You've graduated from college and found a job that pays the bills, just like you're "supposed to." Problem is, you can't shake this feeling that things aren't going quite the way you had dreamed. Perhaps your new gig isn't living up to your expectations, or perhaps it has nothing to do with what you spent 4+ years in college learning. Maybe everyone else around you seems to be making more money than you, working at a cooler job than you, and living a life that’s generally more successful and happier than yours. Now, all of a sudden, you’re doubting every decision you've made, are making, and probably ever will make.
The question is, what do you do next? And the answer is one of two things: Continue to wonder what you're doing wrong, or keep reading and find out why you should embrace the journey that is your quarter-life crisis.
1. You're Not Alone
The most important thing you can do is realize that you’re not alone. All you need to do is Google "quarter-life crisis," and you’ll see just how many people are in the exact same place as you are. So, while it’s always tempting to compare yourself to others and feel like your life is a bigger mess than everyone else’s—don't. Rest assured that another silent sufferer is looking at you and your job and thinking the same thing about herself.
2. It Can be Kind of Fun
Think about it. You're young and you probably don't have many big long-term commitments. So use this time in your life to experiment and try out some new things, whether big or small. You could discover a passion, find a new career path, or at least build some memorable experiences. Why not take that trip to Australia, move to New York and pursue your acting career, or go back to school and get that grad degree you've always wanted?
Think about the mid-life crisis cliché of balding 50-something men buying sports cars to relive their youth. If they can have that, then the “quarter-life crisis” is a perfectly acceptable time to do out-of-the-norm things in the name of not knowing what the heck you're supposed to be doing with your life. (Bonus: you probably still have all of your hair and look as fabulous as you ever will—even if you can't quite afford the sports car yet).
The point is, not knowing what you want is a good opportunity to try different things and cultivate new passions. You never know—learning Cantonese or volunteering every second Thursday could open doors you never even knew existed. Or at the very least, look cool on your resume.
3. It Won't Last Forever
Finally, enjoy the uncertainty while it lasts. Before you know it, you could be getting married, starting a family, and embarking on a long-term career path. These things are all great, but when you get to this new chapter in life, chances are you'll reminisce about your earlier years of adventure, new experiences, and limited responsibilities. Your quarter-life crisis is an opportunity to do things you may never get the opportunity to do again. So, do your future self a favor and live these imperfect years up.
The quarter-life crisis can definitely be scary, but embrace this uncertainty as a time to really find yourself. It’s so easy to feel pressured to be perfect, have your life together, and know exactly where you're going, but that's not what these years are about. Don't think about “where you should be”—think about where you could be if you let yourself take risks and pursue opportunities.