25 isn’t easy. You’re an adult, but you’re not. You’ve got the acne of a 15-year-old, and the undereye lines of an exhausted parent. You pay your own rent but rely on your parents for over-the-phone medical diagnoses.
You know who you’ve been. You have an abstract of who you’d like to be. And you’re CLUELESS as to who you are now.
So, you try on a bunch of different hats (in my case, both literal and figurative). You embrace new friendships and let old ones die. You date every Matt, Ryan, Dan, and Chris you come across to fill the empty existential hole that is your heart. And then you laugh, and you cry, and you drink, and you binge eat, and you exercise —just to get to tomorrow. And then you do it all over again.
Or maybe that’s just me.
My quarter life crisis has been rough—a rollercoaster ride of anxiety and apathy. I have no clue what I’m doing, and I’m often too overwhelmed and apathetic to try and figure it out. So, I’ve gone in and out of autopilot, telling myself if I wait long enough, or disengage for long enough, that I’ll end up wherever I need to be. But I haven’t ended up there. Instead, I’ve been flying around in circles, running out of fuel, awaiting the inevitable crash.
Giving into depression and anxiety is tempting. Letting go of the wheel and bracing for impact is often easier than spending the rest of your life with your eyes on the road. I’ve wanted to give into my grief. Hell, I practically opened the door to my own mental breakdown. I hoped if I broke down that someone else would come along and build me back up into something better. But that person isn’t coming. I’ve got to show up for myself and pick up the pieces.
Some good has come from my quarter life crisis. It’s reminded me that I’m the one in charge of my own life. I’m the catalyst for my own change. This period of discomfort has pushed me to question and reevaluate who I am and what I want. It’s challenged me to step into new and scary situations. It’s urged me to challenge my assumptions of the world. It’s shown me that I need to try out that funky hobby, book a trip to that never-before-seen place, let in that person I normally never would. It’s told me to “get your shit together, Carol.”
What scared me most about my quarter life crisis was that idea that this was it. That I’d be in the same city, at the same job, and be stuck as the same person. That I’d do it all over and over again until I grew old.
In some sense, I surrendered my own life before it even started.
But I don’t have to.
I’ve started doing standup comedy because it’s a passion I’ve always wanted to pursue. I’ve started going to yoga because I’m a lost Caucasian man in need of some “spiritual center.” I’m trying to be a more generous friend and a kinder person. I’m trying to make my sense of humor a source of joy instead of a shell to protect myself from others. I’m getting to know my body again after someone else made me feel foreign in it. I’m learning to love the person I am, instead of mourning the person I was, or dreaming of the person I could be.
Life can be overwhelming when you look at it as some big abstract thing. But in reality, life’s just a bunch of small moments strung together by feelings and people and events, both in and out of our control. Your quarter-life crisis isn’t about making some final call on the person you’re going to become; it’s about taking those small steps. Joining that book club, telling that friend you love them, forgiving that family member for whatever thing you’re mad at them for, or organizing that closet or assembling that goddamn three-drawer dresser that’s been sitting in a box in the corner of your room for over a month. It’s about texting that person you’ve been thinking of and saying something kind about the person you see in the mirror every morning.
Life’s not about worrying where you end up, it’s about enjoying the journey there.