A quarter-life crisis

1 September 2009

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It’s that common feeling experienced by all twenty-somethings who have either recently graduated – or about to graduate – from uni, ready to embark on a quest to define who they are and what they want to make of their lives.

Of course many go through this in some form while they’re younger. But the process can start all over again once twenty-somethings enter the ‘real world’.

And it’s this process that can be one of the most concentrated and protracted periods where we question our future, try to find meaning to our lives, and somehow link the two to pave out a successful career path.

It’s being called a ‘quarter-life crisis’ – which also happens to be the title of the book I was given for my last birthday (apparently, I’m also trying to get my head round life in my twenties).

A quarter-life crisis is the period between adolescence and the mid-life crisis; the time which is often thought of as most crucial for those of us in competitive industries where ‘making a name’ for yourself is almost essential.

It’s the time when you take on certain responsibilities which you can’t seem to get out of as easily as you once did.

There’s no sleeping in if you wake up and realise the weather is too gloomy for class.

There’s no taking a friend up on a lunch offer when you know you have a meeting scheduled that day at noon.

It’s the feeling of being torn between having a life and having a career – and the feeling that the two cannot co-exist. It’s feeling young and old simultaneously.

The realisation that all my care-free days were behind me hit me suddenly one morning when I was on my way to work.  I was starting at 5am, and as I got off the train in the city, a group of drunk twenty-somethings were trying to figure out which platform their train was departing from…so they could get home from a big night out.

Various emotions overcame all logic at that point.

And that’s when I realised I was going through a quarter-life crisis.

I realised that while the empty, assignment-free period from October to the end-of-the-year once seemed like nothing short of bliss, the notion of missing out on a social life which was as easy as meeting someone new each day at uni is not so comforting.

The authors of the book Quarter Life Crisis define this era in our lives as a huge casino: “..the confusion and helplessness that strike millions of twentysomethings soon after graduation is frequently the result of the feeling that they are about to gamble.  Often.  On their lives.”

So if you’re twenty-something and suddenly feel suffocated with what awaits beyond the graduation horizon, rest assured that you’re not alone.

And if you are twenty-something and totally at ease with everything in your life, please give the rest of us some advice!

Erdem Koc is the editor of upstart.