Out of the Ashes: The Quarter Life Crisis

The Quarter Life Crisis

It feels like one of those annoyingly abstract concoctions of about a million different emotions, and yet, it might just be a very treatable condition.

A Mild Case of the QLC

I’d been waiting for the sun to come out for about a month; both metaphorically and literally. I had finally returned to the coveted (when you’re a waitress in an understaffed hotel) ‘nine to five’ job, surrounded by pleasant co-workers and the sun was shining (albeit intermittently) on me whilst I sipped coffee sitting outside, quite consciously soaking up my self-prescribed, and very much necessary dose, of vitamin D, telling myself that ‘people watching’ was the reason I was sat there. As if that was a more reasonable way to spend one’s time.

Despite this song inspiring scenario, I just couldn’t muster any positivity – that does not mean to say I was being a bitch, there is quite a clear distinction – and when asked why I couldn’t help but be so negative, an ironically tiny, yet impactful tear rolled down my cheek – an harmonious accompaniment to a pathetic, ‘I just don’t know’ – a perfect physical manifestation of my fleeting knack for raining on many a parade.


A number of people/online personas have connected on one of Graduate Game’s boards, ‘You Have Quarter Life Crisis When …’ in a similar way people might in a group therapy session minus the disruptive and attention hoarding person who always seems to be the protagonist in movies. Why can’t characters just be normal? Because we’re not. Well, we are, however, at twenty-something one feels like they shouldn’t be feeling quite so anxious. Plus, co-operation wouldn’t make very good T.V., now, would it?

The consensus of the board was that the crisis point seems to erupt just after graduation. I agree. Although I finished my studies more than six months ago, the week following my graduation ceremony was miserable. I felt exactly how I imagined a quarter life crisis to feel; lost and out of sync.

This prompted me to look the QLC up. According to a certain psychologist, Oliver Robinson, the condition occurs mainly in 25 – 35 year olds who have already committed themselves to certain choices regarding jobs and relationships. Suddenly, they realise that the life they are leading is incongruent to the person they feel they are inside. Apparently, this is relatively old news. I wasn’t aware that this was an officially named psychological phenomenon distinguished by five stages:

Phase 1 – Feeling trapped as a result of your life choices thus far. Feeling inactive in your own life.

Phase 2 – Overwhelming feeling of ‘I’ve got to get out’ followed by the belief that you can, in fact, change your life.

Phase 3 – Change: quitting your job/relationship or any other commitment that is making you feel trapped and, instead, pursuing adventures and experiences that aid your self-discovery.

Phase 4 – Putting your life back together again.

Phase 5 – Getting a new job/relationship; commitments that reflect your interests and aspirations more accurately.

The Bright Side

As you can see, it’s not all bad. In fact, 80% of the people interviewed by Robinson when researching the QLC considered their crisis a positive experience. When they had managed to pull through to the other side, they were living a more fulfilling life that made them experience a much higher sense of well-being. It made them feel in contrast to merely going through the motions. Indeed, at the end of a weeklong crisis, though it felt like a lifetime, I managed to re-organise my thoughts. I created a plan for the next couple of years that suits me and I’m looking forward to the challenges rather than dreading them.

The Weight

The most important thing is overcoming the crushing social pressure that forces you into jobs and positions you abhor or aren’t ready for. We all have to do our own thing. The tricky aspect is acquiring the means to achieve that. It is this dissonance that causes the crisis: the amount of choice to work, to travel, etc we have available to us versus the means of achieving the money and time we need to enjoy these opportunities. Getting through it means reconciling the two.

In other words, I recommend the Quarter Life Crisis to everyone. Embrace your inner turmoil.


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