In high school, we had it all figured out. We knew what to major in, what career path to take, which type of partner to marry. We knew what we would be doing 10 years down the road. Somewhere between college and the tenth year of working though, the uncertainties creep in and some if us begin to realize we’re nowhere close to how we envisioned ourselves back then. Welcome to the wonderful period of the quarter-life crisis.
Years ago, the idea of twenty-somethings doubting their decisions and existence would’ve been ludicrous, laughable even. After all, the world is their oyster and there are a myriad opportunities to choose from. An existential crisis was something that happened to people who were pushing fifty. They were the ones who questioned their decisions, who regretted not going after their dreams, who bought the expensive cars to cover up the fact that they were really unhappy. However, this line of thinking is becoming more and more common in younger people. Is it because of the shorter lifespan? Is it because this generation values self-esteem more than a high salary or stability (according to the JPMAP summit I attended last year). I don’t know. What I do know is that many of my friends are undergoing similar experiences that I can only classify as quarter-life crisis. I refuse to use the acronym (QLC) because it’s cute and there’s nothing cute about the damn thing.
For some, quarter-life crisis is relatively mild. They get bothered that things didn’t go as planned: they hate their work or realize they were dating the wrong person all these years, etc. so they tweak a few things and get right back on track. I envy those people. Mine consisted of the realization that I haven’t found my passion yet (more on this in my next post). A close friend shared my sentiments of not having found her passion; so much so that she did not even like what she majored in back in college. I can’t imagine how horrible that is, spending four years studying something you’re not even remotely interested in. She added that she also felt left behind by her friends who already had their own careers and families. Another friend is utterly overwhelmed by the “real world” and feels unsure about his every decision. Mind you, this phenomenon is not endemic to women or those who are totally in touch with their emotional side. I know a former ladies’ man who, at 25, regretted his skirt-chasing days and wished that he could turn back time so he could marry his neighbor – a girl whom he went out with a couple of months and loved him despite his womanizing ways. He loved her but had thought that he was seliing himself short by tying himself down to one girl. She is now living in the US with her husband and two kids. My friend didn’t know there was a name for what he was going through. He didn’t even know what triggered it. At that time, my friend had no idea why he suddenly felt the need to be by himself. He turned down drinking invitations from his male friends and invitations to “come on over” from his female acquaintances. He was in a slump for more or less a year but he emerged from his self-imposed isolation a stronger and wiser man. He still drinks like a fish but he no longer humps every moving object in sight. More importantly, he acknowledges that he made some wrong decisions but no longer sees the need to crucify himself.
I guess that is the number one advice I can give to someone going through this seemingly unending epoch: forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for missing out on opportunities. Forgive yourself for not yet knowing what you want out of life. Forgive yourself for wasting time on the wrong things and the wrong people. Forgive yourself for not yet achieving the goals you set for yourself. Forgive yourself for being a prude or for not having enough sex. Forgive yourself for not knowing everything, especially, for not knowing better. Yes, you should have but at that moment, that was what you thought was best for you. I would be the last person to advise someone experiencing quarter-life crisis to kick himself/herself out of his/her rut. That’s easier said than done. But at the very least, be hopeful that there will be answers to your questions if not today, then in the coming days, weeks, months, even years. Allow yourself to be deeply disturbed by your problem but don’t forget to live. Remember, your musing started when you noticed that you don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life for twenty years or so. Before you know it, another twenty years would have passed and you still don’t amount to anything because you were busy crying over spilt milk.
In high school, we had it all figured out. But that was in high school. This is now.