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I guess this is growing up: How to show your quarter-life crisis who's boss

Feeling trapped by adulthood and all it entails? You’re not alone.

FEELING LOST? STRESSED? Want to get out there and see the world but also go home and eat your mam’s dinners forever more? Hello and welcome to your quarter-life crisis!

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The ‘quarter life crisis’ is a period of doubt and confusion that can happen in your 20s and 30s, when all the realities of being an adult finally hit you.

As much as people would like to paint ‘millennials’ as responsibility-dodging so-and-sos, this is not a particularly new idea – though the recent recession has cut many of us off from the traditional milestones of adulthood, which certainly helps things along.

Quarter life crises come up in pop culture time and again, from The Graduate in 1963 to the TV show Girls. Stevie Nicks wrote Landslide in 1973, when she was 25 and at an impasse in her music career. But of course, we’re not all Stevie Nicks. So what then?

11th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala - New York Source: AP/Press Association Images

For me, the doubt hit pretty much as soon as I turned 25. I’d be doing the most mundane things, like chopping up carrots to make soup, when I’d suddenly feel trapped.

A voice in my head screamed at me: “You’ll never get those minutes back, and this is how you spend them? Chopping carrots? You’re a fool, Valerie Loftus.” I quietly agreed. Everyone else my age was at Full Moon parties in Thailand, being young and carefree and not chopping carrots. I needed to get out there and LIVE MY LIFE. But how?

So I worried about that for an hour, and then worried about wasting more time worrying, and round and round it went.

hannahhorvath Source: JOJO WHILDEN/HBO

This study by the University of Greenwich suggests that there are two forms to the crisis – locked in (feeling trapped in adult roles) and locked out (feeling unable to enter adult roles).

Amanda*, a sufferer of the latter form, told me of how her 27th birthday was taken over with thoughts of mortgages:

It ended with me getting totally shitfaced and bawling my eyes out because I didn’t have a mortgage. My boyfriend took a video of me sobbing while trying to call an AIB mortgage centre. In real life I am so grateful that I don’t have a mortgage.

The push-pull inside your brain can be wearying. One side of it is thinking about the career ladder and finances and Important Adult Business. The other side is chanting “YOLO YOLO YOLO” and wants you to jump out of a plane.

Both sides are united in telling you that THERE’S NO TIME. You have to travel the world and party and achieve at your dream job and get married and you have to somehow do it all now. So what is the truth?

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The truth is that there is no absolute truth. Everyone just keeps bumbling along and making decisions as they go. That may sound trite, but it bears repeating.

Sometimes what appears to be the ‘right path’ isn’t necessarily right for you. Ciara* graduated from college and quickly found a job in her field, but felt increasingly “choked” by the stress and instability of her industry.

“Eventually I looked around at my life and realised the only person that was stopping me from changing it was me,” she says. So she decided to shake things up completely.

It’s been 18 months and two countries since I left Ireland in pursuit of a fix to the emotional insecurity of being a 20-something. I quickly learned that you won’t wake up three days into your new life and suddenly feel 100% confident you’re on the correct path. It’s a slow process. You might even feel worse before you feel better.
For me, leaving Ireland is the best thing I could have done. If your life in its current form makes you more unhappy than happy, and drastic change seems to be the only solution, do it. Get some money together, pack in your job and book a flight.

Understandably, this isn’t for everyone. So what small changes can you make to stop yourself from just going through the motions? I spoke to some fellow twenty-somethings who agreed that it’s best not to spend too much time stewing over things alone.

“Make an effort to meet up with friends. Plan a day out, lunch, drinks, get in touch with an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. Pick up the phone,” said one.

When I was going through a hard time, I decided I wasn’t going to allow myself to say no to any invite I got. I ended up really pushing myself out of my comfort zone, being the only girl on a surf trip, going abroad with groups I didn’t know very well… It’s definitely the best thing I ever did and something I still try to live by.

Another started taking stock of her days using the PACE planning method, which stands for Play, Achieve, Care, and Energy (read a full breakdown of how it works here).

“It helped me realise that I’m not doing too badly overall. It’s a good way to see areas you might need to put some extra focus on,” she says.

but-i-dont-have-any-training Source: Lolworthy

Your mid-20s and 30s can be confusing and lonely, but you can harness these feelings for good. Now is the time to do just about anything you want – travel, change careers, further your education, or just sit tight and wait for inspiration to strike.

Mind yourself, talk to people you trust, do what makes you happy. The big things will fall into place.

*Names have been changed.

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For some inspiration: 25 books every twentysomething should read>

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