My So-Called (Quarter) Life (Crisis)

Your mid-20′s can be a rough time. Our man’s got the 6 stages every quarter-lifer goes through. Here’s to making it out on top.

I had a one of those conversations the other day in which a bleak vision of my future emerged. I went about my day and pushed the Future Kenneth out of my head. But the image of Future Kenneth kept rearing its ugly self. At one point in the day, during a pretty rigorous HIIT cardio workout, my concentration faded and I found myself peddling aimlessly as my mind wandered, again, to Future Kenneth. Next thing I knew, five minutes had passed.

I’m in the middle stage of my quarter life crisis, so let’s trouble shoot this shit together.

Like Alcoholic’s Anonymous 12-Step, I think the Quarter Life Crisis has a few stages, too.

Stage 1: Holy shit! THIS is What I’m Doing with my Life?! (aka: My Life Sucks!)

It hits you hard. And generally speaking, it’ll hit you out of the blue and blammo: You’ll realize your life absolutely sucks. You’re not going where you wanted or intended. You know how it’ll happen? You’ll hear some guy, three years your junior, talk about how stupid successful he’s become.

You now believe everyone is moving faster and accomplishing more than you. Sure, you have a nice job with a comfortable salary. But that’s not good enough because, while your degree landed you a job as an Account Supervisor (I don’t even know if that’s a real job), that’s not what you want to do.

Stage 2: Eh, Things Aren’t SO Bad (aka: Things Could be Worse)

Someone once told me she thought everyone has a gift, it may just take awhile to unwrap. That’s a little optimism for ya’. But it also sucks because … well, who wants to wait?

But then you do something stupid like watch Secret Millionaire. Perspective hits and you realize how good you have it compared to those who really struggle. You tell yourself you have a nice job and a nice little nest egg and, hell, you’re going to Maui for vacation! Stop bitching. Life isn’t so bad.

Me? I published a book in 2009! I have 252 followers on Twitter! You can be #253 if you go to @KennethSuna! Things can’t be so bad, right?

Nonetheless, you try to convince yourself that things are going ok right now. So what if you’re an Account Supervisor? You’re happy … ish. You’ll get married, start a family and live a safe, boring life in the suburbs for the rest of your life and, gee, everything’ll be just peachy!

Stage 3: HOLY SHIT! Just Peachy?! (aka: Future You Absolutely SUCKS!)

You don’t want just peachy. Yeah, it’s a sad life for those on Secret Millionaire, who actually struggle. But you’re more fortunate than them (thanks, inheritance!) and you don’t want to settle for mediocrity. You want so much more.

You’re sinking, buddy! I’d throw you a life preserver, but I’m too busy clutchin’ mine.

Stage 4: The Treadmill Effect (aka: Hamster-on-Wheel-Syndrome)

This is the phase where you start kicking yourself for not knowing what you want—or conversely—knowing exactly what you want but not knowing how to make it happen.

You’ll be spinnin’ your wheels all night as you lay in bed tossing and turning. You don’t want to settle. You don’t want to live a lackluster life as an Account Supervisor. (I should Google that job title to make sure it’s a real job.)

This is the stage where you seem to meet handfuls of stupid people who know exactly what they want and how to get it. They suck. Do you hate them as much as I do? You ask for advice and they offer a bunch of useless crap like: Find what you love to do and make it happen, buddy!

These are the people who use Crest White Strips and drive a BMW, not because they think it’ll make them feel better, but because they can afford them!

Stage 5: SOLUTION! Buy a BMW! (aka: Duhhhh!)

Yes! How obvious. That guy you hate with the perfect white teeth and the BMW isn’t where he is because of hard work and the ability to know his dreams and pursue them. It’s because he drives a sports car.

Personally, I want a 1970 Chevy Chevelle. Why? Because they’re awesome and loud and powerful and they guzzle gas like there’s no tomorrow. If I can roll around in a car that gets worse mileage than my cousin’s H1 Hummer, I must be doing okay. Right?

In the short term, the car will make you feel better; which I guess is the point of any life-crisis. I don’t know why auto manufacturers don’t use this knowledge to sell more sports cars.

In the long term, blowing your money on a car might hold you back from investing in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or because the novelty of the car will wear off before you resolve your crisis.

No one is immune: even Primer’s founder Andrew bought this ’78 Corvette at the peak of his quarter-life crisis.

So, What’s the Solution? (aka: No. Seriously. What do I do?)

What do guys who have mid-life crises do? They buy a red Porsche and date a woman half their age. Well, we can’t afford a Porsche and dating a woman half our age would land us in jail. Solution? Date an older woman and borrow her Porsche.

Imagine, for a second, that you’re fifty years old. Go ahead and close your eyes and … on second thought, you need your eyes for reading this. Put on your bifocals. Now imagine you’re fifty and it hits you: You’re peddling along in your boring life. You recall your brilliant idea for a business you wanted to start when you were 25.

But you couldn’t start the business because you were busy with your boring job, which you needed to pay off your boring college debt. You couldn’t just go chasing your dreams. Fantasy time, where college counselors tell you if you get a degree you can do anything you want, is over. You’re fifty and you’ve amounted to nothing … despite what your #1 Dad mug says.

Snap out of it!

You’re not driving a minivan! You’re 25. You can do whatever the hell you want! You’re not stuck in the doldrums of middle age. And since you’re living with your parents, the more serious obligations can wait. That, my friend, is a high quality problem.

You have the luxury of time, something ‘mid-life-crises-having-50-year-olds’ do not. In the meantime, while you peddle along, recognize any small milestone you make. For example, I remind myself that while I might not have it all figured out yet, I published a book last year and continue to write for Primer Magazine.

You gotta’ make headwinds and put yourself out there and praise yourself when something pans out … even if it’s not exactly what you intended. It could lead to something. And if it doesn’t, then you can bitch about it on your blog.

Final Thoughts (aka: Sorry I didn’t fix your problem.)

I wish there was a solution—a method to conquering the quarter life crisis.  You have two choices: You can sit there wallowing in misery or you can sit there not wallowing in misery. Remind yourself of the good things in life: Your mom still does your laundry. The guy with the BMW has to do his own! On second thought, his cleaning lady probably does it, but you get the point.

In the meantime, we’ll look awesome in our new cars.

Kenneth Suna is a writer and full time, self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His first novel, Roman, was recently published. Follow him @KennethSuna.

  • Jerry

    Nice article… keep up the good work kenneth!

  • http://www.itsamiracletheyaintdeadyet.com Kenneth

    thanks jerry! glad you liked the article.

  • AJ

    Hahaha, I relate and laugh :D

    Giving it (your thought/goal/desire) a try, getting out of the comfort zone are few things to start with.

    Feeling good to read that, there’s still a lot of time left – being in 20s…yeah…!

  • Roman

    Yeah, went through that fun roller coaster ride. Heck, sometimes still think I’m on it somehow. While your final thoughts are probably the closest to a solution*, it’s a little off-putting to eschew things like responsibilities and maturity.

    It doesn’t seem right to be doing whatever you want when someone else is taking care of you or obligations to fulfill. Better to avoid in constraining yourself in these in the first place.

    Forget about choosing between ambition and passivity; go for broke and charge through with both. Either you gain everything or start again from zero.

    *Just do something, anything, that gets you closer to what you want. We have the most valuable commodity of time.

  • http://miamiastrology.com Ron

    What an interesting perspective on this time in life. As an astrologer we know everyone hits his or her Saturn return around the age of 28-29. Saturn was the god of time in mythology, which can extend to maturity and formation. The Saturn return is typically the time when we face reality (Saturn), buckle down (Saturn), and begin to build the structures (Saturn) in our lives that help sustain us for the next 28+ years, like career, family, etc.
    The second Saturn return occurs around age 58-59 and many of those same questions get asked.

  • Adam

    Great article man, very insightful. It looks like you have already discovered your “gift” of journalism as the quote from stage two mentions. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.urbansophistic.com Troy

    I turned 25 three weeks ago, but, luckily for me, I’ve already gotten my small photography business off the ground, my current car is nearly paid off and in great condition — and even though I’m far from in love with my job, it’s so flexible that I get plenty of time for my many side interests.

    I had that “new BMW obsession” for a while until I started talking to my co-worker who had to sell his BMW coupe when he got laid off from his marketing job. At this point, I’m sliding further and further from the end of the spectrum where folks consume conspicuously and closer to the artist (writer, photographer, filmmaker) with padded coffers.

    Twenty five feels good thanks to some bumps in the road earlier in my 20s which made my quarter of a century a welcomed gift.

  • http://manshway.com Casey McGoff

    I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with even though most don’t show it. All day you can think about your bleak future or the things you are scared of doing or becoming. But thoughts don’t count. All that counts is what you do with your day and what you make of yourself. If there was ever a time to take the risks and make drastic decisions, its as a young adult living at home… Thats where I’m at.

  • moe

    LOL wtf is wrong with out generation. im 23 going on 84

  • Sam Tucker

    Inspirational, good thoughts on a recent shift in social rationalisation. I have had some similar thoughts. http://samtucker.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/quarter-life-crisis/

  • Brian Castellanos

    Right. Because when I think of people with white teeth and BMWs, I think “that person has it together”, and not 30k millionaire.

  • Adam Brewton

    Luckilly/finally, at 30, most of of my 1/4 life crises stuff is done. It still pops up once in a while, but I think that’s just life. Wish this had been around for me at the onset though, maybe I would be further ahead than I am now. Damn, think I might be regressing…