My Interpretation of a Quarter-life Crisis

Random Observation/Comment #271: My friend gave me a birthday card that thanked me for being a motivational person. I haven’t stopped smiling since. Maybe through this medium, I can fulfill my desire to return my knowledge to a community. Thanks for reading my rambles, Mom and Dad :).

This Cow is so Zen

If you’ve ever wondered “Is this it? Now what?” you may be on your way to a quarter life crisis. It comes in different forms for different people, but it’s usually guided by a lack of direction and an abundance of freedom. By freedom, I mean more specifically free will with the limitless number of choices you can make at the present, but the choices you’re not making due to some lame excuse. Let me start from the beginning (as I usually like to answer my questions in a round-about way).

I used to think life was a series of phases. First, you had prepubescent years of simple happiness based on reward and punishment. Then you had the middle school and high school years of social angst, search for parental and peer acceptance, learning how to learn, and trying everything and anything new. After that, there’s the college years of independence, social lubricants, forming communities based on real interests, and search for love. After this, the years of the first job resemble college, but with more responsibility, more money, networking instead of partying, honed hobbies with narrowed interests, and search for companionship (and love if you’re lucky).

These phases are fine to examine as a 20-something-year-old, but time seems to speed up after a certain point. You realize that so much change happens in 10 years from 15 to 25 that 25 to 45 should be the golden years of stability, yet it somehow always slips away. What lies in this 25 to 45 phase is uncertain to me (since I haven’t been there yet), but I suspect the drilled daily routine, search for marriage, kids, career path, living conditions, and responsibilities that mashed into all of this will surely shift the focus from “me” to the other 20 things going on in my life. As I start to care more about the well-being of my family and close community, I take on tasks that put me in some regiment schedule. And just like that, hair turns gray and the wrinkles around the eyes speak wisdom.

I’ve heard of this midlife crisis thing portrayed through movies with yellow Porsches, half-aged mistresses, and old people going to “disco clubs”. It’s all just a way to feel young and make up for lost opportunities. It seems to me that when people get older, life gets so boring that you want to be in college and party like a rockstar (even if the party was something you deemed stupid 20 years ago). I think this midlife crisis is just the realization that we made too many generalizations the past 20 years and it’s always a good time to try new things that may have once been crossed off the list. Maybe it was time to make a new list of things to do. It seems that we will be our worst critic about the decisions we’ve made and the opportunities lost in another dimension. The wonders of the world then lay in the past rather than the future because the future looks like much of the same routine.

Anyway, given that background, the quarter life crisis, in my opinion, is the prevention of the midlife crisis. It’s the moment of some youthful projection of what could be a life of regrets. In some ways, the reaction of a quarter-life crisis is the same as a midlife crisis. Hobbies spring up from nowhere and we find the need to do so much more of everything.  We live adventurously in order to fill our worlds with meaning.  The drive behind this could be boredom or just a lack of motivation, but the result is still this thirst for doing something.  You think to yourself “I’ve made it this far and grown up. Don’t I get a cookie or something?”

The funny thing about the quarter-life and midlife crisis is that they’re both inevitable to escape. Perhaps instead of looking back in your midlife to see that you haven’t done enough, you look back and miss all the things you have done.  You think to yourself “Damn, I used to be so much more awesome – let me try to relive the golden years.”  If you don’t do enough, then you may think “Damn, I was so stupid working so many hours during my prime. Now that I have money, I should do all that stuff I didn’t do. Let me skydive when I’m 60.”  So you see; it’s impossible to win.

Well… maybe. If you just stop thinking about it, and stop putting meanings and goals into our miniscule existence – then maybe we’ll take life for what it is and just live it happily.  Maybe it’s just easier to be.

~See Lemons Be