The mid-life is reserved for external crises: the flashy cars, the divorces, and the “sell-everything-and-buy-a-yacht” impulse. I haven’t been there yet, but from what I gather, that pretty much sums it up.
The quarter-life crisis is in many ways the same, except most of us have nothing to sell in exchange for a yacht, and we don’t have a spouse to divorce. Also, I think it is more of an internal crisis, involving a rapid change of identity that accompanies the transition into adulthood.
We find ourselves lost, as we cannot place ourselves into the well-defined boxes we once could. We used to be able to wrap ourselves in the comforting blanket of “this is who I am” – but during a quarter-life crisis, when we begin to question everything, there is very little we can securely wrap ourselves into.
Where there was one a clear, neat structure, there is suddenly this amorphous glob staring back at us.
There we are, permanently moved out of our youth, standing in this empty apartment called adulthood, not sure where to start to settle in. Sweat percolates on our foreheads as we look around and realize that we’re surrounded by all of these unlabeled boxes, and we have no idea where to put everything. We’re scratching our heads, thinking “this *may* look nice here”, paralyzed by the false fear that we can’t redecorate later.
But we forget that we’re allowed to change our mind twice, and we’re allowed to change it thrice.
And the solution of course, is a sort of surrendering of resistance to this process. Shed your skin; allow the metamorphosis to gracefully take place. Don’t cling to dead cells; they have to fall away to reveal the glowing layer underneath. And the only way to fully surrender is to let go of all you think you are, and stop worrying about who you might have been, or might become.
Find the paradoxical security in simply not knowing. Find the curious comfort in not setting definitive boundaries for who you think you will be. Putting premature labels will only constrict the natural process of growth, and while it may keep you pseudo-secure, you will eventually feel as though you are busting at the seams, trying to look gorgeous in a dress that no longer fits. Saying, “hey, look everyone, I’m still me!” as you parade around uncomfortably in your prom dress. It may fool others – but you will never fool yourself.
And why rush to arrive into who you will become? Do we ever fully arrive into who we are? Well, I think that’s a false promise in and of itself.
We are always in the midst of a process of becoming; we are always Michelangelo, chipping away at the David of our own lives. And an identity crisis is merely a phase of rapid sculpting, followed by a lull, when we are able to sit back for a while and enjoy the sculpture before making other tweaks.
To say we have “arrived” only means we have nowhere further to go, and so long as we live, there will always be a personal journey on which we must embark.
So when you’re settling into adulthood, deciding what can stay and what must go, remember that you don’t have to remain the same as you were, nor do you have to continue on the path towards who you thought you would be. You just have to give yourself space to figure it out without self-inflicted judgment.