Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Guys I think I've figured it out. As I was reading Niketalk, I came across this. I might have a mild case of the QLC. Do you?

The Quarterlife Crisis Revealed

Your best friend gives birth to her first child.
You receive an email from your first boyfriend/girlfriend regarding marriage plans that don't include you.
The guy who worked in the video store down the street from you writes a revolutionary computer program and becomes an instant millionaire.

There are numerous events throughout our lives, both connected and unconnected, which will give us pause to reflect on our personal successes. Twentysomethings, Generation X and beyond, are presented with a seemingly endless train of events that cause us to doubt our own directions and covet the success of others. When we succumb to the doubt, we are thrust into what is now known as the Quarterlife Crisis.

Quarterlife what?

Quarterlife Crisis (QLC) is a newly minted term to describe the identity crisis many people in their mid-twenties suffer from, generally upon the realization that life isn’t going exactly as planned. QLC is thought to be the bratty little sister of the Mid-Life Crisis. Both are similar in that the sufferer takes stock of his or her life and attempts to fill in any gaps, but how s/he goes about the gap filling can differ. Mid-Lifers will make changes in their lifestyle through varying levels of physical alterations, make large purchases, or shake up relationships. The Quarter-Lifer may seek a new profession, go back to school, or perhaps travel the world, as well as shake up relationships. Despite the scoffing critics who believe QLC is nothing more than privileged 20-year-olds whining about the real world, the concept isn’t entirely bunk.

The Quarterlife Crisis was first discussed in a book, Quarterlife Crisis: the Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties by fellow twentysomethings Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner. They interviewed hundreds of Gen Xers and found that we all have the same struggles and insecurities as we adjust to adulthood and the real world. Numerous twentysomethings have identified with and embraced this concept, not necessarily buying into a trendy affliction, but out of relief that others are experiencing the same things.

So, how can you diagnose your own QLC?

You down with QLC?

Symptoms accompanying the QLC may include fear doubt, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and the uncontrollable urge to eat your age in pizzas. Fear and anxiety are usually the first emotional germs on the scene following the aforementioned realization of life plans gone sour. It may be spurred by the ending of a major relationship or an unpleasant job situation. You find yourself questioning past decisions, cursing your current position, and coveting the lives of seemingly more successful friends or family members. Depression is generally a result of doubt and hopelessness. The initial onset of the crisis may not send you into immediate despair and there really is no scientifically proven order of the symptoms.

QLC isn’t just for average mid-twentysomethings stuck in dead end jobs or the enterprising young slacker. Overachievers may experience the same symptoms, but do themselves no favors by adding more unattainable goals and working straight through their disappointment into an early grave. Trying to achieve too much in a short time span is how many of us wind up with QLC.

Why me?

Expectation, obligation, and comparison are primary reasons for our collective identity crisis. We are expected, either by society or our own inner circles, to accomplish certain goals by a certain age. In order to meet those goals, we’re obligated to take the necessary steps to succeed. Along the way, we compare our progress to that of peers and elders. The goals projected onto the average twentysomething are fairly basic-establish a career right out of the college gates, meet a potential spouse, and have a drool-worthy house before the biological clock strikes 30.

More than ever, twentysomethings feel an enormous amount of pressure to succeed professionally. We work 18-hour days to gain respect of our elders and fellow co-workers, often sacrificing our own happiness and passion for the sake of a paycheck and professional accolades. We’re expected to know more, do more, be more for very little in return. While we should have the freedom to enjoy what’s left of our youth, we want to peel the slacker label from our generation by proving that we do have work ethic and can be responsible adults. It’s a Catch-22 curse, possibly bestowed on us by our elders as revenge for being able to program their now ancient VCRs.

Long work hours do not bode well for a healthy social life and make the search for a prospective partner or two more difficult than normal. Even established relationships can take damage from career domination if left neglected too long. It takes a strong, balanced person to keep a career moving in a positive direction and maintain a successful romance, as well as tending to other aspects of life such as bill-paying, non-romantic relationships, and your own passions. Unfortunately, in striving to meet predetermined goals, you may begin to lose touch with your core. It is all too easy to get swept away in the monotony of day-to-day life until you wake up one morning and find that you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror anymore.

In a way, the Quarterlife Crisis is an awakening.

What now?

In order to resolve any crisis, you must determine the real problem. Take the time to ask yourself: “Am I disenchanted with my job? Has my relationship hit a dead end? Have I been living in the same town too long? Does my day job take time away from my creative pursuits or passions? Am I just overwhelmed by what’s expected of me?”

Once you discover the root of your anxiety or depression, you can proceed to make plans to change and turn your life around. You don’t have to quit your job and move to a new town in a week just because you’re miserable; it may only lead to more stress. Establish new goals in your mind and baby step your way through them. Put your vacation time to good use and plan that trip to Ireland or Cabo. If time-management is the problem, reprioritize certain tasks and duties.

Sometimes resolution is as simple as talking it out. Discussing work-related challenges and obstacles with your boss may lead you to better opportunities. Pencil in some time with your main squeeze and share your plight with them. Not only will s/he understand and sympathize, s/he may offer assistance and suggestions so you don’t have to pull through on your own. A little outside perspective can contribute to large changes.

Or you can take the new age approach and follow your own bliss, regardless of anyone else’s concern and expectation.

Overcoming QLC

Should you experience a QuarterLife Crisis, view it as an opportunity to make positive alterations to your life. There is no quick fix for the QLC. Anti-depressants such as Zoloft may gloss over your mood, but it won’t resolve the issues at hand. All any of us can do is ride out the depression and overcome the adversities of being a twentysomething. Unlike the Mid-Lifers, we do have youth on our side.

The key to resolving your QLC is to pace yourself. We don’t have to accomplish all our goals before 30. We still have time to make mistakes, change directions, and pursue happiness. Allow yourself to enjoy the rest of your youth and indulge in a little reckless abandon. By slowing down and ignoring comparisons to peers, you will fare a better chance at contentment and look back on a life without regret.