Yeah, it’s all fun and games now. Just give it 23 years.
Today’s question comes from Ryan the Girl, a friend with whom I studied Ye Olde English at the College of Knowledge, and as a musician and fellow blogger she is well qualified to ask it.
QUESTION: How long does this Quarter-Life Crisis last??? Does it stick around until the dreaded 3-0 comes around? And how are we Quarter Lifers supposed to deal with this kind of crisis when we’re too poor to buy sports cars?
ANSWER (in two parts)
How long does the QLC last? As long as you need it to.
I realize that’s a tad counterintuitive, what with the whole “please-make-it-go-away-I-just-want-the-answers-and-maybe-a-ham-sandwich” mentality that accompanies these crises. And oh yeah, I’ve felt this way. When you’re balled up on the couch, eating Doritos and crying over poetry or Glee, it’s easy to hate the questions, to wonder when, dear God please, the wondering will stop.
But here’s the thing. If you love life, if you are commanded by the vibrant pulse in your veins, if you are engaged and curious and open you will always have questions. You’re not dead, not you or me or anyone reading this post (presumably), and this is the best thing that’s happened to any of us since the day we were born.
Since uncertainty has its roots in true living, if wonder is the flame of human spirit, what is up with all this angst? To that, the heart of the quarter-life crisis, I answer: don’t fight it!
This is not a phase; it’s not an illness. It’s not a 20-something scourge. It’s a part of yourself that cries out for attention, that demands you bear deep into the fog and mire. Use every compass, use all your endurance, and when the time comes you will run aground on new truths.
We want to know what tomorrow will bring because we want to avoid the fears, the worries, to raise battlements against life’s plans. Impossible, and worse, stilting—even if we could know, we shouldn’t; you can’t win without a fight, and you can’t survive without deserving to. So give into the storm, to the hurricane winds, and unclap your hands from your shivering ears. There’s a sound beneath the thunder and drumming rain: that same voice, yours, repeating the truths of itself over and over again. The words are a song and a triumphant message, and it will loop until you listen or are driven mad.
* * *
My personal experience:
I’m currently 26, rounding on 27, and I’ve been having self-awareness conniptions since I turned 25. These fevers—the head-splitting, tooth-grinding sweats about what to do with the rest of my life—broke after about a year and a half.
Sometime in the late spring, I began to fret less about the myriad outcomes of any particular action and resolved myself to one of them. For a long time, I worried that if I shut myself off to any opportunity that came my way, I would lose the best thing that (n)ever happened to me. This habit led to a lot of question marks on calendars, last-minute resolutions, and the sort of psychological ellipses that drove me insane. Rather than preserve life choices, I’d failed to capitalize and truly enjoy any of them.
For me, then, a quarter-life crisis acted as the catalyst for a new mode of living. I stopped hedging my bets and began taking risks. I resolved myself to the big, scary things I knew I truly wanted to do, and when I talked about achieving them I uncrossed the fingers behind my back.
Despite my long-term fear of closing doors, I discovered a new kind of peace, an excitement for the future I’d never felt before. A The fog and clouds obscuring the horizon were no longer fearsome; they were curtains to be drawn apart, challenges to be conquered, and beyond them waited the great shining stage of my life.
That’s not to say I no longer freak out about debt, politics, global warming, and chipping nail polish. I just don’t classify these bottomless worries as a true QLC. Uncertainty is the flint of living; my fear means I’m alive. When I started to listen, the loop of my voice told me to tell stories, to write them and read them and sing them out. I quit my job, I left the grind, and of all the risks in this big, bright life, I’m taking the one I’ve always longed for.
* * *
And how should you deal in the meantime?
If you’re dying for a sports car, lease one for the day! (The 17 year olds who worked at the pizza place downstairs used to do that all the time. At least I think they did, since there was a different exposed-engine Mazarati, Merc or Porsche parked curbside most weekends. Slices weren’t that good.)
Alternately, you could start robbing banks and then do whatever you want. Just don’t mention my name.