The-Quarter-Life-Crisis

The quarter life crisis. Yep, it’s a thing.

Spurred by the sudden lack of structure that comes with graduating from college or completing grad school, twenty-somethings all over the world are having sudden prolonged panic attacks about the lack of direction in their life and the loss of their youth. Often it leads to a series of bad decisions, justified by the idea that they are warranted because we are young, stupid, and risky.

Surprisingly, your quarter life crisis can be a real learning experience. I got married young, as in literally two weeks after my college graduation and by the time we celebrated our first anniversary I was eight months pregnant with my now three-year old. Instead of realizing that by the time I hit 25, I had graduated from college and grad school, opened my own photography studio, and started an amazing little family complete with three dogs, a dude that really loves me, and the cutest little blonde toddler on the planet, I was fixated on the things I hadn’t done when they were readily available to me. Mostly, it equated to me making friends with the wrong people and spending way too much of my girls nights out chain smoking, drinking too much whiskey, and crashing on other people’s couches. I lamented that I had never been a partier. I had never passed out on a lawn or gotten officially arrested. I should give myself points for that, right?

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While that doesn’t sound very productive, and for all intents and purposes it wasn’t, my quarter life crisis helped me establish who I am by showing me who I’m not. I didn’t party in college because I was too busy being earning an education. I am not by nature into large parties or getting wasted. I am ambitious and that’s not to say that if you enjoy getting imbibed from time to time that you aren’t, but I was juggling two jobs, one I really loved which gave me an insight into the grad program I would pursue after I got out of college. I desperately want to be successful. I want to give myself, my friends, and my family an amazing life. I didn’t want to get by being a functioning drunk.

I learned that as I get older, the number of friends I have doesn’t matter, as long as I have a few good ones. You know, the ones you text when you’ve done something terrible or something amazing. I don’t need friends that are using me for my generous spirit and stocked liquor cabinet.  I don’t want friends who are only interesting when we’ve had too much to drink. I want to surround myself with people who value good conversation and good company. It taught me that having standards and being selective with the people I surround myself with is important and is, in fact, directly linked to my happiness.

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I learned that youth should not be about acting stupid and getting away with it. I had started investing in my future early in life and then vilified for myself when I couldn’t go back.

It’s taught me to be a more forgiving person when my friends and family make mistakes. Everyone is different and we all have major character flaws. It wasn’t until I was recovering from my own crisis that I realized many of my friends were suffering through the same thing, often for opposite reasons. I’m more lenient and more available. I’m more open about my own post-grad struggles. I’m slow to judge and I’ve become a better listener.  I appreciate the friends who put up with my six-month Hulk-esque personality changes and it’s made more available in reciprocation.

I’m more accepting of myself as a whole person and less fixated on every one of my less than redeemable qualities. I’m more introspective and aware of how my actions affect other people. I am aware of my own flaws and tendencies.

Getting older is a privilege and at times a struggle. A quarter life crisis isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s just a reality check. It’s a couple of steps back so we can make three steps forward. It can jump start the rest of your future in an unexpected way. A quarter life crisis isn’t the end of the world, even though it feels like it, it’s the beginning of life on the outside of the structure we are raised with.

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Photo via  Manic-Depressive