Growing Pains or a Quarter-life Crisis?

This year my life turned into a grotesque mixture of back-to-back deadlines, big decisions, constant stress, lack of sleep, and the explosive questions running over and over again in my head: ‘What is my purpose in life? Was I supposed to be doing something else right now? If I don’t do _____ what will happen in the future? What if I do whatever I want to do? Should I choose stability over fun? Is it time yet for these kinds of decisions?’ I know, right? Even reading all these questions seems tiring and unnerving. Am I experiencing the natural side-effects of uncertainty or ‘growing’ pains or is it a full-blown quarter-life crisis?

If I look at it from an external point of view, some of my friends are already working full-time and making good money; others are about to get jobs of their dreams. As for myself? Well, I have no idea what I want to do yet.

Uncertainty is never a pleasurable thing, especially when it comes to your life after uni, your career and livelihood. Some of us experience these inner conflicts more than others and believe me when I tell you that at one of the lowest points I thought I was a total goner (although blessed to be super healthy, studying Law and doing something that I love – writing). I know that a lot of you guys might be going through the same drama. As if the constant struggle to appease your FOMO, balance your personal life and studies is not enough – you have to apply to MAs, internships and jobs so that you have options in the future? It is never a relaxing or an assuring thing especially if combined in such frenzy.

Not so long ago, I was in the midst of a similarly confused and completely scared bunch of 20-something-year-olds, losing my composure until someone, not a psychologist or a doctor (note it), told me about the quarter-life crisis. I know that those of you who are not aware of it might be laughing by now. Trust me, I laughed too, but after giving it some thought, I was actually glad to find out that I was not the only one and that it is so common that someone gave it a NAME (as if there was a link between naming things and getting them right). Then, as one does, I started googling ways to overcome it.

Soon it dawned on me that, despite it being nice to put a label on something you are experiencing, we should not fall into the trap of pitying ourselves. As if it was not enough right? Another tag, another burden on the fragile shoulders of us millennials? Yeah, that is so true if you think about it. We have been bombarded with so much information that unanimously confirming that we have it much worse than previous generations. For example, supposedly now adolescence continues well until we are 24, instead of the original 19.

That is all nice and convenient, but it does not give us any solutions or at least some clues as to how to manage these difficulties. What it does provide are excuses: excuses to stop, pity yourself and whine. I did the same thing just as I did at the beginning of this article (probably amplified by 10 if not 20 times). But then I caught myself getting relieved when I found an excuse to be softer on myself. True, most of the times you need to be kind and loving towards yourself, but there are times when you need discipline, perseverance and dedication, not just excuses, you need to remember that there will be people who will keep pushing (within limits) and working hard. After some consideration, I have decided to see these difficulties and uncertainties as growing pains rather than a quarter-life crisis. It is something I have to go through with optimism and an unwavering determination to succeed in whatever I do.

At the moment, I feel like I am on the right track and if you want to call this phase a crisis, then I am definitely escaping its shackles. If you are going through similar difficulties, then I would like to share with you some advice as to how I am dealing with it:

Share your worries with someone: whatever your situation may be, however horrible and catastrophic you think it is, you can find people struggling with the same things. We are all in the same boat. Go out for some nice cup of coffee, or if you don’t want to up your cortisol level any higher, try some lovely tea and a piece of cake. Invite your friends over and cook something together, BAKE!

Whatever happens, eat healthy and exercise regularly: there is a healthy mind in a healthy body. Work that booty, work that core, eat those greens, and stay hydrated! You’ll feel and look better, trust me, it is worth slaving at the gym for a week or two for finally sensing that strength and those gains. Stick to it.

Set a clear cut-off point: for example, make it a habit that you will stop working/studying at 8 pm; whatever you are doing, you will have ‘you’ time. It is easy to get carried away by your to-dos and to burn yourself out. Be smarter – most of the times when you’ve studied wholly exhausted could have been better spent relaxing in the long run.

Find a great book to read: for me, reading is a luxury, and I make sure I treat myself every day to it. A good book can not only entertain but also transport you away from your worries, and help you de-stress, just like meditating.

Invest more time into something that you love doing: every day I meet people who wish they did something other than their job/degree, something that they truly loved. Make sure that what you spend most of your time doing is something you enjoy, but do not get disheartened if you are not enjoying it at the moment. The reality is that most of the times the grass only seems greener on the other side. Your life and your happiness are in your hands, so work towards it but be a realist; even the dreamiest of the dream jobs have their ups and downs.

Work on our mind and consciousness: try to monitor your thought patterns. Once you start and stick to it, you will discover different modes of thinking you tend to have. Personally, I tend to overly criticise myself. Once I know that I am falling into yet another one of those pitfalls, I stop and remind myself of all the great things in my life and things that I did well.

I know this whole thing is quite a challenge but only to the extent that we decide to make it. Stress and worries are often irrational, but we cannot eliminate them from our lives. Like with anything it is better not to dwell on something, be it a quarter-life crisis or anything else. These things, like any ‘crisis’, are temporary, and you alone decide how you react and act while you feel their pressures.

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