I love talking to 22-year olds, cause they have no idea what’s coming. Their big dreams and life-long ambitions, all still fresh in their young, recent college graduate minds. They have no idea by the age of 24, they’ll be quitting their jobs, breaking up with partners, moving far away from home, and blowing the money they were saving for a house and wedding for booze and airfare instead. I tell them all this, and they all instantly deny it. “That’ll never happen to me” they say. I smile and continue with the long list of changes I foresee for them and their friends.
I can’t speak for all people between the ages of 23 and 29, but I can assure you that the epidemic that is so easily and succinctly termed as the “the quarter life crisis” is real. It affects 8 of 10 twentysomethings (the other 2 of 10 will inevitably go through a prolonged mid-life crisis, studies indicate). And it’s effects can either be catastrophically tragic or life-altering bliss.
What are the causes for this crisis? Nobody knows. But the signs are clear:
- Broken up engagement with a fiancé, dumping a long term boyfriend or girlfriend, or worse: divorce.
- Questioning the career your parents spent 4-6 years worth of college tuition to get you.
- Realizing you’ve never been to Europe at the age of 25 and ending up raving at Ibiza, eating brownies in Amsterdam, drinking at pubs in Edinburgh, and sipping cafe au lait at Parisian cafes… all in one month.
- Moving away from home. Far away. To a place you’ve always loved visiting, but never had the guts to move to because your partner would never agree to it.
- Training for a marathon.
- You JUST started eating sushi.
- Selling or buying a car (if you’re a guy).
- Drastically changing your hairstyle (if you’re a female)
- Still in school? Sixth year Super Senior! Ambitious? You’re probably going back for that MBA. Ambitious and masochistic? Law School! Ambitious, masochistic, and still milking your parents for dough? JD/MBA!
- Taking that engagement ring and house down payment money and blowing it on flights, mixed drinks, and new fits. Or a car. Or new hairdo. Or both if you’re metro.
- The mere thought of a wedding or a newborn baby draws a look of puzzlement, bewilderment and fear. Those are troubles 30-year olds worry about!
Why do I think I know so much? Cause I’ve been caught in the vicious cycle above since I was 25. And my friends have been too. Between all of them, they’ve switched coasts, bought luxury cars, spent hundreds at a time on bar tabs, blown off engagements, danced till the early morning in Rio and Buenos Aires, ran the NYC marathon, hiked to Macchu Picchu, got tattoos, switched careers, eaten street food in Hong Kong, arranged cockfights in Bangkok, backpacked through the Sahara, drank and ate everything and anything in front of them, and snorted anything that could fit in a human nostril. And they’re now fat in debt. Or far from that house down payment. But the clearest indicator of the quarter life crisis is if all the above isn’t satisfying enough.
If all this travelling and spending and so-called “fun” doesn’t give you deep fulfillment, you’re in the crisis. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ups and just as many downs, but satisfaction comes to those who know what they want, and realize they have it. The gist of the crisis is the poor kid doesn’t know what he/she wants or doesn’t realize he/she already has it.
So why would anyone put themselves through this? Wouldn’t a house payment, paid-off car, beautiful wife and healthy kids at the age of 29 solve all this? Maybe. But maybe our generation is smart enough to resolve their issues one decade early. Skip the midlife crisis if you will. Maybe.
But who would want to give all this shit up for the construct that society has labeled as the ideal norm? Kids are cute, but the view of NYC at the Brooklyn promenade or the view of downtown District 1 in Sai Gon on a busy Saturday night is more beautiful. A partner would complete me, but the excitement of talking to a new person in a new city over drinks is more stimulating. A warm house that you own would be a great thing to come home too, but the freedom of not knowing what city you’ll be living in next month is far more intriguing.
So when in life does the crisis end? Again, nobody knows. But one thing is certain, someday you’ll be 66-years old, on a Sunday morning. Living in the house you own. It’ll be raining outside and you’ll want to stay in. Hopefully the wife or husband you’re with will be someone you’ll want to sip hot cocoa with next to the fire. And one thing will be certain. You’ll be talking about the moments you enjoyed during the ages of 23-29, and although you probably wouldn’t want to change a thing, you’ll wish you could live it all again… And hopefully Facebook will still be around with all those whacky pictures of the fun drunken times and random people you’ve met along the way…