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The Quarter-Life

People used to warn me about the so-called “quarter-life crisis.” Years ago, I thought it was a pathetic term used to describe those 20-somethings who couldn’t manage to get it together.

And then I turned 25 and realized the quarter-life crisis very much exists. I was no longer daddy’s little girl. Yet, I wasn’t old enough to get an enormous amount of respect from grownup-ville. As I blew out candles for year 25, my mind was uneventfully racing about 401K’s. It suddenly hit me that I knew nothing about how grownups really operate.

Of course, all twenty-somethings fight their own battles— everything from finding a lifelong partner to developing a career that matters. And even after tackling one life hurdle, our minds seem to immediately rush to the next one on the list. It’s an exhausting cycle.

The quarter-life crisis typically happens when we have no plan— a first, for a lot of us. Grades K-12 are carefully coordinated. We’re groomed for higher education. Then we desperately take any first job that’s offered to us. And then [enter crisis mode] we realize we might want to change our minds. This is daunting.

The question of “what’s next?” crossed my mind at least a dozen times a day for a year. After I moved to my dream city, I started to question whether I even fit in. Following a job promotion, I worried about others’ expectations. And after my wedding day, I was paranoid that I had forgotten to include someone important. Again, it’s an exhausting cycle.

I’m now approaching my 26th birthday. I’m surprisingly appreciating my crisis mode. It provided me with a lot of clarity on what I wanted out of life, both personally and professionally. I’m appreciating the journey— something I should have been doing all along. It’s important to stay present, because that to-do list is never going anywhere.

Celebrate your job promotion rather than immediately worrying about how you’ll keep it. Chronicle your travels before dreaming of the next destination you’ll visit. Enjoy a relationship at every point, rather than trying to predict its future.  Believe in something greater— whatever it may be. And remember, we can manage life, but we cannot control it.