Monday, June 23, 2008

[Feature] Quarterlife Crisis: How To Deal

Driving along the Palisades Interstate Parkway, it's not too surprising to see luxurious, high-end cars whizzing by. Whoa, an Audi R8! Holy cow, a Bentley Continental! Yes, we live in a rich county. But ever take a look at the people driving those nice cars? Chances are, it's a balding, middle-aged man with a sunburned face, a pair of Raybans, and a Bluetooth set in his ear. This is the epitome of a midlife crisis, all.

But for every man going through a midlife crisis, across the world, college students and graduates are feeling the stresses of being in that awkward transition from student to full-fledged working adult and are having a hard time dealing with it. Like people going through a midlife crisis, this newer breed of [younger] stressed people are learning how to deal with life, aptly named a quarter-life crisis (or QLC).

It might be a quarter-life crisis/Or just a stirring in my soul/Either way I wonder sometimes about the outcome/Of a still verdict-less life/Am I living it right? ("Why Georgia" - John Mayer, anthem for the QLC)

A midlife crisis occurs when a middle-aged adult goes through a sudden transition in their life that makes them realize that they are no longer as youthful as they'd like to be. So it would make sense to coin the term quarter-life crisis to define the college years in life; the transition from being a high school kid to becoming a young adult is a big leap...all in the matter of the few months between graduating high school and moving into freshmen dorms.

What, then, exemplifies a quarter-life crisis? For starters, if you're in college or are a recent graduate, a sense of nostalgia due to the loss of younger days is a common factor. You think about the regrets in your young life, such as the things you did, as well as the things you didn't know when you had the opportunity to do so. Your age, doubled up with any of the following characteristics are signs of a quarter-life crisis:
-feeling that you're "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level
-frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
-confusion of identity
-insecurity regarding the near future
-insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
-insecurity regarding present accomplishments
-re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
-disappointment with one's job
-nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
-tendency to hold stronger opinions
-boredom with social interactions
-loss of closeness to high school and college friends
-financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
-desire to have children
-a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

Sound familiar? For me, it's pretty much me and everyone else I know.

One leading reason as to why a quarter-life crisis occurs is due to the high expectations of one's self after graduating from college. But after graduating, the real world hits you, and you realize that not everyone can afford to live out on their own, and that not everyone ends up getting that high-income job. So much for a college degree, right? High expectations and less-than-stellar paying jobs. Sadness.

But fear not - you're not alone. In fact, although people have just now begun to recognize a quarter-life crisis as a part of life transition, it's been around for quite some time now, especially in pop culture.. Remember St. Elmo's Fire? Lost in Translation? Avenue Q, one of the better Broadway show I've ever seen (getting tickets to see if was such an awesome graduation gift), is all about dealing with a quarter-life crisis. Garden State? Scrubs is all about QLC (well, aside from the medical stuff). Point is, you're not a freak of nature.

Getting your parents to understand how you feel and what you're going through is a toughie. Our parents have worked their asses off for you to get through school, and the last thing they want to hear from you is complaints about something called a quarter-life crisis. With old-school Korean parents, it's hard to explain such a thing to them, especially when they bring out those "When I was your age, I worked my ass off; I didn't have the leisure to even think about whether I liked my job or not.." rants. So how do you deal with it?

As cheesy and Spice Girls-eque as it may sound, your friends will get you through it. I mean, who else better to find comfort in, especially if that someone is going through the same? Even in shows and movies dealing with a quarter-life crisis emphasizes friendship. In Avenue Q, Princeton has Kate and his neighbor-friends. In Scrubs, JD has his chocolate bear, Turk. In Garden State, Andrew has Sam and his Jersey friends.

Personally, I find that talking with friends about life is when I feel most connected with them. All jokes aside, you realize why you call these people your friends, and that you're not alone in your fears for the future. You learn from each others choices in life and when you're giving them your advice, you sometimes realize that you are telling them exactly what you, yourself, need to hear.

Or like many others, you could just blog about it.

I think that throwing a party, or some sort of social event, is a great way to deal with it. But no talking about work or the future allowed! Let the costume speak for itself, people.


Mike said...

i think that's one of the reasons why i like Scrubs

Anonymous said...

It's so funny that people sort of see any life crisis as a joke, even though it's a serious issue for many. The idea of a quarterlife makes a lot of sense, and parents shouldn't be too hard on kids who have just graduated from college and don't know what to do.

But on the other hand, kids who have been out of school for more than 2 years and are still mooching off of their parents are sad.

Ginny said...

I guess it makes sense that one of the reasons why people have a quarterlife crisis is because of the fact that when you're about to graduate college, you're flying high, up in the clouds .. and then reality hits you. Hard. You find out that there are bills to pay (especially student loans), the expenses of living out on your own is too high, and your entry-level job isn't as high paying as you'd like it to be.