Just like your friends, I’m going through a quarter life crisis. I’m sad to say that it’s not as dramatic or exciting a life crisis as I’d like it to be. I’m not finding myself by traveling the world or going back to school for my 4th degree or suddenly jumping into a minimalist lifestyle. Those cool endeavors are being taken on by friends who are near and dear to my heart, but myself- I can’t even quarter life crisis right.
My quarter life crisis looks like spending just a little too long deciding if I’m going to “like” someone else’s good news post because jealousy says no but karma says yes.
My quarter life crisis is scrolling through jobs I have no intention of applying for despite being fairly satisfied with my current gig because its just good to know whats out there.
My quarter life crisis is wondering if my decision to go ahead and become a mom so early is one I’ll regret in 20 years during my midlife crisis.
Basically, my crippling self-doubt makes me nervous about moving into the next chapters of my life. How can I tell myself to keep moving forward if I’m not sure how I feel about the path from whence I’ve come? Do I need to double back? Are there important experiences I missed? Did I grow up too fast? Where am I in comparison with other millenials? These thoughts are exhausting. They take away the energy that I would otherwise be putting into building on my present fruits of labor and fill me with a false nostalgia for chapters of my life that I know for a fact in the moment were actually pretty difficult and crappy.
I share all this at the risk of sounding obnoxious and self-involved because I genuinely believe I’m not the only one in this place. Life is confusing as hell when you have so many things “going for you” and you’re not sure they’re the things you want. For me, this confusion is coupled with a guilt brought on by being raised in a “be thankful for what you’ve got” culture. The irony of it all is that I’m convinced said culture is instrumental in my own self doubt and quest for purpose.
I grew up poor and influenced to believe that I should aspire to be anything but. I grew up in a single parent home as a result of divorce. I was influenced to believe that this was incredibly unfortunate. I grew up with a college educated parent who worked full time and was influenced to see that as the picture of responsibility. I grew up black and thus surrounded by a dense smog of respectability politics. I grew up a cis-gender woman influenced to believe that I should like boys but not too much lest I become that girl that goodness forbid no boy would ever want. I grew up influenced to believe that clothing, word choice, health, and beauty were all issues of morality as opposed to preference. And so, with these beliefs as my guide, I rather unwittingly followed a mapped course I’d pieced together for the respectable, responsible, and driven black woman never considering perhaps I would be happy in a different way with a course that prioritized different goals.
It wasn’t until I saw people around me taking meaningful risks and forging their way on paths previously unfathomable to me that I realized there might be some life, some story other than the one I was chasing. I saw loved ones trade in Ivy League schools for small local colleges, and friends choose to birth or adopt children independently without waiting for a partner. I saw acquaintances move across the country (or even the globe) to pursue passions and interests. While I felt deep admiration for their spirit and drive, I also felt my self-consciousness growing and eating away at me. It was the feeling you get when you’re sitting in a class discussion and realize you’ve read the wrong chapters of the assigned book, amplified 50x by my own anxiety. My book read “play safe”, and it seemed no one around me was reading the same instruction.
I have never been a spontaneous person. I vision board, I plan, I draft timelines because those actions help me alleviate the self doubt that is a consitent part of my anxiety and depression. So the next reasonable step for a person like me coming to the realization that they may have a faulty roadmap for life is to seek a better one, dare I say the best one. Cue the onset of my crisis: there is none. When I ask my friends and family what motivated them to do any number of brave and unorthodox things in their life, many have no answers and the answers that do exist vary. I’ve also been taken aback to hear that there are those who find my own choices to marry so young, or work in a lower paying field, as absurd in their own way. We live in a time that allows us the privilege of watching loved ones create beautiful lives for themselves in ever changing and creative ways. There are so many jobs and lifestyles today that either didn’t exist or weren’t nearly as accessible even just 15 years ago. This truth should be freeing as opposed to intimidating. It has encouraged me to think about my vision map for the future in a different way.
I am certain now that there is no right answer and no one way to do life. On most days, I am confident that I can be successful and happy in a variety of different situations. What I have to struggle against, is mapping my life (or that of others around me) out too far in one direction or the other. I have to stay grounded in the knowledge that at any point I can make a change, take a turn, double back, or choose new traveling companions. I have to think about my endgoals not as rewards waiting at the center of the pre-constructed maze but as a point, in life’s circle, approachable from all angles. I believe my quarter life crisis ends when I have successfully internalized this way of thinking and being. Here’s to hoping that day is soon.