Most quarter life crises are caused by uncertainty–not being sure which career is right for you, not having found “the one,” not knowing where you’re going or where you even want to go.
My crisis was the opposite. It was caused by too much certainty. I knew exactly where I was, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Aaaand….You’re Here. Yay.
When I got married, I figured I’d finally “arrived.” I’d checked off the last box of the You’re An Adult Now requirements. I already owned a house, had a secure full-time job, and was “mom” to a lovely black lab mix (I’ve never wanted children, so this substitutes for the “kids” box for me). Getting married was the final piece of the adult puzzle. I’d achieved everything there was to achieve. My future was now solidified.
And that scared me shitless.
Because where I’d solidified myself was not at all where I wanted to be.
Don’t get me wrong. The husband, the house, the dog were all things I was very much happy with. But the thing that ate up most of my time (and my energy, and my soul) was all, all wrong. I was giving 40 hours of my life every week to a stressful, frustrating job that meant nothing to me. And it was infecting everything else in my life.
My job was never supposed to be long-term. It was the sort of thing I jumped into after graduation for lack of knowing what else to do, and I’d always meant to move on to something better as soon as I could. But, as happens to so many people, I’d just kind of settled in and accepted it. I figured that was part of adulthood, anyway–resigning yourself to a less than perfect job because no one really gets the job they want, and bills need to be paid.
And oh, did the bills need to be paid. As also happens to so many people, I’d gotten myself into a mountain of debt buying things that made me feel temporarily better about my less than perfect circumstances. The sad irony was that the debt I’d acquired only locked me deeper into my job, because it paid so well I knew I’d never be able to make my monthly payments if I left it.
I was stuck. I’d already wasted years of my life at a job I hated, and it was turning me into an irritated, frazzled, resentful person I absolutely hated being. And there wasn’t an end in sight. Because at 28, it was too late for things to change. Too late to start over, too late to go back to school, too late to try to change jobs. This was just the way things were going to be.
My adulthood was going to kind of suck, but that’s what adulthood is, isn’t it? Compromise and resignation and trying to be happy with what we do have?
The Other Three-Quarters
I’d like to call bullshit on that mentality.
We have this idea that “adult” is the last stop on our life’s journey. When we’re kids, when we’re in high school, when we’re in college, there’s always that nebulous, anything’s-possible “future” out there ahead of us. We’re heading somewhere. Things are waiting for us. But once we hit adulthood, the journey stops. There are no more misty horizons. We settle in, and that’s that.
But adulthood is not the end, by any means–especially not in your twenties, for god’s sake. We have years and year and years ahead of us to change and grow and explore new things.
It’s called a “quarter life” crisis for a reason: it’s only a partway point. We don’t have to have everything figured out by now–and on the flip side, we’re not stuck here forever, either. This is just one point along the journey.
I’m actually looking forward to my impending thirties now. Because they represent a new chapter for me. I’ve enrolled in a credit counseling plan that will have my debt paid down in the next 2 ½ years, and I’m getting back into the writing that was always what I ultimately wanted to do with my life. The future has become an open possibility for me again, and although I’m not quite sure what it will hold, I know it will be my choice and by my design.
Things aren’t over yet for me. They’re actually just beginning. I can’t wait for the next three quarters of my life.
Kelly Gurnett, a.k.a. Cordelia, runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to break free from the 9-5 and make her life a little better each day. She is a firm believer that life is what you make it and it’s never too late to change course. Follower her on Twitter: @CordeliaCallsIt
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.