Quarter-Life Crisis: Background

We’re probably all familiar with the notion of mid-life crisis. It’s a phase that middle aged men and women go through when they start wondering if they made the right choices in life. But for millenials, the generation of immediate gratification, the mid-life crisis comes much earlier to where the quarter-life crisis is a more accurate term.

This blog post is the first of three series on the quarter-life crisis. The first post will cover the background on how it develops and how to know if you’re going through it. The second post will cover the correct method to deal with it and the third post will cover potential pitfalls. Let’s begin!

How It Develops

Quarter life crisis is an unfortunate effect of the way society is structured today. When you enter college, you’re forced to make a decision about your career path on a limited timeframe (generally by the end of your Sophomore year). If you fail to do so, you won’t be able to obtain your diploma and be forced to put more and more money into your tuition while “finding yourself”.

Unfortunately, most people do not have enough information and experience to make a decision on what to do with the rest of their lives by the Sophomore year of college. Therefore, many choose a career path based on the limited information they have: the career with most stability, the career that their parents wish for them, or the career their friends picked.

To add to the problem, the college institutions provide so many distractions from the fact that you may have chosen the wrong field. They have constant exams, projects, and essays to keep you busy and lose focus on the big picture of whether you’re on the right path. They provide a tangible goal – obtaining a diploma and getting a job – which makes you forget about biggest life questions, such as asking yourself if the path you’re on is the right one for you.

Even after college, you’re so busy getting acclimated to your new job that you’re still distracted from whether your job truly fulfills you. You spend your first one or two years getting used to your new cubicle, boss, coworkers and job responsibilities that evaluating your career choice is not even remotely on your radar. Even worse, the fear of being unemployed and the overwhelming consensus that “you should be grateful to have a job at all” seems like an appropriate justification of ignoring the question once again.

But around the third or fourth year on the job, you start to feel jaded. The “newness” of the office is long gone and the nagging question of whether you’re in the right job creeps more and more in your mind until it’s impossible to ignore. But at that point, you probably have commitments that prevent you from leaving your job right away. So you engage in an internal battle of hard questions and justifications until the point where you can’t ignore that your job just doesn’t make you happy anymore but cannot come up with a plan on how to fix it.

Symptoms

How do you know if you’re suffering from quarter-life crisis? It’s pretty easy to identify if you’re already in its final stages. If you don’t feel excited to go into work everyday, then you’re probably suffering from it. That’s not to confuse it with having offdays or working for a terrible employer. Everyone has a terrible day where things don’t work out. Or, maybe you do like your career track but you’re stuck in a terrible work environment. These factors do not mean that you chose the wrong career track – it just means you need a little bit of an adjustment. But if you consistently feel unmotivated to go to work and you don’t think the same job at a different company would make you feel differently, you’re a prime example of the quarter-life crisis.

How do you know if you’re heading towards the quarter-life crisis if you’re not at its final stages? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you imagine yourself being in your current job for the next five years or more?
  • Which job would you want after your current one? Is it related to the job you have?
  • Did you choose a job based on your skills rather than your interests?

—-

If your honest evaluation deemed that you may be suffering from quarter-life crisis (or at least, heading that way), then stay tuned for my next blog post!

-J

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