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It’s 2017 in Chicago. Harsh windy day as it is January and I just landed my first full-time job, on my 22nd birthday shortly three weeks after graduating college. I cancelled a trip to LA with my best friend to go in on my first day of training at a globally-renowned tech company. This says a lot considering I would drop everything for a weekend trip.
What. Is. My. Life.
I walked through the offices, got a personalized tour from both of the managers that interviewed me, and was introduced to my new work family.
It amazed me how a month ago I was stuck in a job that was filled with toxicity, redundancy, and a whole lot of micromanaging. I obviously stuck around for the cash and the commission from the sales, but at one point, I had reached a boiling point to where I knew that if a new offer did not magically appear, I’d disappear.
I’d get on a plane and figure it out after clearing my head on a beach somewhere far, far away from the cold.
But, fate delivered.
Fast-forward to my two-year anniversary. I’m 24 now and could not be more concerned with the way my life had become so stagnant.
I had observed my mundane routine from afar, like an apparition that has left my body and narrated the rest from above.
I love everything my current job has taught me, but everything eventually gets old and this certainly did.
Working in a technology partner-facing environment can be very daunting. You’re pretty much forced to listen to anecdotes you never asked to hear, complaints that have to do with nothing you may have the slightest bit of control over, and long, long hours and trainings. I am becoming more and more mentally drained. I am becoming more and more angry because moods tend to ricochet.
What do I do? More importantly, though, what is this feeling of emptiness and longing?
I haven’t travelled in a while which has definitely put a dent in my mood and my bills are enormous. New ones seem to spring up from nowhere and there are moments where I feel like I can’t keep up.
I’ve gained some weight and office food isn’t the best form of nutrition. Oh, and I’ve kind of slacked on going to the gym because—well, mental capacity is oftentimes at zero percent from my day. By the time I recharge, start dinner and clean up the dishes, it’s time for bed.
And ‘round we go.
I’m at my job more than I am at home. I’m at my desk more than I am at a show or a bar. Why is it that I am still so tragically broke? And what the fuck am I doing with my life? There must be some other way.
These feelings are all symptoms of a very underrated psychological phenomenon, the quarter life crisis. This is the time where people between the ages of 20s-early 30s are soul searching to find themselves, who they truly are, where their passions reside in and so on. This type of phenomenon happens to everyone and apparently it’s normal.
According to PhD, Nathan Gehlert, who is a psychologist in DC, the person going through it is actually “highly driven and smart, but struggling because they feel they’re not achieving their potential or feeling they’re falling behind.”
This resonates with me more than anything. I have a full-time job, my own place, no college debt, and a number of creatively-stimulating side hustles—but sometimes I feel like I am not keeping up.
During this period of time, many young people are struggling to identify which career path they identify with most. I think our generation wants to pursue various things, but we’re stifled with the asterisk that requires a ridiculous amount of experience or is simply not paid. How did we get into this mess?
Here’s what you can do though (as I am trying relentlessly to do this right now).
Find a side-hustle you can be proud of.
I’m not talking about cleaning toilets or scrubbing floors late at night at some metropolitan skyscraper to make an additional buck. I’m talking about fueling your angst, passion or hobby into something you would find fulfilling.
For example, I tutor people from all walks of life online in various subjects. As an aspiring professor, it helps me to develop a niche for curating a curriculum for my future students.
I also write and I’m slowly getting acquainted with the idea that not only am I interested in writing motivational pieces, but also entertainment pieces. Believe me, I’m not trying to take Perez Hilton’s place. If anything, I'd love to be the polar opposite of everything he stands for; point out the best in celebrities, former child stars, and idols who are trying to make a come back.
A side hustle not only keeps you busy, but it keeps you on your toes and it helps your personal development. Oh, and a few extra bucks in your savings account is always a plus. Because, like, no one in their right mind wakes up to fulfill an unexplainable void of working retail, entering data or filing paperwork. No one.
2. See a therapist.
Hear me out. As much as your friends and family members claim to be there for you and genuinely want to be there for you, they aren’t always the best pillars of support. For one thing, seeing a therapist is like starting fresh. This person doesn’t know anything about you and cannot judge you because there shouldn’t be any room for inherent bias in a therapy setting.
I see one and it’s great. It helps me go through my thought process; frustrations and desires, noticing flaws and areas of improvement, appreciating the good qualities and acknowledging that everything takes time.
3. Create a checklist.
I used to have to-do lists all over the place when I was in college. The feeling of crossing out a completed task was like a heavy weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. When your brain feels scattered, consider writing it all down.
Everything you have to do, everything you still need to pay, and potential goals you’d like to fulfill. I do this on a monthly basis and it helps me keep myself in check, keeps my finances in order, and gives me clarity.
4. Have a 'Bueller’s Day Off' once in a while.
There should always be time and room for a mental health day. Sometimes we don’t realize that if we just keep going and going, the hamster wheel is eventually going to unscrew itself and fall off—a slight metaphor to remind you not to lose your mind.
Take a sick day. Take a break to recharge. Even if all you do is lie in bed and binge your favorite show or make a productive day out of it and go to spin class. Sky’s the limit, but it does WONDERS for your mental wellbeing.
Initially, these are just a few suggestions that have helped me to combat my personal quarter life crisis. They won’t defeat it, but they’ll help you cope through it. The main thing is that this is normal.
You’re not less of a human being for feeling the way that you do. You’re not behind anyone just because you’re always working and your “busy” friends have the time of their lives jet-setting the world. It's time's like these that subtlety remind you that you're only human.