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How to Survive your Quarter Life Crisis

Updated on August 7, 2013

We spend our childhoods dreaming of what we want to be when we grow up, an astronaut, Indiana Jones or a circus performer. Then we spend our teenage years waiting till graduation to finally move away to college and live parent free to do whatever we please without the chance of being grounded yet again on a Saturday night. After 15+ years of pop quizzes, papers and multiple-choice exams, there comes a point where we magically become ‘adults’ and have to now start thinking that way. Just because we have graduated from university doesn’t mean that we learned how to balance our checkbooks or cook a meal not consisting in Raman noodles or Mac n’ Cheese. A vast majority of us are left disappointed living on a couch in the basement of our parent’s house, disillusioned because our parents said we could be anything we wanted to be and derailed by working an ‘oh-so inspiring’ temp job as an HR administrative assistant.

Luckily for you, you’re not alone. There are tons of 20something year olds spinning through the world looking for their place. We are all asking the same questions: What kind of jobs should I look for with a degree in Anthropology? How can I help save the world and make enough to pay off my student loans? Why are my friends all settling down and getting knocked up? We have known our place in the world till this point. Our road was mark with school and the expectations of our parents but after college is when we are expected to just ‘find our way’. If you’re looking for the next adventure to find your purpose in life and having an identity meltdown with looming adulthood knocking at your door, you are going through a Quarter Life Crisis.

I’ll be your metaphorical ‘Doctor’ to help kick ass through the panic and anxiety of your quarter life crisis. Read on for your symptoms and possible solutions to ease your anxiety about the pressures to succeed in your new ‘adult’ life.

Who’s Affected? Millennials born after 1980 and between the ages of 25-35 years old. Many affected are recent college graduates with possible tattoos, unusually colored hair and bike locks attached to their hips. They might not realize it yet but they are suffering from Quarter Life Crisis.

Paralyzed with indecision

Symptoms: Your mind is racing, you’re pacing and don’t know what your next move is. You’re scared to pick something because it might not bring you the fulfillment you’re looking for or you’ll make the wrong decision. You’d rather anxiously scenario-ize than commit.

Doctor’s orders: Relax and feel the wind in your hair; log off Facebook and switch off your phone. Allow yourself some space for your mind to wander and it will allow for conscious wisdom to help resolve your indecisive moment. Remember that paralyzed with indecision means that you have choices. Open up and speak to a friend because most likely they are going through similar issues and you can swap manly stories and eat waffles together (impulsive Shrek quote). Life is not in a hurry so take your time to make a decision. If someone is pressuring you, tell them to relax as well. If you’re rash then there is more of a chance that you’ll be making a choice weighted more with fear than with a rational mind.

You’re daydreaming about doing something spontaneous

Symptoms: You don’t know what you want but you hate your mindless, soul-sucking 9-5 and running away sounds better than facing another dreaded Monday morning. Your mind is racing with possibilities of your possible next adventure: teaching in South Korea, backpacking through Europe, blogging in Peru or maybe joining the Peace Corp.

Doctor’s Orders: You’ve finally graduated so you are in your prime to start achieving your wildest dreams. Now I am not saying quit your job and buy a one way ticket to Timbuktu but create your bucket list. Instead of becoming complacent with your life, write a comprehensive list of everything you want to be, attain and see. Some should be more immediate while others you can see happening far down the future in your life. Identify your dream job and more immediate dreams. Set goals and time parameters so that you will have a motivation and a game plan to achieving them.

Be positive as well. A job working in admin might be far from your chosen career path but don’t neglect the lessons that can come from it. Work hard and plan accordingly. With a game plan in sight you’ll feel less anxious and have faith that you’ll get to your goal.

Making a budget terrifies you

Symptoms: You get heart palpitations at the thought of your finances. You’d rather rip open a scab than check your bank balance or worse, open your credit card bill. Avoiding checking your balance and mindlessly swiping for lunch or a new pair of running shoes will ease the anxiety of finances initially but cause it to erupt when your statement arrives in the mail.

Doctor’s orders: Bite the bullet. With pen in hand and a piece of paper, open up all your accounts at once. There are moments for baby steps but lets not prolong the pain and agony here. Write down your balances and the bills you need to pay; including the deadlines for the payments so you don’t accrue any late fees. I usually write this down in my agenda.

Now make a budget. It’s not as daunting or difficult as it sounds. Just start by estimating the amounts you need each month: rent, electricity, water, cable, etc. Also estimate amounts you’ll spend on toiletries, groceries and household products like toilet paper since it won’t replace itself any more. Once you’ve done that you’ll know how much you can save a month and how much you can blow on nights out with friends while saving some for future adventures and experiences.

Make a wish list: Instead of just going out and buying things on a whim. Write a list of things you’d like to buy or think you need. Most of the time we just think we need a new spatula or sweater but saving that cash can get us the new cellphone we need to stay in the 21st century or be a down payment checking off something on the bucket list.

Check out this informative video guiding new grads on their finances:

You live a very different life than your friends

Symptoms: You hyperventilate when you go on Facebook and see one friend after the next getting married, having children or going on their dream honeymoon. Unlike many of your friends, you’re still excited to meet new people on the weekend and welcome random hookups. You ask yourself whether this is where you should be headed but don’t feel nearly ready to settle down. Or worse, you’ve decided that being an old maid with 6 cats isn’t that tragic. You question your relationship or panic that you haven’t found ‘the one’ yet and your grandmother keeps trying to hook you up with her boyfriend’s grandchildren.

Doctor’s orders: Stop comparing your relationship timeline to that of your close friends. Sure your parents were married with a house and 2 children by your age but we live in different times. If you’re happy in a loving relationship but not ready for marriage, enjoy being with someone you love and traveling in the adventure of life. If you’re single, relax! Live and don’t put any pressure on finding someone. It happens when we least expect it.

You’re reminiscing about your high school and college days

Symptoms: You’re wearing your rose-colored nostalgia glasses remembering when life was simpler when the hardest decision you had to make was your prom date or where to go for spring break. You miss your glory days: sneaking around drinking beer in a parking lot with no care in the world or walking around with your school emblem pined to your cardigan. You feel wedged between college student and adulthood and don’t know how to pull yourself out.

Doctor’s Orders: Like every stage in life once we end one we are given a clean slate. Part of the excitement of starting high school or college was the opportunity to refine our image and who we were. Now we must muster up the courage and do it all over again. We are in a new phase in life and must identify the qualities and image we want to present to the world. Luckily here the fishpond is much bigger so when we screw up and trip it won’t be spread throughout the school or go viral all over the internet, hopefully.

Whether you feel like you’re not where you ought to be in your relationship or your job, realize that we all move to the beat of a different drummer. Some of us are making babies while others are hitting up the corporate scene and striving. As 20 something year olds we need to realize that it is normal to feel lost and relieve some of the pressure by accepting life as it is. Chill and accept that you might not be at the place you thought you would be but accept the challenge and rise above it. Make your YOLO bucket list, figure out your career goals and what you need to do to make them a reality. Work in baby steps and recognize your small successes as motivation to keep moving along. One day, hopefully soon, we will all wake up and be much closer to our goals, leaving the quarter life crisis for our younger siblings.

Loosen up your expectations and realize you are not alone. Just keep swimming.

Some rad books to check out:

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived by Alexandra Robbins

Which song describes your ¼ Life Crisis?

See results

- The Jetstream Team


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    • Archa Ghodge profile image

      Archa 4 years ago from India

      Interesting article. I guess most of the people usually at some point go through such mid life crisis. But the best part is the way you have put it forward.

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      Alan Ward 4 years ago

      I call the crises birthdays 'time/perspective shocks'. These crises are related to changes in how we perceive the passage of time. As a child of 0-12yrs old your sense of how fast time passes is gradually changing from non perceived, non compartmentalized time to days that last forever to a sense of weeks, months and then your first sense of the cycle of seasons that make a 'year'. There's a shock point where you sense a sudden 'change of gears'. The next shock point is around age 25, where there is a sudden realization that say, events in the previous century that you learned about in school could be seen in the context of a measurable, feel-able amount of time, not just in a generality called 'the past'. An amount of time that you can relate to your own perceived time on earth. Around this time you realize you are mortal because the people that were born a century ago are all dead and you can start to understand the concept of 'lifespan'. Perceived time continues to accelerate causing shocks of introspection at each decade of life's end. There is increasing panic as the noticeable deterioration of our bodies due to aging sets in and the reality of death is further reinforced in our minds. This results in the 'mid life crisis' of which we're all aware. I'm going to die and there's so much I haven't experienced and there's many things I should of done differently that I regret and if only I'd done this or not done that. Panic. And then, after a few years of struggle to satisfy these questions and unfulfilled desires and yet ever more time acceleration, a kind of peace. An uneasy peace, but a general acceptance of life as it is and our place in it. We are as we are, part of a grand design but no longer at it's center. We must bow gracefully to the higher powers that be to avoid a futile and self destructive battle and accept our life story as it has been written.

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      Richard Jones 4 years ago

      Very cool

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      Jon 4 years ago

      Great article! I'm gonna go work on that bucket list now...

    • profile image

      jenna 4 years ago

      Funny and insightful! Forwarded it to my sister who i know is struggling with QLC!