Quarter Life Crisis – the existential confusion during the youth years

Quarter Life Crisis – the existential confusion during the youth years

Aanal Bhatt

Counsellor at Maanas, Ahmedabad

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The monster I was fighting had many heads: I questioned whether I was pursuing the right career, if I shouldn’t have given up on my last career or if I’ll ever be happy with any career! I’ve tried my hands at a lot of things in various fields since I graduated high school, including content writing, modelling, fashion blogging, writing for a fashion magazine and as a professional singer.

Now, I’m a trainee therapist and it’s great! But, I still have no idea if it’s right for me or not!

Over the last two years and a half I’ve changed two jobs, started working on my blog and quit it halfway and then began working at an organisation—questioning myself every step of the way.Things haven’t turned out the way I expected they would.

I look in the mirror and ask, “What the hell am I doing?” “I was supposed to be a [dream profession of the week] by now…!

The Quarter Life Crisis

Most people have that moment in time- that scary realization that they have reached the age where they thought they would have their lives figured out. This was mine!

I was desperate to hold on to the youth that I felt slipping through my fingers, yet I wanted nothing more than the fabled stability adulthood brings. It was a gut-wrenching feeling of fear, uncertainty and an overwhelming desire for everything to just “be okay”; even though I didn’t know what that meant yet. But I do know I’m not the only one out there that feels like this.

This monster is the quarter-life crisis; and it is very real for a lot of young people!

If you feel the same way as I did, it helps to know why this time of your life is so turbulent in the first place. Study suggests it all starts with how you’re treated in your late twenties and early thirties. You’re probably recently out of college, or just starting a career. Maybe you’re living alone and paying your own way for the first time, but despite your best efforts, you’re getting mixed signals from society at large. Older people consider you a “kid” and respect you just as much as one; and yet expect you to be as responsible as an adult.

The confused existence of the twenties

My twenties started feeling like a paradox where –  I was expected to know myself, what I am supposed to do and be a sorted person on one hand; yet, on the other hand, my efforts weren’t being noticed on account of my being a “kid”. I felt utterly confused about my role as an adult. What is it that it actually takes to survive in the real world, if everything I try to do is somehow not enough?! I felt lost and out of place.

What I had not realised is that everyone reading this would relate to it. It is when I started talking to more of my friends that I realised, that a lot of people my age, go through a period of intense soul searching and stress in their mid 20s to early 30s; trying as hard as they can, to figure this whole thing out. When I started learning therapy, I had a chance to meet, interact with and befriend people of different age groups.

Why the Quarter Life Crisis happens

Hearing more such stories on quarter life crisis, it suddenly struck me- “Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development!”

According to his psychosocial stages, the fifth stage is – identity versus role confusion; and it occurs during adolescence, from about 12-18 years. During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs and goals. It makes sense to think as to how, sometimes, individuals face obstacles that may prevent the development of a strong identity.

This, sort of unresolved crisis, leaves individuals struggling to “find themselves”. They often seem to have no idea who or what they are, where they belong or where they want to go. They may withdraw from normal life, not taking action or acting as they usually would – at school, at work or in their marriages – and be unable to make defining choices about the future.

Bringing clarity of personal priorities

Additionally, what I also realised is that having an identity crisis is certainly not confined to people of my age. People tend to experience them at various points throughout life, particularly at points of great change; such as, starting a new job, the beginning or an end of a relationship or the birth of a child.

The biggest takeaway for me has been to explore different aspects of myself in the different areas of life; including my role at work, within the family and in romantic relationships, which has helped me strengthen my personal identity, bit by bit.

Looking within, understanding personal priorities and strengthening resolve are some ways to move away from the Quarter Life crisis; and from the confusions of the early stages of life.

Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.

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