Many people, when they hear the term quarter-life crisis, immediately identify with the phrase. They say something like “I think I’m going through one” or “I think I went through one”. Some people immediately want to know how to deal with their quarter-life crisis. While some share their quarter-life crisis experiences with me. They share stories of triumph, stories of confusing experiences, stories about a turning point in their lives. When this happens, I always smile, nod, and say “yes yes, welcome to the club!”. We all experience it. Every adult at some point has or will experience a quarter-life crisis.
But what is a quarter-life crisis?
Let’s start with a simple definition.
a period of doubt, anxiety, disappointment, and insecurity surrounding the career, relationships, financial situation, and general direction in a young person’s life.
Typically, a quarter-life crisis is experienced by people who fall between the ages of 18 to 35. If you’re experiencing a general dissatisfaction about the direction of your life, feeling like you need to change paths, or if everything seems to be going well for you, but you still have a nudging feeling of discontent, then you are probably going through a quarter-life crisis. Keep in mind, this is not a diagnosis.
The term “quarter-life crisis” was coined by Abby Wilner in 1997 with the release of her eponymous book. Of course, this phenomenon has existed before 1997 but, it was the first time it was encapsulated with this terminology. There is power in naming something and giving people the right terminology to describe what they are going through.
According to the Census Bureau, about 85 million U.S. residents are between 18 and 36. People in that age bracket have long been anxious about their prospects. But life is unusually stressful for today’s young adults. Jobs in this period of fast-changing technologies, the gig economy, and hustle culture offer insecurity, anxiety, and likely burnout. Relationships also are pressured as people grapple with fluid identities, expectations, and genders. The encroaching realities of climate change and the debilitating effects of a global pandemic cause a general feeling of listlessness, languishing, and depression.
People are going through it! Adults who fall within this age range (Millenials and Gen Z) have even more reasons to be confused about their prospects.
If you identify with any of these experiences and you know or suspect that you are going through a quarter-life crisis, please understand it is OK that you are dealing with this. You are not alone.
For now, I leave you with a favorite quote by Alice Walker that beautifully encapsulates why I am passionate about the concept of a quarter-life crisis and why it is the central ethos of Clever-ish.
From Living by the Word: Essays by Alice Walker.
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact, in the process of change, of actually becoming larger than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant.”
Further reading: A Deep Dive Into Quarter-life Crisis
This article was first published in an issue of The QLC Newsletter.
The QLC Newsletter covers issues like finding your purpose, self-actualization, job dissatisfaction, mental health, relationship issues, money anxieties, and more. These topics are typical stressors for an adult’s quarter-life crisis and every week our founder shares advice, insight, and unique perspectives on them.