Are you going through your twenties, and constantly feel like your life is more weird and confusing than the plot of Inception? Have you got no idea where your career is heading, why your relationships are changing or why you’re feeling so lost all the time?
Fear not. While it may feel like you’re going crazy and your life is falling to pieces before your very eyes, what you’re going through is a rite of passage experienced by everyone as they moved through the turbulent twenties – as your doctor would say (in a very doctor-ish voice), ‘my diagnosis is a Quarter-Life Crisis, and it’s perfectly normal thing for people your age.’
The twenties are often described as a time to set yourself up, lay foundations for the future and learn how to make safe, intelligent life decisions. But if there was a survival pack for your twenties, it would contain a user manual with diagrams of young people being hit repeatedly by large trucks, a bunch of ‘look on the bright side’ quote cards, and a life vest with a whistle that attracts the attention of your parents’ harsh opinions.
Put simply, the quarter-life crisis is a time of transitioning from early to late twenties, childhood to adulthood, and adapting to the changes that come with that. But while it can feel banging your head against a cold office desk most of the time, there’s actually nothing to worry about because life takes on a whole new level of meaning and beauty after the storm is over. When you’re going through the eye of a storm, though, it can be challenging to see the full picture and meaning of what you’re feeling.
Here are 10 signs that you’re in the middle of one of these points in your life, and why everything is actually perfectly OK.
1. You suddenly feel like your job is a prison cell and you need to escape
The most easily recognisable sign of a quarter-life crisis is feeling like you’re trapped at work, waiting for a call from Morpheus. It’s is a positive thing because it means you’re being forced to face big career questions head on that will have been eating away at you for some time. You’re realising life is meant to be explored, and having a job with a good salary or job security may be standing in the way of pursuing something you love, whether it be a different career, escaping overseas, working in a different country, or doing something you’ve always wanted to do.
2. You daydream about your life when waiting in line for coffee
Studies show daydreaming is a sign of a creative soul, and if you find yourself regularly getting lost in your imagination it means you’re consciously taking control of creating your life, rather than reacting to events around you. As we move through our twenties we become more comfortable being ourselves and choosing our own direction, no matter what others think, and our creativity blossoms as realise we can do anything we want. Don’t just dream it, do it!
3. You get anxious scrolling through Facebook posts about weddings and pregnancies
Your early twenties are consumed by thoughts of competition – trying to go one better than your friends, being seen as successful by your peers, living up to an ideal your parents set. A major shift during a quarter-life crisis is realizing that life is not a game, the competitiveness is useless, and social hierarchies don’t matter. It’s a liberating moment when this all melts into place in your head, but one that often comes after a peak of panic when being in your shoes becomes too much. If you’re not there yet, just know that it’s just an emotional release, and life is so much more beautiful on the other side. Life can’t be planned, and everyone has their own path. It’s what makes life amazing.
4. You realize you have nothing in common with friends from High School any more
It can be a bit of a shock when you first start noticing old friends drift out of your life, particularly if you have a lot of awesome memories from High School or College. When you reach mid twenties you have changed substantially to the person you were at 16 or 17, which means your interests have too. People evolve, and as you mature you realize life is short, and best spent with people who add to it in some way. If you’re seeing some big changes to your social circles, don’t worry – it’s giving you the strength to consciously choose what sort of people you want in your life. And if there’s friend in your life who’s dragging you down, it might be time to break up with them.
5. You do something you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the guts to go through with (like join a dance or yoga class)
Most of our lives we get told by others how to live – what should be important to us, how we should plan our careers, what we should spend our time on. I had always wanted to try creative writing but was taught from an early age that money is hard to come by as an artist, and I should try to earn a crust in a high-paying job instead. When I went through my own quarter-life crisis, I told the world to shove it, signed up for a class, and now I have the confidence to share my own expert opinions with the world. A lot of what we believe about the world is only mental, but it can feel so real to us. If you’ve done something random or fun recently (or are planning to), something you’ve always wanted to try, it’s a brilliant sign that you’re going through a shift, and valuing your own happiness over what others say.
6. You stay in on a Saturday night and don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything
It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but it’s totally okay (and smart) to not feel like you need to hit the clubs or go to every party or event you can on the weekend. Although your friends might ridicule you at first, realizing you can do whatever you want on a ‘party night’ (like choosing to Netflix and chill), means you’re listening to your body and paying attention to what it can handle. You’re also choosing to do what you really want instead of listening to the voices of others. It means you’re on a direct path to social enlightenment. Namaste!
7. You freak out whenever someone asks you to commit to something a year away
When you’re feeling on edge about your own plans for the future, anyone trying to get you to commit to something more than a few months away can make you feel anxious and boxed in. Just remember that even if it seems like everyone else have their future worked out, it’s totally OK (and even normal) to hold off on locking in to anything if it doesn’t feel right for you. It means you’re learning to walk to the beat of your own drum, and re-calibrating to focus on living to the rhythm of the present moment. If you’re worried about the ‘freak out’ bit, learning to meditate can totally help with that!
8. You can’t understand why you’re still not happy, despite all of your achievements
Stepping back from your life and recognizing something’s wrong is difficult to do, but it’s a sign that you’re heading in the right direction. This means you’re beginning to take ownership of your happiness, and after freaking out about and blowing up all the mistakes you’ve made in your career, you will be in the box seat to steer things in a better direction. Just remember that our ‘I will be happy when’ targets actually change the closer we get to them, so chances are you’ve probably achieved most of what you originally set out to do, so all that’s happened is you’ve changed what you want (which is a very good thing)
9. You start noticing everyday things that you’ve never noticed before
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with making sense of your life right now, you will probably find yourself paying more attention than usual to little things around you, like nature, or the way your friend’s face twitches when they talk, or a new opportunity that’s been right under your nose the whole time. As you surrender to life and give up on trying to control it, past and future fade into the background, and the air you’re breathing takes center stage. your awareness is heightened, you become more relaxed and alert, and you can feel the textures, tastes and smells of everything around you on a grander, more beautiful scale. It’s an amazing place to be, and it’s the reason why you’ve seen so many self-help books around about how to live in the moment.
10. You have realized there’s no such thing as perfect.
This is a sure sign that you’re towards the end of your quarter-life crisis. If you feel anxious reading that sentence, that’s alright – you will get there. Once you fully appreciate that there’s no such thing as perfect, you will be able to get through not only the turbulent period you find yourself in right now, but literally any life crisis after it. Your life is only going off the rails if you believe there are correct rails, or a better train than the one you’re on. And as we grow, we realize there’s no such thing as the perfect train – so sit back in your cabin chair, feel the warmth of the tea cup in your hands, and enjoy the ride.
Featured photo credit: Photo is free license from Unsplash via download.unsplash.com