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Facing Down a Quarter-Life Crisis

Facing Down a Quarter-Life CrisisCollege graduation day: You’ve made it! It’s a priceless feeling that you will never forget.

That diploma is still radiating through your fingers, as though it is some sort of golden passport. Before you even look down, to check to see if your name is spelled correctly, you have already booked your flight to the future and are well on your way. You hear the comforting voice of your flight attendant say “We will be taking off momentarily, please stow away any and all college books, research articles, writing assignments, forget about group projects, studying for exams and forget about rushing around campus to make it to class on time. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the flight, we will take care of the rest.”

You are now a college graduate. Congratulations! All of your hard work has paid off.

Just as you hear the chime to alert you that, you can “now move around the cabin,” you realize it is actually the sound of your dreaded alarm, shoving you out of dreamland and propelling you right into reality. It is time to face the day ahead.

Only you are not waking up to a fully planned out agenda or rushing off to take that final exam that you overly studied for in the first place. Instead, you are waking up to a feeling of nothingness, no plans, no direction, no schedule to follow to tell you where to be, or what time to be there. Exactly what you have worked so hard for, isn’t it?

Less than seven months ago, I thought this was exactly what I always wanted. I could hardly wait for school to be over, and to start applying for that dream job. I made sure to have a job even before graduation. Then it happened, somewhere between walking across the stage at graduation and giving my resignation notice to the job I had always dreamed of. I began to feel as though someone, literally, broke into my life and stole my Google map printout of where the heck I was supposed to be going.

For over 24 years, our entire life is drawn out and the only thing standing in our way is our own self. Elementary, middle, high school – sometimes college and even grad school, all perfectly mapped out with turn by turn directions on how to get from one level to the next. We are conditioned to believe that all we have to do is have experience, a good resume, nice clothes, the ability to pass the interview and we will have the job that we have always wanted. Isn’t that how it has worked in the past? You do your assignments, study hard, take your exams and level up.

That’s not exactly how it works and quite possibly is why so many 20-somethings end up in this spiraling tornado, a quarter-life crisis, before they can even finish dreaming of how it felt to finally graduate.

Quarter-life crisis — yes, that is what I said and it is a real thing. I too thought it was a laughable term, thinking I had everything under control, and then bam! Like a deer in the headlights, you panic and think you have no idea what you’re doing with your life. If you are having feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, worry, overwhelm, pressure, lack of motivation, direction and passion, just to name a few, all in regards to figuring out your career, life and future — you may be experiencing a quarter-life crisis as well.

Take a deep breath. Go ahead and take another one. Now, realize that this is really what you have been waiting for, not some cookie-cutter career that looks like every Wall Street Journal advertisement of a businessman or -woman in a suit, waltzing the streets of New York. We’ve worked too hard to be the same as everyone else. Now is the time to explore, be independent, take risks, and enjoy change but, most of all to find balance — or else a mid-life crisis is what we will have to look forward to instead.

Facing Down a Quarter-Life Crisis

Jessica Richards

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APA Reference
Richards, J. (2018). Facing Down a Quarter-Life Crisis. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Mar 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.