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How to survive a quarter-life crisis

By Riyaz Khan
January 13, 2015 09:05 IST
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Most 20-somethings go through a phase of constant doubt -- Is this job right for me?

Why I am still single?

When will I buy my first car?

Was my degree a waste of time?

How to deal with quarter-life crisisThe mid-20s are a difficult time for everyone.

Having just finished your studies, all anyone seems to be saying is how you need to 'get your act together' or how you need to 'figure out what you want to do with your life', while all you really want to do is sleep in late, meet up with friends and enjoy the luxuries of free Wi-Fi.

Sadly, life doesn't work that way.

You need to get a well-paying job, save money for the future, achieve all your goals, marry the perfect person and do all this while still keeping a check on your sanity and morals.

Somehow it feels like people always told you that life was going to be difficult, but nobody really offered to tell you how to make it easier.

What is a quarterlife crisis?

A quarter-life crisis is a period of life usually ranging from the late teens to the early thirties, in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult.

It is derived from its more famous relative, mid-life crisis.

Quarter-life crisis was coined in 2001 by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner in their definitive book Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties.

Often dismissed by people as simply a part of growing up, it can be quite a difficult experience for the ones actually going through a quarter-life crisis.

David Marr, author of Get It Together: A Guide To Surviving Your Quarter-Life Crisis explains in his book, "Twenty-somethings are at a greater risk of depression than any other age group. Although one in five people will be affected by depression at some point the depression alliance estimate that as many as one in three twenty-somethings are depressed now. No wonder. No other generation has had so much choice or such great expectations thrust upon them."

Signs you're suffering from Quarter-Life Crisis

What am I even doing with my life?

What have I done up until now?

What do I do now?

How do I choose a career that keeps me happy and pays the bills?

Do you find yourself asking these questions a lot?

Here are some tell tale signs that you too might be going through a quarter-life crisis:

Feeling paralysed by the vast amount of choices

You are finally independent, no more studying, the world is your oyster and you can do whatever you want to.

The only problem is -- what is it that you want to do?

What is it that you really want to do? What truly makes you happy?

Will doing that make you happy for the rest of your life?

What if you get bored of it and drop it midway?

So many choices and big life decisions leave you paralysed and incapable of making decisions.

"I would probably never be described as the brightest person in a room," says 19-year-old Fatema Lakdawala, "but I make up for this by putting in a little extra effort than the rest.

"I have always loved to dance but never really saw it as a viable career option.

"Coming into my final year of degree college I feel like I don't even know why I am currently pursuing a degree in mass media.

"I will probably end up changing my major next year and doing something completely different."

Reminiscing about your school or college days

We all miss school; life seemed so simple back when your biggest worry was submitting assignments on time and getting your peers to like you.

The difficulties you currently face make you wish you could go back to a time when things were simple and carefree.

Having to make do with how much money you have

Even on a fixed pocket money there was always the choice of getting money to buy clothes and accessories simply by doing a few chores or buttering mom and dad.

However, finding yourself without enough money to buy food in the middle of the month makes you truly understand the meaning of being broke.

Your friends seem boring

All your friends who used to be the centre of your world somehow seem less interesting and tend to be put on the back burner.

Jokes that previously used to crack you up now seem immature and somewhat offensive.

You start wishing that you had just stayed home and watched a Friends rerun instead of going out on a Friday night.

You constantly compare yourself to your peers

While you seem to consider staying at home and finally finishing that difficult level on that annoying but addictive game as a good day, all your other friends seem to be getting married, writing books, going on vacations and still making a lot more money than you.

You constantly wish for everything to change

You are in your 20s and life doesn't really seem to be going your way: a boring job, complete lack of financial stability, no hope of finding a significant other, dreams that feel like they might never come true.

With the way everything's going, for the most part, you just wish you weren't you.

You wish things were different.

You just wish you had someone else's problems and maybe someone else's life too.

Dealing with Quarter Life Crisis

Everyone has to start somewhere

It turns out that your entire life you have been listening to your parents and teachers -- get good scores, take part in extracurricular activities and participate in sports because everything is going to help you in the future.

Once college is over you seem to gain complete control of your life.

This might seem a bit daunting at first, but only the only way to become good at something is to start doing it.

Take the first step, even if it is a tiny one.

"I plan on starting my own business," says Mohammed Imran Khan, a 30-year-old currently working as a driver.

"I own a few trucks; I am planning on increasing their numbers and starting my own transport company by April (next year). In an ideal situation my trucks would become synonymous with transport
all over this country,” he adds with a glint of pride in his eyes.

When asked about the difficulties faced in an open market all he says is, "In my life I have had my fair share of difficulties but that is not something that should stop me from undertaking a new task. All I can do is work as hard as possible and have faith that it will all work out.”

Take up a new activity

Want to become a singer? Learn a new instrument.

Want to travel abroad? Learn a new language.

Only practice will help you obtain mastery over them.

Remaining idle all day may lead to the mind conjuring up negative and unwanted thoughts; a new activity

keeps your mind busy and gives you something to look forward to.

You are not alone

It turns out that several people just like you in this world really don't know what the hell they are doing either.

Don't stress if you are not interested in a career pertaining to your engineering or MBA degree.

People who were with you during your school and college years are probably feeling the same as you -- yes, even the ones who seem like they have it all figured out!

It is always comforting to open up and talk to people who are going through the same crisis as you.

Learn from mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes while starting out.

Nobody is the best at what they do while at the start of a college course or a first job.

It is only through accepting your mistakes and learning from them that you can get better at what you do.

You always get a second chance

You know how people always say that you only get one shot at greatness?

Well, they're wrong.

A person's life cannot be measured by one single great thing done.

It is a culmination of all the hard work and time s/he has invested into doing the things they love.

Don't think that your life is over if you fail to make the best of an opportunity.

Think of it as an important lesson and continue to work towards your goals.

If you keep trying and never give up, opportunity is sure to knock twice and in the least expected manner.

Be patient with life

Sometimes people get so caught up worrying about the future that they forget to enjoy the present.

They get so caught up in making money that they forget the reason they started working in the first place.

It is always important to follow your dreams and do what you love.

But following your dreams does not mean quitting your job and staying at home all day trying to finally begin your music career.

It might be as simple as listening to songs a bit more carefully or taking out a little time each morning to give words to that new tune you have been humming.

It might be a slight change that barely affects your life today, but in the long run it might be the seed that gives birth to a strong, magnificent tree.

People beat themselves up over what they are doing that might be a waste of time. But even the most redundant of tasks have hidden lessons.

Quarter Life Crisis Checklist

  • Read, read read
  • Find solace in John
  • Mayer, Bob Dylan, Lana Del Rey
  • Be awesome at one thing
  • Share your stories through a blog
  • Get a degree you will be proud of
  • Set goals; have a purpose in life
  • Overcome failures

Lead image used for representational purposes only

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Riyaz Khan