Everything You Need To Know About Quarter-life Crisis

This is a guide to help you understand the concept of quarter-life crisis is, its basic tenants, and how it can impact your life.

What Is A Quarter-life Crisis

A quarter-life crisis is a deep-seated and nudging feeling of unfulfillment in a young adult’s life. It’s a period of confusion, anxiety, doubt, and dissatisfaction about the direction of one’s life. According to psychologist Alex Fowke, it is “a period of insecurity, doubt and disappointment surrounding your career, relationships and financial situation.” This period can also be characterized by soul searching and self-evaluation, often leading to depression, anxiety, stress, and a general feeling of despair. 

A quarter-life crisis starts to manifest around the early adult years, i.e., early to mid-twenties. However, it can begin to occur as early on as eighteen years old or as late as in your thirties. Having a quarter-life crisis is a common and expected experience for young adults. It is an ongoing process of self-discovery, growth, maturity, and self-actualization. You can learn to navigate it, make the most of it and come out better off, stronger, and with a confident and definitive outlook on life. 

However, if left unchecked, a quarter-life crisis can become crippling and negatively affect a person’s psyche, sense of self, and life in general. You could lose control and fall into a pattern of listless and underwhelming outlook in life. There are also tangible consequences like inability to hold a job, financial instability, troubled relationships with friends and family, etc. A quarter-life crisis left unattended becomes increasingly challenging to navigate.

Do not panic. A quarter-life crisis is a period of growth. It can be messy or scary because you have to step out of your comfort zone in order to grow and reach your full potential. With the right resources, information, motivation, and community, you can navigate this confusing period efficiently. Clever-ish Magazine exists with this primary purpose – to help young adults navigate their quarter-life crisis and adulthood. With the right tools and information, we believe that young adults can go from feeling lost and confused to emerging as mentally strong and capable individuals who have reached their full potential. A perfect explanation of why we focus on the quarter-life crisis topic can be gotten from this quote by the brilliant 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.” – Living by the Word: Essays by Alice Walker.

If you are confused about your life, untethered, and can identify that you indeed are going through a crisis, do not feel defeated. Your crisis does not signify failure. It is instead the beginning of a beautiful and powerful journey. It is a symptom of your inner you, your soul, your heart, your most authentic self calling out that you can be more. It is a sign of your best self waiting to burst out.  It is a call to your higher self. Dare I say, going through a quarter-life crisis is an advantage. Like anything good in life, it is not easy. But when you go through it, you come out better off, stronger, happier, having reached your full potential. Also from the essay by Alice Walker:

But what is most unpleasant is the ‘not knowing what is happening.’ Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be… for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life.”- Living by the Word: Essays by Alice Walker

A lot of young adults who go through a quarter-life crisis think they are alone. You probably think you’re the only one confused about which path to take in life, feeling unsatisfied with your choices, or lost. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every young adult, at some point, goes through this phase. Sometimes the fear that everyone except you has it figured out can be crippling and compound an already complicated phase. So, hear this and let it be a resounding reminder: you are unique in many ways but being confused about your life is not one of them. 

A quarter-life crisis is a deep-seated and nudging feeling of unfulfillment in a young adult’s life.

Many things cause the onset of a quarter-life crisis. It could be: dissatisfaction with your job or career, maturing out of a friend group or relationship, questioning previously held beliefs, tenuous and unfruitful job search, crippling student debt, graduating from college or grad school and feeling lost and overwhelmed, a big and maybe devastating life event like losing a loved one, being a struggling artist or entrepreneur, moving to a new city or country, a desire to do more meaningful work, etc. It could also be triggered by watching the economy and society crumble around you and realizing everything you knew to be true is starting to change. And then, some people are naturally rebellious and have found it hard to fit into the status quo from an early age and so have been in a perpetual state of crisis for quite some time. Being an angsty teen is one thing, but being an angsty adult who doesnt feel like they fit anywhere but with bills to pay, well, that’s something else. It isn’t pretty. Any of these things and many more can trigger a quarter-life crisis and cause you to start questioning everything you know. And each person’s experience is different. Regardless of what causes it, of who you are, or how unique or overwhelming your situation is, you don’t have to let your quarter-life crisis consume you. You can control it, navigate it, and make it work for you.

Quarter-life Crisis and Mental Health

Your mental health plays a significant role in how you navigate your quarter-life crisis. Struggling with mental health could be a cause of as well as a result of a quarter-life crisis. Depression, anxiety, burnout, stress are all mental health issues that young adults are experiencing at an alarmingly increasing rate. In the past decade, there has been a rising number of people suffering from psychological distress, anxiety, and depression among millennials and gen-z. According to the American Psychological Association, mental health issues increased significantly in young adults over the last decade. There are many factors attributed to this increase. Cultural trends such as increased digital. Social media has amplified the need to build a facade of a happy life, increased the pressure to fit in, appear successful or look a certain way. Then there’s also the rising inequality gap starting to eat away at the potential of upward momentum for young adults. Things are just harder. Regardless of the reason, the undeniable truth is that more young adults have mental health issues at an increasing rate. And so the current times have made a quarter-life crisis more rampant, occur earlier, and last longer. In 2020, the Pew Research Center released a report titled On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About gen Z So Far. In this report,  authors Parker and Igielnik highlight that due to COVID-19 reshaping the country’s social, political, and economic landscape, “instead of looking ahead to a world of opportunities, gen Z now peers into an uncertain future.” In addition to the expected tumult that comes during a quarter-life crisis, the added shake-up of a global crisis means that young adults also have to deal with rising uncertainties in their lives. Not only are they bogged down by personal problems and conflicts in their microenvironments, but they also have to contend with a volatile macro environment characterized by existential threats like a global pandemic, climate change, tense political climate, rising inequality, etc. 

Quarter-life crisis Age

Is there a specific age that your quarter-life crisis should start or a year in an adult’s life when it is supposed to end? NO. It can pop up at any time and go on for however long. It is important to note that it occurs more commonly among emerging adults who fall within the ages of 18 to 36 with a high concentration in their early to late 20s. However, do not get bogged down with this detail and add more pressure on yourself. It is ok to keep discovering and re-discovering yourself, defining your path, taking a different path, growing, and becoming a better version of yourself even past the age of 40.

How do you cure a Quarter-life crisis?

Ah! The great question. If only there is a perfect answer, a direct cure, a one-and-done remedy. If I tell you there is or claim to offer that to you, that will make me a liar, a snake-oil salesman, a con. A quarter-life crisis is not something to be cured. It must be navigated and mastered. Can you cure a caterpillar of being wrapped in its gooey cocoon? No. It must go through that process to emerge as a beautiful butterfly that can fly and reach heights that the caterpillar couldn’t. Many things determine the quality of your life. How much of it you control is one of those things, and it is a significant indicator. 

Clever-ish Magazine and Your Quarter-life Crisis

Clever-ish magazine is a community and a resource to help you navigate your quarter-life crisis. We believe in giving people a common platform and language to identify their areas of need and then work to fix them. Realizing or admitting to yourself that you are going through a quarter-life crisis puts you in a growth mindset and a headspace of ownership of your life. You become better positioned to fix your problems, grow with intention and navigate your life. Clever-ish provides you the tools, information, and inspiration that equip you to face your quarter-life crisis. We do this by covering the following topics.

 

Self Discovery & Purpose

Relationships & Friendships

Anxiety & Burnout

Career & Creativity

Money Matters

Lifestyle & Culture

Quarter-life Crisis Books

Interviews

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Jiji Ugboma

Editor in Chief

Jiji is a writer, entrepreneur, and digital marketing specialist based in New York. She writes about personal development, self-actualization, mental health, and creativity as they relate to the quarter-life crisis experiences of millennials and gen-z. She has a deep love for quirky podcasts, coffee, and chocolate desserts.