Quarter Life Crisis

25 Apr

Today I was sitting on the bus, per usual, and reading an advanced copy of one of the books that I’ve begun promoting THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN HEALTHY AGING BRAIN.  Before I opened up the book I assumed that most of the findings would be geared more toward my Grandma than me; however, at the very beginning I was struck by this fact, “…stress peaked between the ages of 22 -25.”

“So true!!” I thought, “so true,” though I know my roommate would remind me that these were, “first world problems.”

I remember being 22 and hearing over and over again that the whole world was at my feet or just right ahead, and I kept grasping for it, but my hand was left empty.  This world eluded me, didn’t want me; it didn’t think I was smart, and when I did finally encounter it, it condescended to me.   All those years I spent, “discovering who I am,” amounted to nothing.    

At 22, I knew my student self and I was very capable in this role; however, that framework dissolved the moment I graduated, yet I was still the same person I had been being all those years.  It was very confusing to see myself struggle to connect with others professionally, as well as struggle to maintain the daily responsibilities of my adult life.  I reacted by getting into bad relationships, which of course caused more stress.

By 24 I was just plain burnt-out.  I had moved cities, gone through three different jobs, had my heart broken, and disappointed some of my closest friends.  Like many, I had also been working very long hours in very fast-paced jobs, embracing leadership roles I wasn’t exactly qualified for.  Additionally, I was still getting entry level pay, so I was often broke.  Every part of my life: personally and professionally felt like a continual challenge.

Here I was, “with the world at my feet,” and I was drowning.  It made me doubt every aspect of my being, my whole self-perception shifted and my confidence sunk to early High School levels. 

“Is this what being a grown-up is?” and I feared for what was to come.

More did come, but by 26 I had a new perspective and coping skills.  Also, I had some accomplishments, fulfilled a few small dreams, and I knew that no matter what I would survive – I had already picked up some pieces and glued it all back together: a Kindergarten skill that really is a metaphor for life.

The point is I agree with the research, and my guess is that many others would as well.  Life does not get easier, but age brings experience and maturity.  However, the most important gift that age gives is perspective.  Things that would shatter your student world, or your young adult self, hardly shake the adult one; you’ve learned how to absorb the shocks.

I know now that I can be disappointing, or fail, and it’s not my life’s verdict; it doesn’t define who I am.  I’ve learned that the real secret is having grace (or trying to) when you’re not doing well or being your best, and that one doesn’t need to be so hard on their self – life is hard enough.

This communal lesson is given to all those who experience their Quarter-Life Crisis.  Like me, they’re often ambitious, eager-to-please, perfectionists who want to wrap their arms around the whole world that’s supposedly waiting for them.

So, if you’re in the middle of it, there is another side, and if you’re not, then you better buy this book because it means the aging process has really started, so grow with grace and take care.

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