I was almost too apathetic to post this...
May 8, 2009 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Your Quarterlife Crisis Unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.
posted by Christ, what an asshole (109 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hasn't this always been the case when you're right out of college but not carreer-tracked yet, the only difference being we have a name for it now?

I loved my 20s. The Nothing Years. Just boppin' around, exploring, traveling, trying new things. Sometimes it's a good thing not to have all the answers handed to you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:47 PM on May 8, 2009


Attempts to manage the Quarterlife Crisis might be as banal as drinking a lot, doing a bunch of drugs, sleeping with idiots...

Noted without comment.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:49 PM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have it all figured out. So, ha.
posted by parmanparman at 2:52 PM on May 8, 2009




...
-SIGH-
Um.
Hmm...
GRR!

I'm not familiar with eyeweekly, but this article is really all over the place on a topic that's actually pretty interesting. The Seventeen-esque quiz at the end is particularly stupid.

I think there's a lot of valid stuff to be discussed on this topic, and the fact that "get over it" is such a common response often makes it worse. I'm 26, and definitely have found myself in similar cycles of thought, even when things are going way better for me than my peers.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The highway is littered with corpses but some people manage to keep driving on.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the issue comes when you stop boppin' around and start settling down. The work days, with their deadlines, meetings, and expectation that you show up on time and work until you leave (or at least put on a good show of it) tend to clash with the greater freedom of college life. Riding the bus to work and listening to the gripes of the college students can be both uplifting and rather depressing. 9 am class three times a week? The humanity!

What is this "unparalleled freedom" I hear about? Do residents of Canada get more vacation time than your neighbors to the south? Apparently, yes. I'm fairly new to the working world, and I have 2 weeks of vacation, which hardly sounds like freedom. My wife lived in Germany for a year, and said that Germans seemed to see more of the United States than it's actual residents, due to getting so much more time off per year.

Burhanistan - there is a functional need for SUVs after all. Good to know.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:56 PM on May 8, 2009


Over-privileged self-absorbed white kids obsess about little shit? Get the f#*& out of here!
posted by mrstrotsky at 2:57 PM on May 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


A great many of my friends have had a "crisis" like this, when they left college and started working. I just chalked it up to the expectation of the work world and the reality of work being woefully out of sync.
posted by selenized at 3:00 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Over-privileged self-absorbed white kids obsess about little shit? Get the f#*& out of here!

So how many starving Rwandan children have you saved today?

Thought so.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


False dilemma much?

...also, I didn't write an article about it.
posted by mrstrotsky at 3:10 PM on May 8, 2009


Good point, Afroblanco!
posted by roll truck roll at 3:12 PM on May 8, 2009


I read an article when I was just starting college, called "The Age of Endarkenment". Which really caught my attention because it pretty much says that we don't end our adolescence until our midlife crisis. Those questions of who we are, what we are doing with our life, what is our purpose in our society, all of those that we first started asking when we were just starting to come of age, are still unanswered. Instead we are just told to keep on moving along, and the answer may be another year away, another stop down the road.

But of course, if you look at the coming of age rituals of many cultures that still have them, they may not have in fact these similar midlife (or quarter life) crisis, because they may actually be addressing those questions up front. Now I don't always think those answers are right ("you are a women, this is your purpose, this is your role, you will never do more" is not something I agree with), but I will say they are giving answers. All of these things are to addressed the liminality of a person as they go from child to adult, from asexual to sexual member of society, etc. And I would say that many cultures have very strict rules around these transitional periods means there is significant cultural value in ensuring the smooth transition between those dangerous times.

But who initiates our teens into adulthood here? their peers? Marketing companies trying to make a profit off of the very closeted nature of their budding sexuality? Schools whose agenda is to meet state requirements that do not in any way take into account the socializing of the students?
posted by mrzarquon at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


1) This term is about 3 years old at the least, and they're just now getting on the bandwagon?

2) Over-privileged self-absorbed white kids obsess about little shit? Get the f#*& out of here! People can't have "real" problems because of their skin or color or economic class? Does anyone, post-sophomore-year, seriously, honestly believe this? Yeah I get what you're going for: "there are starving kids in Africa, so I'm going to prove what a compassionate person I am by trumpeting my lack of compassion towards anyone I deem unworthy " - but come on.

3) I chalk it up to working in an office sucking my fucking ass- and that's the feeling anyone with the tiniest shred of individuality should feel. After 4 years of college I had just gotten used to being treated like a grown-up with some autonomy and worthwhile ideas, i got an office job and *POOF* I'm back in high school- being treated like a criminal at worst, ignored as a mindless peon in the best case.

Just because there's a lot of gleeful bleating about "it's the real world LOL" doesn't mean everyone wants to surrender their personality and self-worth without a fight.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:19 PM on May 8, 2009 [30 favorites]


Have some kids, that'll shut you up.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


It is a period in life when you need to be accumulating life capital. Preferably in a business or career. Latch on to something and stick at it. Wherever you find yourself, apply yourself. You'd be surprised. Success in life isn't so much a matter of where your are or what you do, as who you are. Don't forget, the odds are that the rules that have applied to humanity from the beginning of time apply to you also. You can assume, with some certainty, that you are not a black swan, an exception. Don't think you have to nurture you genius. Your genius will take care of itself. What you need to work on is being consistent, reliable, hard-working and courteous. These qualities will be the soil where your genius grows. Read as much as you can, because your reading will be your mental capital in years to come, and the books you read in your twenties stay with you. Learn to enjoy classical music now, and the popular music of the 20s and 30s, because while the popular music of your own 20s will always be close to your heart, it will not sustain you as the texture of life deepens and thickens. Marry young and be true to your spouse. It is very strange, but I've observed that this gifts you with a powerful mojo, a kind of moral capital beyond price. Drink with the knowledge that someday you'll have to give up drinking, and know that sex without love is piddle-shit. If you are in the arts, and you haven't made a fairly big success of it by age 25, you'd better get out, because you never will. (There are exceptions to this rule, but, remember, you are not the exception.) This is also your last chance to learn a foreign language. You can know hipster, enjoy hipster on the sly, but never forget that hipster is a sucker game. There is no "alternative" music, alternative lifestyle, or alternative economy. The same rules apply to the merchant as to the artist as to activist. We all end up working for the "man." Even the "man" works for the man. Prospects of life that fill you with horror in your twenties, will open up and delight you a decade or so later. Leave yourself open for that. And chose your sexual and life partners very, very carefully. If he or she seems a little crazy now, he or she will be a lot crazy going forward. Never, never sleep with another person's husband or wife, for you will suffer the karmic consequences a long, long time. Don't be in the same room with a person who is holding or using drugs. Assume that you are going to outlive your twenties, and know that they pass very quickly. Establish good habits now that you're on your own. Floss. Trust me. It's a good investment.
posted by Faze at 3:25 PM on May 8, 2009 [55 favorites]


"Attempts to manage the Quarterlife Crisis might be as banal as drinking a lot, doing a bunch of drugs, sleeping with idiots..."

Unfortunately, the dangerous behavior of someone experiencing a Quarterlife Crisis go unnoticed by friends and loved ones, because it's essentially the same kind of behavior associated with everyone else in their twenties.
posted by markkraft at 3:26 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the issue comes when you stop boppin' around and start settling down. The work days, with their deadlines, meetings, and expectation that you show up on time and work until you leave (or at least put on a good show of it) tend to clash with the greater freedom of college life. Riding the bus to work and listening to the gripes of the college students can be both uplifting and rather depressing.

I should clarify that by "boppin' around" I don't mean I was following Phish, riding the rails or dumpster diving. I mean I explored many different possible carreer choices, committing to none of them. I took my 20s as an opportunity for this exploration of my desires, to enjoy the journey of getting to who I am and what I want. I can understand the frustration, on some level, of being indecisive about where you want to settle down, but it's far better to take your time exploring rather than force yourself into an ill-fitting mold just because you want to be cast somewhere. In other words, I think most of this is a matter of perspective - the decade or so after college can be an anxiety maelstrom of identity crisis, or a smorgasbord of different life roles. If you're in a rush to be Just One Thing, you might have a hard time of it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:26 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


My dad had a better word for that period: drifting.

What a sweet time: you don't know shit, but think you ought to; you're in prime condition to work, but few want to hire you; you've got the energy to accomplish, but not quite the patience; all age groups distrust you, including your own. Then -for most anyway- there's thankless laborious jobs to slowly surely kill your inner child in nightly aching pain only eased by cheap alcohol and blocked memory. Freedom? hardly. But lots and lots of fucking.

Hardly a crisis.
posted by sarcasman at 3:26 PM on May 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


Let's talk a little bit about the quarter-life crisis.

You did fine in High School. You spent 5 years at a state school -- you could have made it out in 4, but you changed your major. Even though you avoided 6-figure debt by going to State, you've still got tens of thousands of dollars in debt, much in student loans, some on credit cards to pay for ramen and pizza. You spend a few more thousand on credit to pick up a used car so that you can commute to a job, you put money down on a deposit for an apartment. You try in vain to find a decent job, but the only things you can find relating to your major also require experience, causing you to question why you're so far in debt for a BA that was supposed to bring you opportunity. You settle for retail or reception or administration, maybe manufacturing.

You're 23 years old. You've got tens of thousands of dollars less money than the bum on the street. When you do the budget, the money you bring in matches the cost of food, shelter, clothing, health insurance, Internet/phone and transportation. Maybe you can squeeze in cable. You don't save because there's nothing to save. You get more credit cards to pay for the non-essential items that give life a little bit of zing. The debt adds up, and you keep with the grind, hoping that the tide will turn. You date, and maybe are serious, but your partner's in the same position, and can't afford to settle down, buy a house and raise a kid.

You feel like society had you on-track to succeed. After college, you realized that there was no more track. It's not just an existential issue affecting once-spoiled kids, this is an economic issue. The loss of jobs, wage stagnation and reliance on debt that's become so prevalent in this country have made things very, very weird.

It's very difficult in America today for young people to do the things that young people have historically and instinctively done.
posted by eschatfische at 3:27 PM on May 8, 2009 [91 favorites]


There was a great AskMe thread on aging, basically "What would you say to your 20-something self". It was a few months ago, but I can't seem to find it. Very apropos. "Nobody will care about your art when you're 40".
posted by anthill at 3:29 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would just like to point out that all of the mid-twentysomethings I know (including myself) are constantly struggling to acquire this month's (sometimes last month's) rent while trying hard to stay healthy because our jobs offer little or no insurance so the cost of a single trip to the ER could easily put us on the street.

In other words, there isn't much time for the OH NOES EXISTENTIAL ENNUI bullshit that my generation is "supposed" to be having.
posted by Avenger at 3:31 PM on May 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Cue the world's smallest string quartet.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:31 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think a huge part of this problem is that our culture makes a big deal out of prodigies, but pays less attention to gradual success stories. Of course, it is more noteable when someone succeeds straight out of the gate because it is more rare; but whether someone cashes in at 18 or 48, they still managed to make it, which is the important thing... But it's easy to forget that when everytime you turn around, Hanson has become the Jonas Brothers, and some part of you says "why wasn't I doing that at 16?"

In this respect, being a few months older than Britney Spears has been pretty insightful. Right around the time I was gearing up for college, she was becoming a national sensation. As I was toiling around paying too much for a liberal arts degree I didn't really believe in, she was getting richer and richer. But then I graduated and she crashed and burned.

At this point, I wouldn't trade my life for hers at all. I'm working hard to teach myself flash animation and I'm just putting my first efforts onto my website; I have something to look forward to, and tricks of the trade to learn; but her life seems stripped of all novelty and seems pretty empty because she got her dream when she was too young to learn how to appreciate it. I think that in the long run, the years of tedious office work will serve me well by giving me a point of comparison and a reason to be thankful.

It helped that I started seeing that there was no real trend to success. Someone asked Mark Vonnegut, Kurt's son, about what it was like growing up with a famous author for a father, and he said that he wished he knew; he grew up the son of a GE ad man. Kurt only started writing books when his kids were grown and he felt free to quit his job.

Both Everything is Illimunated and the Wizard of Oz were the first books by their authors; I'm all too aware of how young Jonathan Safran Foer was when he wrote
his book, but then again L Frank Baum was in his midforties and had spent decades as a failure before he wrote Oz. It's never too late to be an overnight sensation.

Yes, Seth Rogen started doing stand up at thirteen, and Rodney Dangerfield worked at it for years, quit, started selling aluminum siding, and then made it in his mid-forties when he was old enough to look like a guy who really had been worn down by life.

Then there's all the people who are semi-succcessful but then skyrocket in an unexpected direction mid-career. I mean, Hunter S. Thompson's early journalism was pretty good - but its not really what he made his name on, and Tom Waits and Radiohead definitely took some time to do their most seminal work. When Creep came out, I'd have given them even odds on outlasting the Offspring - and given how Pablo Honey sounds and what a fluke Creep was, I was right to think that.

So when I look at a guy like Lil Wayne - who is two years younger than me and far more successful than me - and I start to freak out, I have to remind myself: Michael Jackson and Kurt Russell both started out as child stars, and now one of them is known for not having a face and the other made one of the best special effects films ever (The Thing), and God only knows where the other child prodigies they got their start with are now. Early success doesn't mean a thing for how your life actually turns out. Your life story isn't over till you're dead, and by that point, you aren't able to freak out at all.

So, to coin a phrase: Don't Panic.
posted by Kiablokirk at 3:32 PM on May 8, 2009 [41 favorites]


If you are in the arts, and you haven't made a fairly big success of it by age 25, you'd better get out, because you never will.

Horrible advice unless the person in question is a dancer.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:33 PM on May 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


Oh, and for the "IN MAH DAY WE SETTLE'D DOWN AND HAD KIDZ!" argument: If the pictures on facebook are any indication, a significant number (perhaps even a majority) of my peers from the class of 2001 have children already, many of whom are now old enough to have been conceived on senior prom night.
posted by Avenger at 3:36 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've seen this before. I used to work with someone who was on the fast track to being everything her parents dreamed she might one day be. Married - check. House - check. Entry position in a not too shabby carreer - check. Then, at about age 26 or 27, flamed out and crashed spectacularly. Picture a B-70 Valkyrie bomber running flat out and hitting the ground at a fourty-five degree angle - oh, and hauling nukes - and you'll have a pretty good idea how the situation changed.

So when I get to this: "they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want." I pretty much have to put this in the box labeled "you kids get off my lawn" recycling and move on.

So yes, a huge number of people, mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly in their mid 20's don’t know who they are. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that for the first twenty years they were shuttled from this highly structured activity to that highly structured activity by overprotective parents who wanted them to be well socialized, incredibly normal and better than average in every respect. They don't know who they are because if who they are has been crammed into a narrow mold and life was going to be really unpleasant if they didn't make themselves fit.

After about 10 years out of that mold, well, the crater can be spectacular.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Do you hear much about their unrelenting indecision, isolation and confusion?
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2009


If you are in the arts, and you haven't made a fairly big success of it by age 25, you'd better get out, because you never will. (There are exceptions to this rule, but, remember, you are not the exception.)

I should stop one of the few things I'm good at or enjoy because it's one of the many things I haven't become rich off of? That's kind of... annoying.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:45 PM on May 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Quarter-life crisis sounds overly optimistic. Even with advances in medical science still not many going to make it to a hundred surely.
drjimmy - People can't have "real" problems because of their skin or color or economic class? Does anyone, post-sophomore-year, seriously, honestly believe this?
Of course them young'uns may well have real problems of the sort that can be inflicted on anyone - heartbreak, illness, loss and the rest - but I personally can't muster much sympathy for a putative general existential malaise of this sort that impacts an advantaged socio-economic group (ethnicity I'd leave out of it), and that is on a "you don't know yer born" curmudgeon basis.
posted by Abiezer at 3:50 PM on May 8, 2009


I loved my 20s. The Nothing Years. Just boppin' around, exploring, traveling, trying new things. Sometimes it's a good thing not to have all the answers handed to you.

A favorite college professor/advisor once said to me that you should consider your 20s a time of exploration, experimentation and adventure. He said that he and many of his contemporaries seemed to find some sort of direction after the age of 28. My own experience has been similar. Live your own life and don't worry about comparing it to others.
posted by ericb at 3:52 PM on May 8, 2009


Get on the highly structured activity bandwagon now roll truck roll, before it's too late!!!

See what I mean?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:52 PM on May 8, 2009


There was a great AskMe thread on aging, basically "What would you say to your 20-something self".

http://ask.metafilter.com/27160/What-would-you-tell-20yearold-you
posted by zeek321 at 3:52 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there a way to negatively favorite?

you need to be accumulating life capital
you need to work on [] being consistent, reliable, hard-working and courteous
chose your sexual and life partners very, very carefully
don't be in the same room with a person who is holding or using drugs
you'd better get out, because you never will


Man, were your twenties that bland and awful? Seize the corner office, I guess.
posted by sarcasman at 3:53 PM on May 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: Because they don’t know what they want.

Maybe its that phrase 'settle' that always seemed like you're resigning yourselves to thinking, 'this is as good as it gets' and trading stability for new challenges*.

If kids and a paycheck is how you measure success accomplishment, good luck with that. Seems a bit pedestrian to me, but then I've never been happier with my life and never focused on those things.

* yes, kids are a bit of an upheaval but even barely functional members of society seem to raise youngin'

and Kiablokirk. Add 'Colonel' Sanders to your later bloomer list. He started KFC when he was 65.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:53 PM on May 8, 2009


First, eyeweekly is a Toronto paper, and no-one does self-absorbed angst-y better than young Torontonians.

Second, holy shit, I cannot imagine being twentysomething with a big f'ing school debt at this particular point in history. Is there no other way? When I went in the early 80's, my summer work covered the year's tuition, and I lived at home. I didn't have a student loan debt.

But then again, my 20's were mostly flaky - some job-bouncing, some short ecstatic periods, a long depression, and things finally coming together (career path, life partner, house purchase) as I turned 30. My 30s and 40s mostly rocked, and 50 so far is coming together nicely.

What would I say to those experiencing this "quarter-life" crisis? I got no answer regarding the debt. All I can say is :
1) try to work in something you like or care about
2) invest as much as possible in people - join groups, keep in touch with your family, volunteer in stuff that matters to you
3) girls - offer yourself discreetly to older married guys whose own 20's kinda sucked. You will get a grateful attentive lover who's also full of practical life advice. heh.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:55 PM on May 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


My current quarterlife crisis in five points:

1. I'm concerned that I'm not going to be able to buy a Ferrari to get over my midlife crisis, so I'm trying to figure out what to do to maximize my potential of not having to buy one.

2. I look at Facebook profiles of high school classmates I thought were brilliant, and they seem happy to have resigned to a life of parenthood, the suburbs, and shitty music. This makes me fear that I've been living a lie the past 5+ years and am slipping into the same stew.

3. I don't know how to cook as well as I think I should.

4. I cannot speak Mandarin.

5. I see the world through John Malkovich's eyes; then after about 15 minutes, I'm spit out into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

And seriously, I didn't ask anybody to come over. So if you're not here to give me money or teach me Chinese... get off my damn lawn.
posted by pokermonk at 3:56 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Read Ecclesiastes.
posted by kindalike at 3:56 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


BTW -- there have been many previous attempts to codify the stages of 'adulthood', such as Gail Sheehy's 'Passages.'
posted by ericb at 3:58 PM on May 8, 2009


(I'm kidding about getting off my lawn, of course... Hell if I can afford a place with a lawn.)
posted by pokermonk at 3:59 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gail Sheehey's 'My Passages Game.'
posted by ericb at 4:02 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


So maybe in retrospect I was smart to blow off the college and move straight on to the "bopping around" phase when I was 18? I think I missed out sometimes, but maybe I just got the agsty part over with sooner.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:17 PM on May 8, 2009


Floss. Trust me. It's a good investment.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class Of '99: Wear Sunscreen."
posted by ericb at 4:18 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I solved my quarter life crisis by leaving. Became an English teacher and left Canada, for good. It was the one really excellent decision I have made so far in life, and I am still thanking my 25 year old self every day for that.

Kids: don't settle down! Wherever you are, it's just one tiny little part of a really big planet. If you stay there you are going to become a provincial. Don't do it! That restlessness you are feeling will only get worse, and the more shit you buy the more you'll be trapped.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The highway is littered with corpses but some people manage to keep driving on.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:54 PM


I can't help thinking of Everest. The people who manage to keep moving on that path are sometimes seen as insane.
posted by orme at 4:35 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you stay there you are going to become a provincial.

I think I agree in spirit, but in a lot of ways, choosing a place to live has allowed me to learn quite a bit more about the world than I could have if I'd have kept wandering. I've met a number of permanent tourists whose experiences don't do much besides reinforce their prejudices.

Socrates never left Athens.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


So how many starving Rwandan children have you saved today?

I think 5-6. I forget how many Facebook quizzes I filled out today. My best is 20 in a weekend.

What, that doesn't work? And you don't want to be my Facebook friend anymore?
posted by filthy light thief at 4:49 PM on May 8, 2009


So, to coin a phrase: Don't Panic.

So, to coin a phrase: Don't Compare Yourself to Others.
posted by ericb at 4:50 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not where you start , it's where you finish
also this because Fozzie rules.
posted by anyokerin at 5:18 PM on May 8, 2009


Advice is so easy to hand out that it's very much ubiquitous from the viewpoint of a young person going through this quarterlife crisis. An abundance of choices can be a paralyzing thing, and it's just as easy to make a serious mistake by following someone's well intended advice as it is to simply ignore it.

I wanted to be a herpetologist. I was told it wasn't a realistic goal, that there was no money for school, and no jobs for me to make the money on my own and no car to get me to such a job anyway, since we were out in what were basically the sticks at the time. Today, all these many years later, I know very well that people have achieved such goals despite facing much more extreme adversity than I ever had to go through.

So I took the advice I was given to heart: you can't do it. Instead I went to work for friends and family, thinking that that would be one way to learn a trade. Of course, they were only too happy to have a cheap or free employee to work for them. I did manage to learn a thing or two, working in print shops, among other things. Somehow, though, the jobs were always still just a bit beyond my reach, though there was still plenty of advice to be had.

Study people and their interactions as if they were some exotic species. Read a ton of books as early as you can, with an emphasis on history (of the sort the schools won't teach.) Don't accept or reject any advice necessarily, but take it all with a grain of salt. Try to remain open to whatever opportunities may present themselves, but with the understanding that, as good as they may sound, they may not lead you to what you really need and want to be doing with your life.

One false step anywhere along the way can easily mess you up for years, and you're not going to be able to rely on somebody being there to help you pick yourself back up. But there will always be plenty of advice to be had. You can depend on that.

And yeah - that too is advice.
posted by metagnathous at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think 5-6. I forget how many Facebook quizzes I filled out today. My best is 20 in a weekend.

Bah. Everybody knows that the way to save Rwandan children is to donate your status message.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:23 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people feel a lot better about getting up in the morning if there is some point to their day. Not exactly news.

It seems that most people that are still flailing around past the age of 27 or so are basically afraid to go for it: they never have accomplished a big goal and they don't understand how the process works. The good thing about failing early and often is that you learn it isn't the end of the world if you screw up and that most things can be fixed or abandoned and the world won't notice. I've done enough stupid shit that I now trust my judgment pretty well and am more relaxed about making commitments and closing other doors. Many of my friends have never done ANY shit, stupid or not, so they have never learned to make good decisions and still agonize over taking a temp job, never mind shooting for their big life goals.
posted by fshgrl at 5:24 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh hey, you know that restless, X-life crisis thing? Yeah, it never goes away. Seriously, if you have a brain in your head, you're always going to be be questioning your reality. It's the nature of intelligence to wonder if this is all there is.

Your coping skills get better. (One hopes) You start to recognize real value in the people with whom you surround yourself. You'll find yourself finding new meanings in old classics; books, music; people, arts. But deep inside, you'll still wonder: Is this all there is?

There will be nights, when everyone else is sleeping, and the moonlight slants across the trees in the yard in just the right way where you think, should I run away and find that missing thing...that thing that always makes me wonder what else is out there?

And you'll go inside, and you'll remember that where ever you go, the world will still always be your own creation, and nothing can ever make an intelligent person stop wondering what they're missing.
posted by dejah420 at 5:33 PM on May 8, 2009 [35 favorites]


It's kinda sad, but I'm actually going through this right now. I guess if you're like me and would rather do anything than have kids, eventually you've got to ask yourself the question, "what, exactly, is anything?"
posted by Sloop John B at 5:34 PM on May 8, 2009


"what, exactly, is anything?"

I highly recommend just doing whatever strikes your fancy right now, if you honestly don't know where you want to be or get to. Because consider your options: be frozen by indecision and do little, if anything, until the ticking of the clock becomes a deafening clatter and you jump feet first into a cubicle and stay there, or move around - figuratively and/or literally - trying new things, meeting new people, making new contacts, and most importantly, living. Along the way you might even figure out what you ultimately want to do. Or maybe you won't. But at least you'll have taken in some of the sights and sounds of the world in the very, very brief time you have on it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class Of '99

REPRESENT!!!!!!!!!!!

(Sorry.)

I don't really feel like I ever had a Quarterlife Crisis, but that was just because I was too busy getting past my Own Personal Apocalypse. When I turned 26, I got divorced (add me to the statistics of "young marriage fail"), lost my three best friends, and was unemployed for nearly a year.

Now I'm nearly 28, living with my partner of a year and half, actively planning a family, and I've found that SURPRISE! I have a career. I can actually say that without trying to figure out what the hell that is. My current job is ending and when getting my résumé and references lined up for the new job-hunt I realized "Wow. I really am qualified to be doing what I'm doing, and I really do enjoy it enough to say that I consider this my 'career.'" I have long-term goals that are actually directly related to what I'm already doing.

It's kind of amazing. And I didn't even have to do any drugs. I just had to live through it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:44 PM on May 8, 2009




The good news is, by the time you're 45, the whole thing intensifies greatly without ever having gone away.
posted by mwhybark at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Article managed to go six whole paragraphs before blaming it on the Boomers. C'mon, guys, you can do better than that.
posted by nax at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2009


or, what dejah420 said, but, y'know, restated by a negative creep.
posted by mwhybark at 6:07 PM on May 8, 2009


Freedom? hardly. But lots and lots of fucking.

I was with everything you said in that up until the end, then I was left wondering whether I didn't have my quarterlife crisis, or drifting time, when I was a teenager.

That said, I'm still in a place where... Well, it's not that I don't know what I want to do, it's that I want to do so much, and I'm left with not enough anti-procrastination to get them done.
posted by opsin at 6:11 PM on May 8, 2009


Plus ca change. I remember a lot of similarly themed-articles right around the time I finished my own undergrad (i.e. the mid-'90s). They used the word "slacker" a lot.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:07 PM on May 8, 2009




"If you are in the arts, and you haven't made a fairly big success of it by age 25, you'd better get out, because you never will."

Goddamn stupidest thing said in this thread.
posted by jscalzi at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


Socrates never left Athens.

Yeah and look where that got him.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:13 PM on May 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


They used the word "slacker" a lot.

Dudley B. Dawson | Monday, May 4th, 2009: The seven habits of highly effective slackers.
posted by ericb at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


what, are we all living until we are 100 now?

yeah, I guess we will have to in order to pay for our parents retirements - something to look forward to

also, boys, watch fight club and get on with living, I don't know what the equivalent for girls is but I'm sure you're not all beautiful and unique snowflakes either.

And if you can't figure it out, just do lots of drugs, it'll help one way ore the other
posted by fistynuts at 7:41 PM on May 8, 2009


Who’s ever written the great work about the immense effort required in order not to create? Intensity without mastery. The obsessiveness of the utterly passive. And could it be that in this passivity I shall find my freedom?
posted by stinkycheese at 7:41 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have some bad news for you. If you think age 25 to early thirties is your quarter life crisis you are failing math, at least from the actuarial point of view, much less the point of view of cataclysm. Much more likely you are having your 1/3 life crisis. IE, you dont have 3/4 of a life until you are dead. Be busier.
posted by jcworth at 7:54 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


So if you have a "quarter life" crisis at 33, does that mean you live to 132?
posted by delmoi at 8:05 PM on May 8, 2009


Man, can't a man just live? Does every year of my existence have to have an arbitrary label on it?
posted by hellojed at 8:14 PM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think 5-6. I forget how many Facebook quizzes I filled out today. My best is 20 in a weekend.

Is that something I'd have to log on to facebook more then once a month to understand?
posted by delmoi at 8:18 PM on May 8, 2009


Aw, crap, here I am just about to start my senior year of college and now I am wracked with relentless worry...

Actually... now that I think about it, I'm not. I kind of have a plan, I guess, but I think the best part about being this age is that people will ask me, "So what are you going to do when you graduate?" and I can say, "I don't know, I'm young, I just figure everything will work out. I like to go with the flow."

Maybe that's dangerous, or too optimistic. But I guess I won't know until a couple of years from now, will I?
posted by callmejordan at 9:03 PM on May 8, 2009


Wow, much as I want to sympathize here, I think all of this angst about something called a "Quarterlife Crisis" is actually about what we we used to call "Life".

However much you want to be The Master of All Space and Time, that is not going to happen. Most likely, you will occupy one very small corner of a cold and uncaring universe.

Get used to it.

Piss your life away and nobody will care or even remember you. Do it right and people will remember you fondly. Maybe you can even help to make your small corner of the world a better place.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:15 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe you can even help to make your small corner of the world a better place.

Fuck making the world a better place. I could give a toss about poor people or children. I'd rather do something that intellectuals in their 20s would talk about at dinner parties in the hopes of getting laid.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:50 PM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, having a wing of a hospital named after you? Fuck that too. Like I want to be the last thing people think about before they go into the ER? (if they even remember that much) Like I'm gonna work and slave all my life for that?

Having a wing of a museum named after me would be slightly better, but not by much.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:58 PM on May 8, 2009


Afroblanco, I've got this amazing museum quality collection of hairy tumors with teeth. We should talk.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:14 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi, no it means you've mistaken your midlife crisis and you're a gonner at 65 - so you can stop saving for your 401k now.
posted by fistynuts at 3:21 AM on May 9, 2009


also, boys, watch fight club and get on with living, I don't know what the equivalent for girls is but I'm sure you're not all beautiful and unique snowflakes either.

What about "Watch Fight Club and get on living?" Why does this have to be gender specific?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:46 AM on May 9, 2009


What about "Watch Fight Club and get on living?" Why does this have to be gender specific?

Because girls know better?
posted by doobiedoo at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2009


why do i have the sneaking suspicion that fight club is going to be even more bollocksy than zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance, if & when i ever get around to watching it?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 AM on May 9, 2009


Um, no offense, but so what else is knew about being in your twenties? This is the way it is - always. It's part of being almost an adult but now quite.

[rolls eyes]

If you readearly Roman works or for that matter, just read Nabokov's Pnin- you will see the same complaints from and about youth that are written and said today over and over.

when it comes to generations, there is nothing new under the sun, my friends.
posted by Tena at 8:18 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people have to work hard all their lives.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:19 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't understand how anyone can say anything about "Life: between the ages of 20 and 30". Newsflash: It's not the same for everyone.
posted by metastability at 9:16 AM on May 9, 2009


Life between the ages of 20 and 30 is not the same for everyone.

(self-snark)
posted by metastability at 9:20 AM on May 9, 2009


Given that the life expectancy of males in my line is less than 50 years, I hit my quarterlife crisis before puberty.

I loved it when this whole thing came out back at the beginning of the decade. Quarter-life crisis at 25? Wow, just how many people are planning to live to be 100?
posted by Eideteker at 11:01 AM on May 9, 2009


Maybe it's the noble savage in me but man, I never realized how hard life was for white people with college degrees... their burden, if you will.
posted by hamida2242 at 12:52 PM on May 9, 2009


Have some kids, that'll shut you up.

Why, because you will surrender self-discovery to security and stability?
That's not a trade-off that everyone is willing to make, and it doesn't necessarily solve anything, it can simply sweep the discovery process under the rug until spring cleaning happens 20 years down the road.
posted by tybeet at 1:31 PM on May 9, 2009


Artw: Have some kids, that'll shut you up.


tybeet : Why, because you will surrender self-discovery to security and stability?

Kids are just alot of hard work. It puts things into perspective, especially all that stuff you once thought was so damn important. You could have just said, Why, because you will surrender ?

I'm guessing Artw was making a joke for the benefit of any parents reading.
posted by nola at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2009


It's a good thing I have to support my parents, or I might be having an existential crisis right now.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:21 PM on May 9, 2009


It puts things into perspective, especially all that stuff you once thought was so damn important.

like reproduction, for example?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:31 PM on May 9, 2009


Where exactly does one get the money for this 'bopping around?' I have a mortgage payment to make, which is fine but in a shitty economy does not lend itself to selling my house, quitting my job and gallivanting about the land.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2009


Where exactly does one get the money for this 'bopping around?' I have a mortgage payment to make, which is fine but in a shitty economy does not lend itself to selling my house, quitting my job and gallivanting about the land.

A second time: "boppin' around" does not mean traveling around the country. It means being non-commital to your job choices until you figure out what you want to do. This period usually takes place before a person has started their first mortgage payments.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:46 PM on May 9, 2009


like reproduction, for example?

No not really.
posted by nola at 6:41 PM on May 9, 2009


If you are in the arts, and you haven't made a fairly big success of it by age 25, you'd better get out, because you never will.

That's right. The making of art is serious business, and should best be left to those professionals chosen by the wisdom of the marketplace.
posted by acb at 7:07 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a world with 6.8 billion human beings already here and more coming every day, reproduction has never been less important than it is right now.
posted by flabdablet at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2009


In a world with 6.8 billion human beings already here and more coming every day, reproduction has never been less important than it is right now.

Didn't you see "Idiocracy"? The message is that smart people need to quit stalling and procreate right now so the future president doesn't like monster truck rallies.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on May 9, 2009


Is that all there is?
posted by dog food sugar at 3:19 AM on May 10, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "A second time: "boppin' around" does not mean traveling around the country. It means being non-commital to your job choices until you figure out what you want to do. This period usually takes place before a person has started their first mortgage payments."

I guess like the partying phase, I missed this one too. I bought my house at 23. :)
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:58 AM on May 10, 2009


I guess like the partying phase, I missed this one too. I bought my house at 23. :)

This seems to be one of the common themes of this thread: no two people experience their 20s the same way. I can't relate to the existential crisis the author of the article talks about, because for me, the freedom I experienced leaving home wasn't agoraphobic but exhilarating, and my triupmhs and mistakes brought me into the place where I am today. I wouldn't trade that period of my life for anything.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:54 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm fifty.

Your life is not over when the kids arrive, or when you get past forty. You can still dream, you can still do.

I didn't start seriously doing my songwriting till I hit middle age. No, life is not exactly what I expected at this point-but so what?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:58 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why, because you will surrender self-discovery to security and stability?

"Self-discovery"? Seriously? I thought that died out in the '70s along with EST and the Hari Krishna. My motto: "If you expect the worst you will rarely be disappointed." It works.
posted by MikeMc at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2009


Thanks, this thread, for making me feel like all my problems are a figment of my imagination and I am actually a terrible person for thinking I have them.
posted by tehloki at 2:42 PM on May 10, 2009


> Thanks, this thread, for making me feel like all my problems are a figment of my imagination and I am actually a terrible person for thinking I have them.

Whatever. Now get off our metaphorical lawns. ;-)
posted by Artful Codger at 4:13 PM on May 10, 2009


My initial impression was "zomg, yet another first-world crybaby petite bourgeois <hate> <hate> <hate> <hate> <hate> article" -- but it actually kind of hits close to home for me.

The bit about the webz/so-called "social networking" being to blame is the most interesting bit. Stuff like facebook and twitter seemingly forms a bizarro social panopticon we've all voluntarily marched ourselves into.

Sitting in my apartment in bushwick, alone, out of work; how am I supposed to feel looking at pictures of you and your girlfriend in Paris? (Answer: bad)

Yes Tommy, I'm talking to you.
posted by godisdad at 6:22 PM on May 10, 2009


The 'crisis' never ends. It's called being alive.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:20 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at east
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to its knees.


Because, you know, Paul Simon is recognized as being a voice for Gen-Xers and Millennials.

(And at least Douglas Coupland had the wisdom to call it a "mid-twenties breakdown," avoiding all the people missing the forest for the trees with their "twenty-five is more than a quarter of a life" derails.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:57 AM on May 11, 2009


I don't have a friend who feels at east ease
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2009


Having kids is stability and security? Snort.
posted by agregoli at 5:38 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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