How To Know When Your Quarter-Life Crisis Is Over

HowToKnowYourQuarterLifeCrisisIsOver_Slide01Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
The advent of the term quarter-life crisis rose to prominence around the same time that millennial became the newest media buzz word.
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It generally happens after you’ve graduated college and been out in the adult world for a bit; When you finally arrive at adulthood and realize your life looks nothing like what you fantasized. I don’t know a millennial (someone born between x and y) who hasn’t experienced the crippling anxiety, painful awkwardness, and self-doubt of the year-long (sometimes two or three if you’re unlucky) quarter-life crisis.
The quarter-life crisis (QLC) is such a cultural stronghold now that scientists have studied the phenomenon and come up with distinct phases for the quarter-life crisis:
Phase 1
Initial discomfort; feeling of being trapped in your life or by the decisions you’ve made.
Phase 2
Tired of dissatisfaction, you begin to think about what you could change.
Phase 3
The inciting incident: quitting the job you hate, leaving the toxic relationship, or trying something new.
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Phase 4
Rebuilding your life.
Phase 5
Living your life according to your new values and experiences.
This post is about how to know when your quarter-life crisis is over. Specifically about the things you’ll need to do in phase four to reach phase five and move on with your life.
HowToKnowYourQuarterLifeCrisisIsOver_Slide02Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
1. You’ve found your purpose.
I’d be willing to put money on the fact that most QLCs stem from millennials feeling dissatisfied in their careers. You spend more time at work than you do anywhere else, so it should be rewarding and fulfilling in most ways, right? Still, I see many young adults quitting one terrible job and wandering between other equally horrible and pointless jobs, or they move back in with mom and Dad hoping their ultimate purpose will find them.
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Unfortunately, you can’t get over your QLC until you put in the most important work of finding your higher calling. Pay attention to your interests and passions outside of the 9-5 for guidance, and forget about the guilt that comes with “not doing a job that you went to school for.”
Take a cooking class, start a blog, or apply for an unpaid internship if you feel like it will really educate and put you on the right path. The trick is to find something you’d want to do even when you’re tired.
2. Find your purpose… and take it with a grain of salt.
Just because you hate your job doesn’t mean you aren’t fulfilling your purpose. In fact, once you find your purpose you will still have to take a few unglamorous jobs at first in order to get ahead, or support yourself while you figure things out or build out what your true passion looks like. Everyone gets coffee at first. Everyone has a horrible boss at one point or another. Everyone has to work long hours for little pay in the beginning.
So, I say find your passion, but take it with a grain of salt. Everything worth having takes work. Lots and lots of hard work.
3. You’re willing to accept more responsibility.
Once you’ve figured out your purpose, you’ll probably feel calmer and more at peace with things. And, now that you life doesn’t seem so crazy and confusing you’ll probably want to take on more responsibility, either at work, home, or with your finances and relationships.
Once responsibility seems more like a fun challenge than an earth-shattering burden, you’re probably over your quarter-life crisis.
4. You’re less willing to take risks.
In order to find your purpose and live a life that makes sense you’ll probably have to take a few risks, disappoint a few people, and burn a few bridges to make that happen.
When you stop wanting to take risks, it means that your life is less tumultuous and comfy. I’m not advocating people ever stop taking calculated risks or doing things that scare them, but after a few major risks to align yourself with your purpose, a few safer choices will start to seem attractive, and this is growth.
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5. You’ll feel it in your bones.
After getting through the initial risks and soul searching associated with a QLC, your life on paper will quiet down: You’ll be employed, back in school, or semi-employed trying to pursue your true passion on the side. You might be in a better relationship than before or be considering taking the next step in your current one. Still, you can have those entire things pre-quarter life crisis and still feel a lot of pain and anxiety deep down.
The pain can come from a lot of places, but mostly from feeling misunderstood or trying to change yourself to fit into a mold or ideal you think everyone expects. The anxiety will come from feeling trapped, or knowing there’s a problem, but not feeling capable enough to solve it.
Eventually, you will accept that you can’t control the future, or control what life is going to throw your way. The only thing you can control is your attitude and how you choose to spend your time.
The term quarter-life crisis is scary, and it’s gotten a bad rap because it’s definitely not a pleasant experience. Perhaps it should actually be called “putting on your big boy/girl pants” or taking responsibility. Or…you could simply call it the best thing that ever happened to you. Because it will be.