The Lessons of Your Quarterlife Crisis

Before the ink on my college diploma was dry, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of working in the entertainment industry. By twenty-five, I ended up as a television literary agent at one of the most prestigious entertainment companies in Los Angeles. I had an office with a view, an assistant who answered my phone, an expense account, a real salary, power lunches, industry screenings, clients and business cards. I dated and attended industry events. From the outside, my life looked great. I appeared successful and well on my way to “having it all.” There was just one problem: I was absolutely miserable.

Daily I tried to talk myself into liking my job. I felt obligated to stay because this was what I thought I wanted and had worked so hard for, but the fact that I hated what I did every day made me sick. I had migraines at least twice a week, the stress threw my hormones completely out of whack, and I was becoming someone I did not like. In order to save myself from a total meltdown, I quit.

Leaving my prestigious career changed my external circumstances; however I still found myself miserable. Completely burned out and craving a total change of direction, I became a personal trainer — I thought that it might be my “passion.” Wrong again. I had nine different jobs in three years, constantly searching for something that would make me feel better about myself. Since the career obviously wasn’t doing it, I looked to a relationship.  I fell in love, moved in with him and got engaged. And then six months before my wedding, he called it off.  So there I was at 28: heartbroken, in debt, physically sick, at odds with my family and lacking direction in my career.  I was having a quarterlife crisis.

There was one significant moment on my bathroom floor when I realized I had two choices: I could throw in the towel, move home and try to forget about the life I had failed at; or I could dig in, look at my life, and try to figure out who I really was, what I really wanted and how I was going to get it.  I finally started to understand that I was working so hard to compensate for my insecurities by chasing achievement and external validation.  I opened my mind to the possibility that somewhere in the midst of this drama, there could be a blessing.

Now you may already know you are in the midst of a quarterlife crisis or you may be wondering if you are having one. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

•         You feel like you are in a funk; nothing is terribly wrong, but nothing seems right either.

•         You feel a lot of pressure and expectations to do, have or be something.

•         You often feel unmotivated, directionless or passionless.

•         You don’t know what you want to do with your life or you know what you want to do, but can’t seem to make a living at it.

•         You feel pressure to get your adult life in order and plan your future.

•         You feel entitled to or long for a life much grander than the one you are living.

•         You are stressed out by choices that will seemingly affect the rest of your life.

•         You are dealing with disappointment or confusion because something did not turn out like you thought it would.

•         A breakup, romantic relationship, or lack of one is causing suffering.

•         You are living at home with mom and dad.

•         You compare yourself to other people your age and feel like you don’t measure up.

•         You feel financially unstable.

•         Your self-esteem could use an upgrade.

•         You constantly think about the future, resulting in anxiety.

•         Your life is not at all turning out like you had planned.

If you are having a quarterlife crisis, this is not bad news! You may have bought into some misunderstanding that by your twenties you are supposed to have your entire life figured out. This is 100% false.  You are actually going through a very normal rite of passage that no one may have warned you about.  And if you are aware that you are going through it and willing to do something about it, that is more good news because it means you are AWAKE. It means that you are not satisfied with a life that follows a certain formula. I certainly understand that this or it can feel quite daunting at times.  What I have learned from my own quarterlife crisis and from stewarding hundreds of twenty-somethings through theirs is this:  it is happening to give you an opportunity for transformation!

You see, we often do life a little backwards. We go after external things we want, like a career or relationship, before we truly investigate who we are.  In your twenties, you are just beginning to get to know yourself independently of your family and college environment.  A quarterlife crisis is often The Uni-verse’s way of getting your attention because when life is not turning out like we planned or desired, we are often motivated to start looking within.  Your quarterlife crisis is the doorway to your spiritual path and knowing who you TRULY are, independent of a job, person or money. You have to believe in and truly get to know yourself in order to have clarity about your dreams and goals as well as insights about how to reach them. But that is no easy task, especially in a society that is so externally focused and driven by expectations.

Once you remove this intense pressure to do, be and have so much on the outside, and shift your focus inside, you will begin to experience relief.  Today, I invite you to begin this shift by exploring the question, “Who Am I?” utilizing this three-part exercise:

1.      Write the question “who am I” in your journal.  Answer it with whatever comes to mind; do not edit yourself or try to get it “right.”  Trust what comes forward because trusting your own answers is an important part of attuning to your own inner voice.

2.      Write down all of the things you really like about yourself, things you may call your strengths.

3.      Write down all of the things that you really don’t like or judge about yourself, things you may call your weaknesses. 

Next week I’ll check back in with you and offer you ways to gather insight from what you answered. In the meantime, I want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you if you feel like you are in the midst of a quarterlife crisis.  Up until now, your entire life may have been well scripted and now you are at a point in your life where you have to answer your own questions. You are the expert, you have the answers, and you will be your own greatest motivator. Trust me. Or better yet, trust yourself.

Now for those of you who are thinking you do not have time for self-discovery or believe that continuing to chase after those external things will make you feel better, I strongly encourage you to reconsider. If you do not take time to do internal investigation you will most likely continue making choices based on your past, fears, limiting beliefs, other people’s advice, expectations, or societal pressures. And there is nothing wrong with that if you are prepared to have a mid-life crisis as well!

Until next week…

With love and encouragement from your quarterlife coach,

Christine

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Christine Hassler is a certified life and quarter life coach. To visit her website click here, to check out her newest workshop click here.

  • Christine,

    I feel like you wrote this exactly for me. It gave me chill bumps and you read my mind. Thank you so much for this I needed as much as you already knew I did. I need to continue to rebuild myself and my mind back to get on track. My problem is control and timing. I sped through life at a young age trying to defeat this (working full time and going to college full time) in order to not be a “typical” person and broke in my twenties. In two years I have experienced more in my entire lifetime. Moving, deaths, family changes, 2 job losses, etc. I know what I want, but I want to control it. You are right, I tell my mom all the time, “I feel like I am going backwards”. I didn’t work so hard and sacrifice so much to be ‘here’. However, I am evolving in to something better than I could have imagined and am doing things 10x greater. From the outside looking in there is nothing wrong. It is just not the way “I” want it or can envision it. After being laid off in 2008 the first time (going crazy and applying to over 350 jobs- controlling the situation and refusing to move back to my parents), I had the opportunity to be laid off for the second time in March 2011. However, this time I was prepared. I went into a job in the exact opposite direction, but it gave me tools and opened doors for opportunities that I might not have otherwise. My problem now is that I actually have to take the time to reflect on who I am and all the above mentioned. I have time to look for a job and the new opportunities that have opened up in the last 6mo. I am deciding which path to take and not to settle if I can. I just don’t want to go another 2 years like I did feeling every morning that I was going to wake up from this bad dream. I have 3 interviews today, back to back and I know I am going to them to “see my opportunities” and it is “always good to interview” but I am really trying to avoid having to think about things (after reading this). I fill my schedule (with good things that “will enhance me” and also get me out of the house) so much, to do the same thing. I feel lost in the fact that I can’t predict the outcome. I am craving something, but I don’t know what it is. It is like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and I feel that if I attach myself to something again “career, relationship, etc” that I will just be doing the same thing over like you said. So here I am, I feel defeat-less, I feel like I am in quick sand, yet I am doing so much. There are so many loose ends. I have so many ideas of what I could do or be and I need to let it just evolve, but then I start panicking, because I don’t want to “miss out on an opportunity” or “be irresponsible” or “move back home”. I guess what I am hearing you say is to let it evolve. It is just frustrating. I look forward to next week and am trying to enjoy the days I have been given and the 24 hours I have to work and to rest when it is time to rest and to take off the burdens and I am placing on myself. Thank you. I really, really needed to hear this.

    • HI Jona – thank you for sharing so honestly. From my perspective, you are going forward not backward. And there is one thing you CAN control which is how you look at where you are and how you are with yourself. My encouragement to you is to focus on the next step rather than trying to see so far ahead. One of my favorite prayers is, “God, please place the next step in front of me that is most aligned with my path in a way that I can recognize it. Thank you.”
      With love,
      Christine

  • I love it! I’ve often wondered why no one ever told me how hard my 20’s would be, it’s good to see I’m not alone. Looking forward to the next post and thank you for this one.

  • Thank you!

    This is a beautiful and totally crystal clear look inward to OURSELVES to really discover the truth of who we are.

    Through self-love I am realizing how incredibly amazing I am even more so than those who All my life I have reached out to for validation, and approval!

    Brian

  • Liz

    This just made me feel like it took off a huge load off my shoulders! I had no idea there was such a thing as quarter life crisis
    Now I can see everything makes sense! Thank you so much for this post
    I am definitely, now motivated to find true and positive redirection in my life.
    (=

  • Coley

    I was smack-dab in the middle of a quarter-life crisis several months ago. Thankfully I am on the end where the light is visible at this point. Things are still unclear; however, I have a better understanding of who I am and that, along with peace of mind, cannot be beaten by any size paycheck.

  • Lindsee Andersen

    Thank you!! I feel like I am somewhat going through this right now–trying to plan a move to another state and figure out exactly what I want to do with my life, school & career wise. Although I’m only 21, I am definitely feeling the pressures from everyone to already have my life figured out (and this may just be from the culture I grew up in, here in Utah everyone is married, having babies, and finished with college by 22) which is frustrating to me because I am not fitting the typical “mold.” Thanks again for your wise words, I definitely needed this today! Sometimes I doubt myself which I don’t need to be doing anymore; I’m still young and have plenty of time to figure all of this out!

    • Hi Lindsee – from my point of view it’s awesome news that you are not fitting the typical “mold” because that means you get to create your own versus conforming to someone else’s!!

      • Lindsee Andersen

        Thank you 🙂 It makes me happy that I’m not fitting the mold either! I don’t want to be anyone else… I’m me and I’m happy with that 🙂

  • jaymeebabe

    This is spot on! I’m close to ending the quarterlife crisis as I am already 30 but I’m still here though. I hope I find whatever it is I am looking for. I’m excited to read the continuation of this. It will surely help a lot! Thanks for making me feel that I’m not alone on this. More power. 🙂

    • The learning can definitely go into our thirties – and I encourage you to look within for whatever it is you are looking for, believe me it’s a lot closer than you think. 🙂

  • Corey Love

    It’s amazing so many people around the same age range can go through the same thing. I can appreciate this because I personally am very hard on myself, but at the same time fit many of the symptoms you listed. I can’t lie and say I’m not fearful of being a failure but that is the mentally I am currently working on. Thank you all for your personal examples

  • CB

    This is great! I’m in my early 30s and experiencing this exact post-quarter/pre-mid life crisis…so not a good feeling, but your blog is very encouraging and gives me some key things to think about as a starting place to work on overcoming this thing! I love the way you explained how we work on the outward before the inward part of ourselves which is so true, I’ve never looked at it that way. Very encouraging, thanks and I look forward to Part II!

  • Allison Shaddock

    Christine, I really enjoyed this!! I too once felt that I was the only one flopping around like a fish out of water. It wasn’t until I started talking to my friends and family until I realized that it’s normal. I let go and stopped forcing things to happen. I’ve spent a lot of time with myself lately and I enjoy it!! My spirit has turned from broken to…. you can’t touch this!! Accepting the fact that my life is completely out of order has allowed for better things to happen. The Uni-verse and I are friends again and it feels great. I’m 28, single, live with my brother and 3 cats, have no idea what I want to do as far as a career, and I’m OK with it. Thank you for reiterating the fact that this is a normal part of growing in life!!

  • Sarah

    OMG! I truly never know that I could be in a quarter life crisis. I just thought I was in a little funk and it would go away. But at the moment I am 27 and really confused on a lot of things. I LOVE my job but I know I can’t physically do it the rest of my life. So that brings up the question of where to go in my career choice. It’s so frustrating. I am so glad to have seen this post. 🙂 Thank you so much.

  • Darlene

    This made me feel so much better this morning. I’m definitely not alone. Im only 21 my life is barely starting but if its now that I feel lost and confused with what I wanna do in life imagine later on in my twenties. I just hope I have it ask figured out. Thank you for this it made me think alot about my life. Can’t wait till next week!

  • Caitlin

    Thank you for this post! I absolutely connect with all of the common symptoms and often feel there’s something wrong with me for feeling this way! Its freeing to know that I’m not the only one! THANK YOU!

  • Corey

    Its amazing people of the same age on opposite sides of the country can go through the same things. I do appreciate this because I fit many of the symptoms you listed. I will not lie and say I do not fear failure or am not frustrated, but I am working on it and pray that you all find your way too!

  • lily

    I am 23 years old and going through this now. I feel that every decision I make, my life depends on it and it stresses me out. I’m going to be 24 soon and I am not where near what I had expected myself to be or need to be. I feel intense pressure from my family to just BE something or if not get married. I have the drive to improve and be successful one day but with all the constant pressure I feel that It will suck the energy out of me. I am following ur blog about this..thank you!

  • Ben

    Thanks Christine!

    I think it’s so comforting just to know that we’re not flying solo on our mission to figure out for ourselves what really makes life meaningful. Reading this post, they way you describe it as a “right of passage” makes me think that it’s almost inherent in all of us at this stage of life to self-reflect and ask difficult questions. It’s nice to be reminded that that’s not just an OK thing to do, but, an Important one as well. Thanks again and all the best!
    – Ben

  • Erika Matos

    It’s amazing all the things we must to through to discover our real selves and then share that voice with the wold in hopes of helping others. Every turn is a lesson: the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes even the pretty/handsome can come equipped with something to teach. Somehow, this makes us all feel like there are many of us going through the same awakening, and it’s all good.
    Awesome!
    Christine – Thanks for sharing your story and I look forward to the follow-up.

  • Katrina

    This really hit home!!! Thank you!!

  • Ashley

    I’m 23 years old and my friends and I constantly have talks similar to this article so it’s refreshing to see that we aren’t the only ones. I just forwarded this to all of them 🙂

  • S.M.

    I thank you so much for writing this! I can see from the list that a few of the descriptions of a quarter life crisis is definitely what I am going through. I am 27 years old almost 28 and I just said today that I am so frustrated because I am so ready to begin living the life that I am suppose to have, amongst the other signs of quarter life crisis I seem to think about that one the most. I look forward to reading your next blog.

  • Ashley

    Thank you thank you thank you! I feel so much better that this is “normal”! I’ve made the leap to go back to school to follow my dreams, but the closer I get to leaving my job the more that little inner voice screams to stick with what I know. I’m 28 and this has just made my day because I feel like I was reading my life, and just to know that someone else (well quite a few someone-elses!) have gone through this period is amazingly calming. I can’t wait for your next blog. I plan to send this to all my girlfriends who are going through the same thing!

  • Hello and thank you so much for this. Your words couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I will do the exercise and look forward to your suggestions next week. 🙂

  • O

    This totally hit home!!!

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for sharing this! I am 23 years old and feel as if I am at a crossroad already. I recently applied to many universities of which, according to my professors, I should have gotten into. However, I was rejected by all of them!! I worked so hard for something that never happened and it makes me feel so bad when I compare myself to friends that are graduating and others that got into where I applied. My plan was to become a doctor but my dream is to sing and act. I never had the guts to move and pursue my dream for the mere fact that it’s almost impossible to succeed in the industry. But now I’m thinking maybe that is why things didn’t work out the way I planned, so that I could just let go of all that was expected of me and pursue something that really makes me happy. I am still thinking this through so that I do not make any rash decisions but please pray the path I take is the right one for me. Thank you again!

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  • Hey there!

    I am wondering if there IS something we can do to help younger kids (college students) walk down this path earlier. I wish I would have had guidance during these years…even just to plant the seed. Recently, I have pondered, “what if there was a manditory GE class in our Freshman year ~ a lifestyle class helping to “discover who we are, on the inside.” I am just starting my coaching practice, but I am brainstorming and playing with this idea. What do you think?

    Much love!
    ~Alexis

  • greed18

    Nice! http://ummnowwhat.blogspot.com/

  • Seb

    I feel better already!

    • Han

      Me too. Her description of her feelings were exactly like mine. Knowing that im not the only one feeling this way makes me feel much much better.

  • Kasey

    Did not even kno this existed, but im so happy for the tip bc i was going crazy trying to figure out what was goin on with my negative mind when i can usually control it. This page was a blessing, THANK YOU FOR SAVING MY SANITY!!!

  • K.Post

    Christine, thank you so much for the post. I’m going to try the exercise tonight and I can’t wait for your next post. Do you ever talk with people one on one?

    • K.Post

      One more thing, Christine what are you doing now? Have you found something that makes you happy?