In less than two months, I will be 26 years old. I wish and hope and pray every morning that my quarter life crisis will end just as magically as it began. I’ve learned more about myself this past year and a half than I had before I went into the what-am-I doing-with-my-life phase.
And what you need to remind yourself is, that is exactly what it is: it is JUST a phase. There are many things you can do to survive what seems like this life catastrophe. You make think it’s dyeing your hair purple or quitting your day job. Here are the five ways I’ve made it through this crisis without seriously damaging myself or those around me.
Embrace Everything — Because you are going to question everything. That’s. Ok. If you’ve been in the public relations business since graduating college and you feel like it’s just not the road you’re meant to be on, it’s probably true. If you live in the city that you’ve wanted to live in your whole life and you aren’t happy, it’s probably because you’re not meant to be there. Listen to what your anxiety-ridden thoughts are telling you.
I’m not saying you should quit your benefit-filled job to become a ballroom dancer (isn’t that everyone’s dream?) but if you’ve been unhappy for three years in your place of work, where you live, a relationship, then there is a reason you’re having these thoughts and you should start working towards a new goal that will make you happy. Embrace the thoughts and feelings you’re having, because you’re having them for a reason.
Exercise — If there are two things that have kept me from completely freaking out on everyone, those reasons are zumba and swimming. Whether your thing is yoga or running or doing the Harry Potter workout, keep moving. A healthy body equals a healthy mind.
When I lived in New York City, it was a little impossible to stay in shape because there were no decent gyms near my place of residence and the only ones on the Upper East Side are for those who make lots and lots of money. When I moved to my smaller city and could actually afford my gym (read: YMCA), I had no idea what I was missing out on. I took a week off from exercise and that’s when I realized I’m a little bit of a psychopath without organized movement. All of my bad thoughts multiplied because I didn’t have those wonderful things called endorphins keeping me from questioning every move I make in life. So keep moving.
Keep Your Friends Close and Your Family Closer — You’re not the only one going through this. It’s comforting to know that it’s not just me who has made huge life decisions in the last year — all of my friends are freaking out a little.
Most of your friends who are your age are wondering what it is they are doing with their lives. You think you’re the only one who wants to sit at home crying over the fact that you’re STILL a server? Wrong (I’m here, too). You think you’re the only one who gets the urge to leave everything you’re familiar with to start anew in a different, probably not better city? Wrong (yup, still me).
You’re family and friends, whether they live across the hall or 2,500 miles away, are there for you. They’ve heard you bitch and moan these past two years as you “try to get out of this funk” and they will be there for you for as long as it takes.
I also want to add, because this is what I’ve been truly struggling most with lately, don’t settle. I don’t mean romantically (although don’t settle there either) but in the friend department. If your friends don’t make you feel better, or worse, cause you more grief, don’t.remain.their.friend. It’s not meant to be. I know it’s severely difficult to find people you can rely on and uplift you, but hold out for those people who do.
Travel — Are you questioning every breath you take, every move you make and every step you take? I have an answer for you: Travel. Save everything you can and leave the place you live as often as possible. And here’s the important part — do it alone.
I understand we’re all poor right now. You are either living off of food stamps or the Trader Jo’s gift cards that your grandparents send you. But you will never learn more about yourself than when you travel by yourself. You have to be in charge of everything and there is nothing more exhilarating and terrifying than that. Put a dollar in a jar for every hour of exercise you do and take that money to go to the country you’ve always wanted to visit. Go see a Broadway show. Dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. I’m not telling you to spend $500 on one trip. Take a day trip to the best hiking trail that is a couple of hours away. Stay in a hostel in the nearest city.
When I had just graduated from college, I took a month to travel between the Midwest and East Coast. I took a train, many buses and several flights all by myself. I navigated public transit in each city. I ate in many restaurants by myself (and for the first time too!). I’ve never felt more free and confident. Because if I could do all that, than I could do anything. Go travel and discover who you are with just yourself. Embrace it now.
Live in the Present — You’ll figure it out eventually, I promise. But right now, be present. Live where you live. If you worry so much about getting that promotion or upgrading to a house or whether or not you’re “meant to be” with your partner, time will go by so fast, you’ll have missed out on the most wonderfully complicated years of your life.
It’s frustrating when you look back on the last year and think, well, I’ve had some good times but did I really enjoy them? I often, more than I will ever admit to myself, don’t enjoy social situations, or even when I turn them down, because I’m too busy worrying. Will we get into the concert? What if I run into my ex? Am I missing out on a night that everyone will remember? So the wristbands were fake. Who cares? It makes for a great story and you and your friends are probably going somewhere less pretentious. You decided to stay at home? Good! You’ve been working all week and deserve a night with just some popcorn and a C+ Katherine Heigl movie.
Let go of your problems and enjoy the people you are with, the activities that present themselves and the beauty that this world has to offer. We are so blessed and need to be thankful for the moment that we have right now.