Obsessive Comparison Disorder and Undefined Purposefulness (coined by Paul Agone). In other words, we spend copious amounts of time scrolling through Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds and comparing ourselves to these fictitious lives depicted, instead of realising our accomplishments.

I am always comparing my life and myself to my peers and celebrities and thinking what they have accomplished compared to me, leaving me feeling quite insecure. I look at them and see what they have achieved at my age compared to me. It’s quite a negative headspace to be in. I can spend hours stalking and searching on Facebook and Instagram pages and feeling like an absolute failure.

I was looking at author Paul Angone’s website, which discusses OCD and realised that no, I’m not the only one (phew) and that my experiences are real. With his suggestion to minimise social media activity to create a more positive environment for yourself, I feel I must oblige and see if it does make a difference. Maybe he is on to something? Why do we constantly immerse ourselves in the digital world when it can be such a negative influence on one’s self?

I also come across these extracts the other day written by Agone on his website.

“What if we took all the energy we waste comparing ourselves with those next to us and just ran?”

“The key to success is comparing yourself to everyone, every day.”

“Then let that anxiety and fear propel you to work harder, faster, and with more motivation.”

I found these two quotes spoke to me and as cliché as it sounds, turning a negative into a positive. Life is about perception and in this case, don’t let your anxieties rule you but change the rules to suit you. Not everyone will agree with these quotes, but I just like how they resonated with me and made me think why don’t I fuel this negative energy into something positive and wonderful.

When I reached my twenties, I began to start thinking about the ‘big questions’ in life. One that resonates with my QLC is: what is my purpose? How is my contribution going to affect the world? I have yet to figure this out, but I’m determined to live a life full of purpose and find the motivations that drive me to succeed in all aspects of my life.

Instead of thinking ‘how my life should be’ I have learnt to practice perspective. Perspective is essential to life, yeah your life might not be going great at the moment but when there are millions of people that cannot afford to eat let alone complain about going through a quarter life crisis; you may just realise how lucky you are.

It’s taken me awhile to accept that my journey is different from others, as theirs is different from mine. I am on my journey for a reason, even if there are a few pit stops on the way. I feel like I may have experienced a QLC earlier than most, but I’ve realised that maybe I had to take this path, while not as glamorous and as fabulous as I’d hoped, a journey that has perhaps taught me more about myself and life, than the average 23-year old experiences.

Imogen Atkins
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