Young and ambitious, time for a quarter life crisis then?

A quarter life crisis happens shortly after a young person – usually an educated professional – enters the “real world”.

I don’t know about anybody else, but the “quarterlife crisis” is as real as anything for me. I’m 29, with two degrees, £20,000 of debt, and two part-time jobs to pay it off. Neither earns me enough to live on, let alone pay off my debts, because I’m studying for a still further degree, even though experience teaches that qualifications rarely lead to good jobs. Was it all a lie we were told? Why don’t good graduates move on to the kinds of jobs that society told us would be ours? Why isn’t education the royal road to riches and why have I spent the best years of my life being frustrated in a lecture theatre? Simon Gillett, Edinburgh

“After entering adult life and coming to terms with its responsibilities, some individuals find themselves experiencing career stagnation or extreme insecurity. The individual often realizes the real world is tougher, more competitive and less forgiving than they imagined. Furthermore, the qualifications they have spent so much time and money earning are not likely to prepare them for this disillusionment.

A related problem is simply that many graduates do not achieve a desirable standard of living after graduation. They often end up living in low-income flats with roommates instead of having an income high enough to support themselves. Substandard living conditions, combined with menial or repetitive work at their jobs create a great amount of frustration, anxiety and anger. Nobody wants to admit to feeling like a ‘loser’; this secrecy may intensify the problem.”

Read more from: BBC / Times Online / The Guardian

The symptoms of quarter-life crisis may include:

  • feeling “not good enough” because one can’t find a job that is at one’s academic/intellectual level
  • frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
  • confusion of identity
  • insecurity regarding the near future
  • insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
  • disappointment with one’s job
  • nostalgia for university, college or high school
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
  • loneliness
  • desire to have children
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

Is this you? It is certainly some people in my life that I really care about. There doesn’t seem to be any advice in the research I have found. How can Mindapples help?

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6 thoughts on “Young and ambitious, time for a quarter life crisis then?

  1. I have just found this blog, and just read this article, but this is me in a nutshell. I have been using the phrase ‘quarter-life crisis’ for a few months now to describe my current state to my close friend and counsellor. I’m 24, have a well-paid job after a first-class degree, and am not financially struggling; but I still feel lonely, apathetic and am constantly questioning “Is this what I want?” I don’t think I’ve ever once given pause to think what I want to acheive in life, and now when I do, I’m so overwhelmed by it all, I feel I can’t cope, and I shut down.

    If any more articles, or research, is pubilshed regarding this ‘quarter-life crisis’ syndrome, please let me know. I have ticked all the boxes of what I should have acheived after graduation, and then some, but it all seems useless if I’m not actually enjoying any of it.

    • Thanks Jen, good to hear from you. There’s a lot been written lately by the Young Foundation about social isolation and difficulties managing transition, which can make it difficult to enjoy things even when everything’s apparently good on the surface. Personally I spent most of my twenties feeling lost and out of place, and it wasn’t figuring out what I wanted to do with my life that helped – I still don’t know – it was finding people who shared my values and wanted the same things from life as me. I think it takes a while for us to find our tribe sometimes, and we arent taught that’s what we need in school, we’re taught to compete with each other and seek personal progress.

      Being connected is much more interesting than successful. Hopefully Mindapples can help us feel a bit more heard, and maybe find other people who are on the same journey.

  2. This is a very very interesting theory. I can totally see where Kat is coming from and I agree with her but I dont think thats the issue.

    Our generation has gone through such drastic political, economic, social and technological change. We are the generation born into a world without mobile phones, the internet, a communist Russia, the berlin wall, Nelson Mandela in prison etc. Look at how different the world is now. These things have impacted on all of our lives and we have benefitted immensely from them. On the other hand such drastic and quick change is bound to ‘rock the boat’ and our financial, social and personally expectations are higher that ever. 50 years ago if you were competing for a job you’d be competing with people on your street or town. Today the world is so small that businesses think nothing of uprooting from Scotland and setting up in Mumbai for example. We are also far more socially aware than ever and although this is a wonderful thing it does add a pressure never experienced before.

    I think we are a very lucky generation but with change comes new and sometimes complicated problems. I think any insight into these very real issues people face should be commended.

  3. It’s like what Sir Ken Robinson said about how where previously an honours degree was sufficient for specific jobs, now a masters is. And where once a Masters was necessary, now it is a PhD.

    So much of this applies to me and it is almost comforting to know it is so common…

    However, I’m not sure of the way it is being described with “symptoms” as I don’t necessarily see it as an illness or something brought on by a physical bodily problem, sickness or hormones; more that it is emotions common to so many people going through similar experiences that parallels can be drawn. e.g. many people go through the same emotional turmoil when going through the grieving process but that doesn’t mean they are suffering from mental illness problems.

    • Hi Kat! Thanks for your comments. I know we both secretly wish we could kidnap Sir Ken and ask him a zillion questions 😉

      I can see where you are coming from regarding the word ‘symptoms’ – yet things such as grieving and the quarter life crisis do bring on many physical symptoms – such as intense fatigue, lack of appetite or insomnia ( to name a few )

      These are physical things that effect your physical and mental well being – result in a person who is not mentally well. Depression is very much an illness – but because people can’t always ‘see’ the symptoms sufferers don’t get treated the way they should.

      Be good to hear your thoughts

      L x

  4. This is such an interesting notion, and echoes so many of my own feelings. Thanks for highlighting this Lauren. With such extraordinary numbers of people attending University, under the somewhat false promise of secured work, this is more vital than ever to address.