On understanding and surviving the pre-quarterlife crisis
If you’re having a good day, I’d rather you not read this. I mean, you wouldn’t want to taint your sunny morning with thoughts of the inevitable pre-quarterlife crisis. Sorry. Did that ruin your morning? Now that you’re upset, you’re emotionally ready to finish reading this.
The quarterlife crisis, according to quarterlifecrisis.com, is “a period of anxiety, uncertainty and inner turmoil that often accompanies the transition to adulthood.” It’s the time in between meandering through undergraduate life and being a fully functioning adult (that means no ramen dinners, everyone).
Suddenly, you’re 24. You’re sitting half-naked on your living room floor, sobbing over a lukewarm eggplant parm about a) how you hate your job, b) how you think you’ve disappointed your parents, c) how because of a and b, your life is void of meaning, d) how no one will ever love you because of your inability to not burn toast and e) personalized crisis-inducing moment—you choose!!! Lena Dunham will probably also be rocking in the fetal position in the corner. This existential plunge is straight out of “Girls,” is it not?
The pre-quarterlife crisis isn’t much different from the quarterlife crisis. In fact, they’re almost identical, except that one happens earlier than the other. Perhaps, on your 20th birthday, you will inexplicably panic over the fact that, over two decades, your greatest accomplishment has been repressing sporadic urges to burn down the establishment.
You might wonder if you’ve been balanced when prioritizing what you “should” be doing and what you want to be doing. What if you regret the things you’re spending your time on now? Should you be reading more for fun? What if none of this matters in 10 years, and everything you’ve worked toward won’t add up to anything? What if my decisions in the past, present and future have ruined any hope of becoming a functioning adult? How long has everything been meaningless?
This may or may not end with you impulsively walking into some dingy piercing place on the Delmar Loop and saying, “Hi! I have no idea what I’m doing with my life and I feel that this could be a problem. I’m nervous that my unborn children are already in therapy because of their unconditional loathing of my pathetic existence. Can you put some holes in my body?”
The thing is, you’re not going to “figure it out” anytime soon. You’re not supposed to. Because you’re freakin’ 20.
We’ve been told over and over that we need to be prepared for the next step, whether it be going from high school to college or from college to a job. There’s constant pressure to establish a solid future because apparently that’ll prevent a quarterlife crisis (ha). The insecurities that come from this—the fear of being unprepared, of failing, of feeling unfulfilled, of living out the rest of your life in a Dunkin’ Donuts dumpster somewhere in Memphis—are a result of our expectations of where we “should” be in life.
We’ve been taught that working hard will yield results and that success (whatever that means to you) is exponential. We get frustrated when we don’t receive immediate results. The problem is that instant gratification is a false reality.
You’re always going to wonder if you’re doing the right thing or not. And you’re never going to know. So what’s the point in worrying about it? What matters is that you’re spending your time on things that you feel are benefiting you instead of wasting time on what you’re “supposed” to be doing. The only way you could seriously mess up your life to the point of no return is if you started doing heroin while lying down on a bed of rats in the middle of the interstate.
Even then, I still believe in your ability to pull things together. This is the only time in your life that you’re going to have minimal responsibilities (aka not failing school) and maximum freedom (aka being 20). So why not enjoy it?