According to scientists from the University of Greenwich, in today’s society, the timeline for accomplishing life’s to-do list has accelerated. In popular psychology, it is called, a quarter-life crisis, a crisis “involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life” which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person’s early twenties up to their mid-thirties (although a quarter-life crisis can begin as early as 18). You’re supposed to have found your dream job and thrive in it, married your soulmate, started a mortgage on a house as well as a brood of your own.
Much like grief, the quarter-life crisis has stages:
1. The Pre-Crisis
Think of this like the adrenaline rush before you feel an injury. In this stage you make some kind of decision, usually a big one. Maybe you’ve decided to go to grad school. Maybe you finally decided to quit your job or move across the country. Whatever your pre-crisis decision is, you feel good about it. You know that this is the right choice. Everything in your life has led you to this moment, and you passed every test with flying colors.
2. Initial Panic
This is when the adrenaline of the big choice has worn off and the first wave of panic hits you. The decision you were so sure of last week suddenly seems murky. Can you really afford to go back to school? You quit your job… but now what? Should I have accepted the job offer? This stage can be summed up as follows: OH GOD. WHAT HAVE I DONE? Keep in mind, everyone handles initial panic differently. Maybe you drown your sorrows in sweets.
3. Denial aka “this is fine!”
Once the initial panic subsides, you’ll be hit with denial. Instead of confronting your fears, you just pretend you never doubted your decision for a moment. Of course you made that choice. It was perfect. Everything is fine. Your life is going exactly how you envisioned. Early adulthood is amazing. Perhaps you engage in more of your favorite soul soothing activities.
4. Long Term Panic aka Anticipating the Mid-Life Crisis
You’ve made it through the first three stages and you’re well into the crisis now. As if you weren’t panicking enough, you create anticipatory panic. That’s right, suddenly you’re not just worrying about the near future and the immediate aftermath of your decision, you’ve got your long term future hat on. You’ve realized that you don’t want to wake up one day and find that you’ve messed everything up. You’re not a teenager anymore, the decisions you’re making will truly impact the rest of your life. Now, you’re in full crisis mode. You’re not just questioning the one choice, you’re questioning every choice you’ve ever made.
Finally, after toiling through, the tears have stopped (probably). You realize that you’re only in your mid-twenties. There’s plenty of time for mistakes, and decisions, and a mid-life crisis! Maybe you even hope this choice was a mistake. There are so many more things to learn! You have failures to do and people to meet! Passions to find and money to spend.
You did it, you survived your first quarter-life crisis. The best part is, it’s scientifically proven that you can have more than one quarter-life crisis. Truly, young adulthood is ripe for crises of faith.