A "quarter life crisis" is defined by the online dictionary Word Spy as "Feelings of confusion, anxiety, and self-doubt experienced by some people in their twenties, especially after completing their education." This phrase has been around since the early nineties but really caught on in the last ten years as more twenty-somethings began to recognize and talk about it. I became interested in the phrase when at 25 years old I began to question everything in my life and was overwhelmed with doubt, anxiety and confusion about who I was and what I really wanted in life. I woke up one day in a cold sweat and found myself in the midst of my own quarterlife crisis. The good news is that I survived it and can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. Now at 33, my passion is supporting twenty-somethings in navigating their way through their quarterlife crises.
So you may be wondering, "Am I having a quarterlife crisis?" To help you answer that question, take my quarterlife crisis diagnosis quiz which consists of 25, appropriately, questions. Read each question carefully and answer quickly with a simple yes or no (don't over think it!):
1. Are you in a "funk" where you feel like nothing is terribly wrong, but nothing seems right either?
2. Do you feel older for the first time in your life?
3. Are you unmotivated, directionless or passionless?
4. Are you concerned that you don't know what you want to do with your life?
5. Do you feel pressure to grow up and get your adult life in order?
6. Do you feel entitled to a life much grander than the one you are living?
7. Do you often feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, lost, and maybe even a little hopeless?
8. Do you feel a lot of pressure and expectations to do, have or be something?
9. Do you ever feel that time is running out in regards to figuring out your career and deciding whether you want to get married and/or have children?
10. Are you stressed out by choices that seemingly will affect the rest of your life?
11. Are you experiencing confusion or disappointment in your career?
12. Do you feel that you have failed because you don't know what you want to do with your life?
13. Do you know what you want to do, but can't seem to make it work?
14. Is it difficult for you to make decisions and when you do, you question them?
15. Do you overanalyze yourself?
16. Do you ever feel guilty for complaining about your life or feel like you are disappointing people (especially your parents)?
17. Are you embarrassed that you have not figured out more?
18. Is a breakup, romantic relationship, or lack of one causing you stress and/or sadness?
19. Are you still living at home with mom and dad?
20. Do you frequently compare yourself to other people your age and feel like you don't measure up?
21. Do you feel financially unstable?
22. Could your self-esteem use an upgrade?
23. Are you thinking about going back to grad school because you don't know what else to do with your life?
24. Are you constantly thinking about the future resulting in anxiety and possibly panic?
25. Is your life just not at all turning out like you planned?
If you answered "yes" to 12 or more of the 25 questions above, you are likely to be experiencing a quarterlife crisis. But don't worry, this is not bad news! The purpose of the quiz is to show you that you are actually going through a very normal and natural rite of passage that no one may have warned you about. You are not alone. The questions presented come from my eight years of investigating what most of us go through during our twenties which is a lot of questioning! The twenty-something years are a confusing, scary, frustrating and exciting, stimulating, and transformational time. Unfortunately, a high school or college diploma does not come with instructions for the "real world." You have to believe in and truly get to know yourself in order to have clarity about your dreams and goals as well as insights about how to reach them. But that is no easy task, especially in a society that is so externally focused and driven by expectations.
You may have bought into some misunderstanding that by your twenties, you are supposed to have your entire life figured out. This is false! The twenty-something years are a rather messy rite of passage without any fancy ceremonies or parties to mark that you are through them. Once you remove this intense pressure to do, be, and have so much on the outside, and shift your focus inside, you will see that you get to decide what your twenty-something years are really about. You are the expert, you have the answers, and you will be your own greatest motivator. Trust me. Or better yet, trust yourself.
My intention in writing this column is to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you and offer some tips for navigating your own way through it. Up until now, your entire life may have been well scripted and now you are at a point in your life where you have to answer your own questions. Before you try to answer all the questions about what to be and who to be with, there is a very fundamental question to clarify first: WHO ARE YOU? This is the question I invite you to explore between now and my column next week. Take some time to sit quietly and reflect upon this question. Write your answers and thoughts out, don't just think about them (you think enough already!).
Now for those of you thinking that you do not have time for self-discovery, my response to you is that you cannot afford not to. The alternative is to continue to spin in your quarterlife crisis and make choices based on fear, other people's advice, expectations, or societal pressures. And there is nothing wrong with that if you are prepared to have a mid-life crisis as well!
Until next week,
Your Quarterlife coach, Christine