The Quarter-Life Crisis…

Photo by Jerrico W.

I’m now 25 years old. All at once it seems young and old. When I was a kid, 20 year olds were adults.

Now that I’m 25, I find myself wondering when I’ll feel like an adult, wondering if all those adults  just felt like big kids themselves.

I slip up from time to time and catch myself saying things that I used to laugh at my parents for:

“Wow, this area has really grown. Don’t you remember when all this was just one big field?”

“Oh my goodness, he’s so big now. Wasn’t he just a baby?”

“If you’re not watching the television then turn it off! You’re wasting electricity, and I have to pay for that!”

“I remember when gas was just $1.08 a gallon.”

Sometimes I’ll read something or hear something that makes me realize just how much change occurs in the span of one lifetime. I mean, no one had cell phones when I was a child – now every 12 year old you meet has the equivalent of a mini computer in their back pocket.

I’ve recently been introduced to the concept of a quarter-life crisis, which I found to be both mildly amusing and somewhat depressing. I laughed at the idea of a 20-something year old kid having a meltdown over not knowing where their lives were headed and sinking into depression over all the things they hadn’t yet accomplished. I thought, “You’re barely out of childhood – at least the way I see it – you’ve got plenty of time to live your life and do all those things you always dreamed of doing.”

But part of me thought: “Nope, you’re already behind. Look at all the things you missed out on in college because you were too shy or too afraid to try.” And in all honesty it does sometimes feel like I missed that ship and those opportunities will never float past again. I realized that I can understand those young adults who experience this so-called “quarter-life crisis” and to some degree, I can even relate to them.

I think it’s the adult in us that is responsible for the quarter-life crisis, not the child in us. The child in us dreams big: he wants to travel, he wants to experience everything, meet everyone, and live fully. The adult puts his foot down and says it’s not possible, that we’re not being practical or realistic. There are bills to pay – money can’t be spent on frivolous trips or expensive toys. There is a job to be done and obligations to society – you can’t just disappear for weeks at a time to go off exploring the wild, hiking through mountains, or learning to scuba dive.

The adult replaces the child as the dominant voice and all of those childish dreams kind of just fall to the wayside – the adult belief that those dreams are unattainable takes their place. Something similar happens to everyone. I imagine it’s linked to that notorious “loss of childlike innocence.” You fall into a routine marked with discipline and responsibility and the adult develops, becomes more mature. Still, the child is always right there nagging – “Let’s go play!!”

I think at this point, life gets in the way. Adults tend to look at those newfound responsibilities and see no way around them. You can’t miss a bill or there are serious consequences to pay. That’s what you’ve been taught. Your credit will be tarnished forever. Your service will be shut off. You will be frowned upon by those with the power… In the end, you spend years feeding a corporate monster and running in that notorious rat race until you realize it was all for nothing.

You don’t have picture albums full of faraway places, videos of you doing exotic things in distant lands… You’re not forever immortalized in film, there’s nothing floating around with your name on it, there’s nothing cementing your identity or the place you held in society. You only have perfect credit and a paid-off mortgage – And a sad, little child locked away inside you, who finally gave up and knows it’s too late now, even for him. You lost your chance.

Isn’t that what a quarter-life crisis must feel like? To know that you’re abiding by the rules and expectations set before you by your parents and your grandparents and all the rest of society…and yet, you’re accomplishing nothing of any importance to yourself?

I imagine that would be my quarter-life crisis. Maybe it’s different for everyone. Maybe there’s someone out there living it up, going crazy and wild, without any responsibilities whatsoever. Maybe they’re finally realizing everyone is much more “accomplished” than they are and they feel as though they totally wasted their life thus far. Maybe they’ve decided they went down the wrong rode in life…

Who can say?

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