You might have seen news articles in the past few years talking about "the quarter life crisis" and how it's become a thing with the increasing pressure society places on 20-somethings. I know I've seen plenty of these articles, and in the past year or so, I've come to agree that it's a thing, because I'm having some trouble with it.
The general idea is that identity a fluid thing, and events in our life can alter it. In many ways, I'm a very different person from who I was in elementary, middle, and high school. I'm very different from who I was freshman or sophomore year of college. I imagine this continues throughout life. We always have these plans in mind for how our life's going to go, what we want to have happen, but when the moment comes, it tends to go in a different direction. You all know that.
I planned on being published before middle school and going into teaching as a day job (ages 10-12). Then I planned on getting published before high school and decided I could live off of that (ages 13-14). Then I hoped to get published before college, but was beginning to seriously doubt my prospects, because reality. The publishing industry just moves slowly. I had no idea about day jobs, except for a bit I thought maybe psychology and for a bit I thought maybe an editor and for a much shorter bit I thought genetics research? (ages 14-17) I began college as a double Creative Writing and Music major, thinking I'd never attend a BYU. I fiercely needed to believe I'd get either published or married before I graduated, and I really thought editing could be a good side job (age 18). Then life happened, and I transferred to BYU-Idaho, dropped the Music major, realized I'm not likely to get published or married before I graduate, and had no idea what to do for real actually to survive as an adult (ages 19-21). And that's not even talking about my ridiculous expectations when I was 3, some of which sadly carried over until the past couple of years.
The thing is, whatever we plan, whatever we think we know about life, we just don't know enough. It's not until you're up close that you realize the reality of it, and it's that reality that brings about identity change and causes our goals and dreams to be so confusing. Some things about us never change. Thus far, I've never not wanted to be published. I'm still an INFJ, still a romantic, still gifted in most of the same areas, still me. But a lot of other things about my self-perception have changed, and so have my goals.
In this world, not one of us will ever, ever know everything, and so we will always so thrown off by reality. But to function in society and as human beings, we have to frame the world and our selves somehow, and that framework is always, somehow going to be wrong. It just is. So we adjust it. But it's hard. Reality and change are hard. And that happens all throughout life, forever, but I feel like college/the 20s is a particularly ripe time for it. I could be wrong. But it is the first time for most people that they're faced with the realities of adulthood, with independent living, with setting out a career path and deciding on marriage and family, and all of that, all those new realities, up close, can be terrifying. Especially when you realize that you know nothing. I know a ton of mental health issues present/are finally diagnosed in people when they reach this age for that reason. As you know, it happened to me that way.
So to me, the quarter life crisis is something occurring all around me, all the time. I talk to my friends, and we're all constantly questioning: "What are we doing with ourselves? How do we be adults? How can we reach independence?" and, for a surprisingly high number of us, "What the heck is my career plan anyway? WHAT AM I DOING AFTER COLLEGE?" I never thought so many people would end up undecided halfway through college, but everyone I know has asked these questions. I had a teacher in high school once say that we'd change our majors at least three times in college, and I was angry with him. I refused to believe him. I knew I'd always want to be a writer. And I was right, but so was he. Up close, the reality is different.
You realize you don't want to be a teacher, because you can't devote the time or patience to it that the students deserve. You realize you don't want to be a counselor, because you don't have the personal emotional capacity. You realize you can't be an editor, because emotionally you're not prepared to leave your family behind in dusty old New Mexico. You realize that it is going to take FOR. EV. ER. for you to actually get published and you can't count on that, or on marriage either. I really thought I'd be married by now, but I've never had a boyfriend, or been kissed, and I haven't gone or even been asked on a date in over two and a half years--and that's just how it is for me right now. Close up, adulthood is nothing like I imagined, and I am nothing like I imagined.
So I can see why you'd have a crisis. I cried many times because I'm so scared about graduation coming up, about everything it means. Up until three months ago, I had no idea what I was going to do, not a single clue. Now, I finally do, but it's not matched up to my hopes, exactly, and sometimes that makes me really sad. Mostly my sad romantic life makes me sad at the moment.
But the thing is, overall, I'm very satisfied with the way my life's gone, despite it not being anywhere according to plan. I'm happy to know I have OCD, I'm happy with how the OCD has given me perspective on life and on other people. I'm happy to have a new plan without teaching or counseling or editing. I'm okay with the fact that I'm not ready to be far from home yet. And I'm working very hard at being okay about my love life. I also really do believe that life in the future, for me and for everyone, will go the way it's meant to, somehow. It'll amount to something bigger than what I understand (because, again, I really understand so little). That doesn't mean, at all, that it'll be easy, but it's something, and it's meaningful.
What is the new plan, you ask? Well, my darlings, I have decided to apply for grad school (online--I'm not prepared to go somewhere without an immediate support system, as I said) to get my Library Science degree, specializing in Youth Services. I'll live at home in the meanwhile. After grad school, which may take a few years because money, I'll get myself a job as a librarian, preferably public library, preferably youth services. At that point, we'll see where I'm at about where I'm comfortable living, but librarians are decently universal, I think, which is a plus. So yeah!
Summary of all of this: for any one of you who run into the quarter life crisis: it's okay. I feel you. Take some breaths, remember that this is just how things are for everyone. Believe that you'll end up where you're meant to be. If you're really struggling, either 1) you're seeing reality for the first time, which is great, you just need a bit of time to adjust or 2) it's time for you to reconsider and figure out what you can do to get on a path that makes you happy. You can take many things into your own hands.
And to my 3-year-old self and her ridiculous dreams--it's okay, sweetie. At least I'm still trying to grow my hair out waist-length. I figured I should do something so that you can get at least a piece of what you wanted. But if I don't succeed (which I might not because sometimes hair just stops growing)? That'll be okay too. Promise.
Thanks for reading, guys. :) Come back next time for Top Ten Tuesday!
Images via eng-syam.blogspot.com, the Disney Princess club on Fanpop, and supernaturalgifforeverything.tumblr.com.
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