Surviving My Quarter Life Crisis
When I graduated last May, I never thought I would be sobbing at two in the morning after coming home from work less than an hour ago. And yet, here I was in April, sleep deprived, overworked, underpaid, and I couldn’t even sleep because my 17-year old model/spawn of Satan roommate was having a party at 2 AM - on a Tuesday. I called my mom, booked a plane ticket (on my credit card!) to Dallas that left less than eight hours later, and realized that this was it. I was having a quarter life crisis.
At this point in our culture, a quarter life crisis is just like another life event.
Of course, having the financial resources and emotional support to move home or have your parents pay your rent while you “figure things out” is almost exclusively limited to white, upper-middle class, college-educated millennials, but some stereotypes are meant to be broken.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a mess.
I quit my job, then panicked and realized that despite the fact my dad literally has a live-in maid, there would be no bailout. I would not be a guest star in Girls, having a well-meaning parent finance my poor decisions. There would not be a check or a discrete bank transfer to tie me over.
I’m young enough to go back on my parent’s health insurance (thanks, Obama!) and moved back home with my parents, who are divorced and live in Dallas and Panama. While neither of my parents ask for rent, I pay for everything - my groceries, cell phone bill, and whatever other expenses I have for the month. If I go out to eat with my family, my dad will pay the bill, but for larger purchases, like the family trip we’re taking at the end of the month to Columbia, I’m paying for my flight and hotel.
Thankfully - blessedly - my former employer asked me to stay on as a contractor when I turned in my notice. I would make nearly $40 an hour, and the math on paper looked too convincing not to make the jump. Well, that and I didn’t have a job.
But contracting hasn’t been all conference calls in pjs and working out of coffee shops. Sure, the hourly rate sounds amazing, but was I actually working close to the 30 hours a week I needed for my budget? Of course not.
As of my last invoice, I was barely scraping by with 20 hours a week, and since I’m a contractor - yay! - that also means I’m responsible for my own taxes. So, I’m making “more” an hour, but because I’m not working enough, I’m actually earning less.
Clearly, I’ve made some pretty terrible decisions since April. They’re not “end of the world, my life is over” decisions, but I definitely feel like I’ve gone two steps backwards instead of three steps forward as I reach my 24th birthday this Friday.
I say all of this not to brag or play the sympathy card - I’m self-aware enough to realize that I am still so incredibly fortunate and privileged - but to give an honest account of what my quarter life crisis has actually looked like, and how you can learn from my mistakes.
HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN
I know that when you’re in a stressful situation it can sound so appealing to just throw caution to the wind and say you’ll figure it out later. We see that type of narrative play out in so many different forms of media - young protagonist working a dead end job impulsively marches up to their boss, quits, and through a series of clever montages, finds themselves and a quirky significant other.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by not having an exit plan.
One of the reasons why I made the Reset Your Life series was because I realized, after I quit, that I could have benefited from better decision making. I’ve since learned how to actually follow through with plans by making sure there’s a clear, specific goal. My budget now matches my financial reality, not what I think I’ll earn. I set benchmarks to take my blog more seriously, and it’s paid off.
When you’re in a state of anxiety or frustration, try to fight the urge to do something impulsive. Take a step back, realize that there will be consequences for your actions because you’re an adult, and work within your current reality.
Maybe that means toughing out your job until the end of the year to make sure you get that Christmas bonus and actually have some savings built up. I don’t know what your current reality is.
Creating a plan and implementing it may not be something you want to do, but it’s very rare that good things happen from rash, impulsive decisions.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
It’s really easy to blame other people for things that don’t go right in our life, and sometimes people are genuinely responsible or it’s just out of your control - it’s not like you can help getting laid off or having a medical problem.
But if we’re really honest with ourselves, a lot of the time our problems are self-inflicted. You racked up a bunch of charges on your credit card, but were those purchases for an actual emergency, or because you wanted a new pair of Steve Madden’s? You’re unhappy with your social life but don’t actually put yourself into situations to meet people or work address your social anxiety.
In my case, I needed to stop lying to myself that I would ever actually be able to pay off my debt in the timeframe that I want with the income I’m generating. It’s mathematically impossible, and I wasted precious time by hoping and praying a solution would fall out of the sky.
Being honest with yourself means taking ownership of the problem - regardless of who initially caused it - and committing yourself to work towards a solution.
REALIZE IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
It can be difficult not to give in to the comparison game on social media, especially if people “appear” to have it all. However, at the end of the day, a quarter life crisis is a set back, but your life isn’t over.
I think we can sometimes get caught up in how others will perceive us because of social media, but it's your life. Don't base your decisions on what other people think, because it's not their life, it's yours.
If you have a plan - a real plan, not a plan to make a plan - than you can only go up. I know what I just said is basically a motivational poster from your high school counselor’s office, but it’s true.
Sometimes you need to hit your lowest point before you can shake the reality back into yourself.
So, what does this mean for me and the blog?
When I first decided to quit my job, I had a plan to make a plan to create a podcast, but over the past three months, I haven’t really made it a priority. However, I realized that the reason why I wasn’t taking it seriously was because I was trying to chase perfection, and I’ve realized that it’s very rare for a first attempt to actually be perfect. I just need to actually do it.
I will be turning my attention over the next few months on earning additional income and shifting my free time from the blog to the podcast/YouTube channel.
However, that doesn’t mean I’ll no longer post on the blog. I’ll be shifting down from twice a week to once a week, but the content - general quarter life crisis advice, charting my financial missteps, travel - will stay the same.