It recently dawned on me the other day, that its coming up to ten years since I finished High school. Ten years (Ten!). A decade ago I was a scrawny, wide eyed teenager meticulously dissecting a frog for my final A’level Biology practical exam. When I finished that frog dissection I was ready to take on the world – or at least I thought I was. I had a ‘life plan’ – graduate, get a job, get published in a respectable scientific journal, be my own boss by 30, travel the world, and hold on to all my inner child through it all.
I am sorry but, ten years ( Ten!). Excuse me whilst I have a mild panic attack … OK, I am back.Woos-ah!.(Note to self: Keep Calm and Carry On). Ten years sounds like a long, long time ago when I say it aloud, in no small part because it seems like the older I get, the shorter the distance between events I have experienced seems to be. For example the ten years between 1992 -2002, a period covering most of my primary and secondary education, seemed to take forever. In fact I couldn’t wait to grow up. To become independent. To become a man. The last decade feels like it has just blitzed right past. Suddenly change is the enemy and I find myself desperately trying to cling on to the past. A past that is drifting further and further away. I am becoming ‘that guy’, always reminiscing about the good old days in uni. A period were I met enigmatic and interesting characters that hold season tickets to the Grandstand of my memory.
Ten years after high school I find myself constantly dissecting my life. I am wondering where I will be in 2014 – when I hit the big 30. All the while desperately clinging onto sanity’s last nerve, because on most days I barely know where I am right now. When I talk to most of my friends most of whom I met in university I realise I am not alone. It seems we are all going through most of the same emotions and questions over and over. We talk about the same topics. We worry that we are going nowhere fast, seemingly lost between the idealisms of our youth and the realities of adulthood, trying to help each other steady the compass of our life’s direction. It seems we are all going through our own little ‘Quarter life crisis’.
Unlike the midlife crisis, the quarter life crisis is not as widely recognised. There are no ‘experts’ to help us. We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out. We have no support apart from each other. In fact its only recently that the British Psychological Society carried out a study published in the New Scientist dealing with the quarter life crisis. In their study, the society says that the Quarter Life Crisis affects young adults between the ages of 25 – 35 years and it has four phase listed below.
Four phases of the quarter life crisis
Phase 1, defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both. “It’s an illusory sense of being trapped,” said Robinson. “You can leave but you feel you can’t.. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.
Phase 2 is typified by a growing sense that change is possible. “This mental and physical separation from previous commitments leads to all sorts of emotional upheavals. It allows exploration of new possibilities with a closer link to interests, preferences and sense of self.
“Up until then you may be driving fast down a road you don’t want to be going down. A minority of participants described getting caught in a loop, but the majority reflected on a difficult time which was a catalyst for important positive change.”
Phase 3 is a period of rebuilding a new life.
Phase 4 is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person’s new interests, aspirations and values.
The up side is that the researcher’s go on to say that the crises is a good thing. ‘People who have experienced it often look back at it positively”. Its a necessary evil, if you will. I couldn’t agree more. Over the last 2 -3 years I have gone through all of the first three phases of the Quarter Life Crisis. I have been frustrated with the trajectory in which my career and the rest of my life was going. So I have had to reassess my “Life plan”, in the process acknowledging that the “Life Plan”, was based on what I perceived to be conventional success.
I learnt more about myself in my first five years after High school, than I had previously learnt prior to finishing High school. It only made sense then that I had to take a time out from the “Life plan” and give it a make over. In the process I have switched jobs and moved back to the Motherland. I have gone through relationship breakdowns with lovers and friends. I have missed the comfort of hanging with same people on the regular. Its all been in effort to craft a new life thats more in tune with who I really am. Granted its still a work in progress but despite my bouts of insecurity I am more confident that I am entering the fourth phase of my Quarter Life Crisis.
I have learnt to exist outside my career, stepped with a little bit of irony beyond my inner most ambitions and realised that living my life my way is the ultimate career. One thing that helped through all this was the decision to rekindle my passion for writing. I didn’t know it when I started this blog, but somewhere in the thick fog of my nostalgic rants I have gradually started to locate my clarity.
Hopefully ten years from now when I look at this part of my life, I will not plunge into another crisis. I am quietly optimistic about that though. An added bonus of going through a Quarter Life Crisis is that you are much less likely to go on to experience a mid-life crisis. Booy-ah!