The Quarter-Life Crisis: Let’s Talk About It

quarter-life crisis

/ˈkwɔːtəˌlaɪf

noun

a crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction
and quality of one’s life

Sound familiar?  It’s that overwhelming sense that you need to have your career and life figured after several years post-graduation, but are still facing a lot of instability and uncertainty in your life. Hint: it’s kind of why I’m writing this blog.

The quarter-life crisis is running rampant amongst young professionals. In fact, the Guardian reported that 86% of millennials have experienced some of the characteristics associated with this phenomenon, including insecurity, disappointment, and even depression.

Why is this happening to so many people? Well, it’s a pretty messy mix of things coming together all at once:

We’ve discovered college ≠ career

We’ve been told our entire lives that the path to success in adulthood looks something like this: Work hard in school, get into a “good” university, study hard take opportunities as they come, graduate with your degree, land your dream job doing what you love.

It’s just not that easy.

The bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma: more employers are seeking candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions that formerly were  granted to individuals without a college education. That means that a degree alone isn’t the only thing you need to land that job.

You’ve gotta have experience.

College gets you the degree, but doesn’t guarantee the work experience. Millennials oftentimes fall into the quarter-life crisis when they face this realization during their initial job search after graduation. Many end up taking positions completely unrelated to their educational background to get by, creating a sense of being lost and resentful.

We’re drowning in debt

A college degree may not promise you your dream job, but it almost certainly guarantees a hefty pile of debt to pay off. The average amount of student loan debt held by millennials is roughly $30,000. We can defer payment on our loans if we are unemployed or financially unable to make payments after graduation, but that doesn’t stop interest from building on our loans.

Being saddled with this level of debt right out of college has caused many millennials to push back major milestones. Millennials are waiting longer to get married and buy homes because of financial restrictions. Forget the mid-life crisis: Our life timelines have shifted so drastically that we now have the quarter-life crisis.

In fact, the timeline of our parents’ generation simply doesn’t apply to current twenty somethings anymore. We are facing debt levels and living expenses that far exceed what was faced in the generation before us. As a generation, we are collectively coping with the reality that our twenties simply won’t play out the way we thought they were supposed to.

We live in the age of social media

It seems inescapable. We have our phones with us at all times, and having a social media presence has become a societal norm. If you’re not using social media, you’re out of the loop. If you’re on social media (which, of course you are), you see everyone’s highlight reel.

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see the beautiful pictures from your former classmate’s vacation in Italy. Log onto Facebook and you’ll see your best friend’s sparkling new engagement ring. You get it… Everyone else is living the perfect life except you.

Social media has been linked to increased isolation and higher levels of depression with frequent users. It makes sense: When we’re constantly exposed to the highlight reels of our peers, it’s only natural to compare ourselves and feel down that our life doesn’t seem to stack up.

It’s not all that bad though…

Although there are some pretty big challenges facing us in our twenties, we won’t lose sight of the bigger picture. The quarter-life crisis is temporary; little by little, we work through the frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty to come out more confident and capable than before.

Despite the downsides of life as a twenty-something in the twenty first century, there are so many benefits. New technologies connect us in ways that give us incredible opportunities to share our stories with one another. We have the ability to seek tools and resources to set ourselves up for success in our careers, and find information that will help us cope with all of the emotional challenges we face during these times.

My hope is that this blog will become one of the tools that helps you work through some of the challenges you may be feeling during a quarter-life crisis. We have the power to set ourselves up for success in our twenties, so let’s do it.

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