If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been having a quarter-life crisis for the past 3 years.
I know that this seems like an extraordinarily long amount of time to be in turmoil, but I can pinpoint almost the exact moment this happened. It was October 2010. I had graduated summa cum laude from Loyola in May of that year and started my first full-time job two weeks after graduation. I just hopped right into the working world because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. It was also my first time living alone. I went from living with my family until I was 18 and then with 4 other women for the last three years of college, to living by myself in a house too big for just one person. It was also 35 minutes away from Uptown, where all my friends still rented apartments and still hung out with each other. The transition was abrupt, and at 21, I was not prepared to handle a major life shift like that on my own like I thought I was.
Instead, when the whole thing came to a head five months later, I found myself melodramatically crying in the parking lot of an Arby’s simply because I was eating a terrible roast beef sandwich alone in a parking lot on a Friday night. My type-A, linear-plan self was completely unable to sort out my feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, and the lack of direction in my life.
In high school and college, I excelled. I had goals with definite timelines and deadlines. There was constant encouragement and feedback from my teachers and peers. I tackled challenges in a semi-controlled environment. But now, I existed in a universe with no bookends telling me where to start and stop. For the first time, I was out in the world with no map, and it freaked me out.
I couldn’t handle the feeling of not having it all “figured out.”
But lately, I’ve come to realize that it’s ok to not have it all figured out.
I’m not saying this in a kumbaya, embrace your 20s kind of way. This is this not some Eat, Pray, Love adventure. This shit is hard. Living paycheck to paycheck is not easy or fun. Working long hours and being unsure of your path in life is not glamorous and most days, it’s downright uncomfortable. It’s like walking around in shoes two sizes too big, all day, without a break.
I also don’t mean this to be an excuse to act in a “THIS IS MY LIFE AND I DO WHAT I WANT,” Maury Povich teen pregnancy special kind of way. That kind of reckless immaturity is exhausting, counterproductive, and provides no resistance to help you grow into the person you’re aspiring to be. Acting that way is a defense to shield you from the scary possibility of failure instead of facing the challenge of being great.
THIS is what I mean: at 24, if you’re not exactly where you want to be, you’re exactly where you need to be.
Accomplishing all your life goals by your mid-twenties would be really, really sad. That’s not to say that if most of your goals are accomplished, you can’t make new ones, or that goals don’t change over time. But the apex of your life shouldn’t be happening at 24. So it’s OK that it’s not. Discomfort is what keeps the world moving. Unrest creates revolutions. Nothing makes people get shit done like being unsatisfied with their current situation.
So this is my hope for my friends: I hope you have always have all the things you need, but never all the things you want. I hope you never stop moving. Go and do. Be adventurous, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Create your own challenges and goals and hold yourself accountable. Make friends with people who want the same thing for themselves, too. Stay young and restless because these are the days of our lives, and we only have one life to live. Ok, enough of the soap opera references. You get what I’m saying.
Be brave. Don’t stop.