The quarter life crisis can take you all kinds of places: to the bar, to your ex’s bed, halfway around the world, or to a cult. No judgement. My quarter life crisis took me on a solo trip to Calgary, where all the girls had tattoos and all the guys looked like they played acoustic guitar before bed. The question that confounded me during my quarter life crisis was not about my purpose or direction in life, but my identity.
Who was I, away from everyone else? Who was I outside of a relationship, outside of my family, away from my friends and my past? Did I have an identity that existed on its own?
I suppose when it came down to it, I wanted to know who I was when I wasn’t trying to be anyone at all.
My greatest fear was discovering that I had been pretending. We spend so much of our lives pretending, don’t we? In falsehood? The trouble is it’s almost always in hindsight that we determine whether or not we were pretending. Only when we look back do we realize, I wasn’t pretending or shifting or shrinking myself to be any particular way. I allowed myself to be who I was. That is, if we’re lucky. Most of us look back and think, holy rat water juice, who was I trying to be in 2005?!
All in all, as the days passed and the adventures continued, I realized that I was becoming more of who I’d been. This was a relief, and also largely to be expected (we can’t just turn ourselves into a complete tabula rasa because we feel like it). The distance showed me that the chapters of my life were finally building on one another.
I am grateful for my exhilarating adventure through the Canadian rockies, where I conquered my quarter life crisis. It was another step towards being who I sincerely wish to be: perhaps not a someone who is unafraid, but someone who is courageous anyways.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a quarter life crisis, you should hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit against life. Just kidding, I tried that and it didn’t end well. *Clears throat*. Anyways, here are some tips that may help you navigate this clusterf*ck.
Sweep your psyche for EE bugs
Okay friend, first things first: you need to sweep your psyche clean for EE bugs. What are EE bugs? They are the creepy crawlers that Exaggerate Everything. They take those passing thoughts like, You’re not pregnant yet? And turn them into “FREEZE YOUR EGGS RIGHT NOW.”
If you don’t have eggs or an inkling to have children, you probably have some other piercing, panic-inducing thought. Maybe you don’t have a house of your own, a steady relationship, or your boyfriend won’t propose (quick advice: dump him). Whatever the problem, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the EE bugs will make everything a million times worse. They magnify even the most minuscule of problems.
So, swipe your psyche clean of the EE bugs: objectively analyze each and every problem that is pressing on your mind. You may find that you have some a serious issue to deal with, but EE bugs will never help solve it. Temper the EE emotionality with some good ol’ fashion logic and wisdom.
Remember: everything can change, even you. If your life doesn’t look as perfectly round as Kim Kardashian’s ass, remember that (1) it’s photoshop and (2) it’s loads of money and (3) you don’t want her ass anyway because you’d have to custom make all your clothes. My point is that you don’t want someone else’s shiny life because their life comes with their own problems.
The EE bugs will try to convince you that everyone has it better. Let me tell you, no one is immune to life’s suffering, and you wouldn’t want to be, either.
Distinguish between your Yoda and your Peter Pan
When you’re in the grip of the quarter life crisis, you will have two competing impulses: the impulse for stability, and the impulse for novelty. These, respectively, are your Peter Pan and your Yoda. Peter Pan lived in Neverland where things never changed, and he wants to stay young forever. Yoda, on the other hand, is a wise fellow who has gained much from living the fullness of life.
You have both spirits within you: Yoda and Peter Pan. You simultaneously want to hold onto the past and keep things as they have always been, and you also want to forge into the unknown to see who you might become through the trials and tribulations of life.
You have to learn to balance both within you. Listen to the cries for comfort from your inner Peter Pan, but also heed the wisdom of the Yoda within you who tells you to put yourself on the line and see what you are really made of.
Peter Pan will try to convince you to do reckless, youthful things. To not think about the future and just live for the moment, because that’s all there really is, after all. Yoda, on the other hand, will get you thinking about your legacy, your future, generations to come.
Each will speak to you and try to win your attention. The aim is not to silence one and give all power to the other, but to know who’s talking, and when to listen to them.
Put your life on the line
There’s no easy way to give you this piece of advice, so I’m just going to go for it: you have to let yourself fall. You have to let life destroy you. You are craving to be cracked open so that life can find its way in. During my quarter life crisis, it became clear to me that I was being crushed under the weight of my own limited expectations. My existence was being confined to a cage of my own creation.
The quarter life crisis arises in part because we realize we’ve been on autopilot, no longer doing things that rouse a sense of risk or adventure. When we live “safe” lives, we give and lose nothing; no real part of our heart is left behind in people or places, and we can walk away unscathed. But at the end of the day, it’s an empty-handed walk.
Risk yourself again. Remind yourself of the things you wanted to do but have since written off. The things that made you feel terrifically frightened and excited all at once. And do them. It’s as simple as that.
It’s okay to cheat on your dreams
Life is constant evolution, on micro and macro scales. Cells evolve, organs evolve, plants evolve, people evolve. To evolve is to be alive. You have no idea who you “are”, or who you could be. To define is to limit (or something cliché like that).
This is your reminder that it’s okay to do something different from what you wanted 5, 10, 20 years ago. You don’t have to stay faithful to a goal you had as a child or that you had last year.
But, it can really feel like cheating. I remember when I changed paths, it felt like cheating on a relationship; like I was cheating on my hard work, my effort, my original plan. I was so in love with my plans before, so enamoured by the possibilities and the person I’d be come in its pursuit. I thought the achievement of that thing I was striving for was going to be everything I ever wanted.
Life can offer you something different. Something even more inspiring than what you had planned before. And voilà, that’s the essence of life! Plot twists, surprises, the whole nine yards. Life is unpredictable, and conquering the quarter life crisis is recognizing that whether 25 or 95, that will always be the case.