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  • October 12, 2015

    Does the quarter-life crisis really exist?

    The quarter-life crisis: it’s been the topic of many columns as well as conversations over Friday night cocktails, but is it all hype or does it really exist? We put two writers head-to-head…

    Yes it does!

    Today I got an email from a friend where, in response to asking how she was, she said: ‘yeah alright…just contemplating the meaning of life again. And how my irrelevant my job is – ya know, general life dilemmas.’

    It’s worded like a joke, but it’s not really. So the answer to does the quarter life crisis exist? Yes, it landed in my inbox this morning.

    Everyone I know in their twenties is in crisis, or at least mild confusion, about what they’re doing. Or what they’re supposed to be doing.

    I know 29-year-olds who have never had a normal job and are still travelling at any chance they get. I know 23-year-olds who have bought houses and are getting married. And I know 25-year-olds who are somewhere between having enough money to buy £40 foundation but nowhere near enough to even think about buying a house (maybe the moisturisers are connected here?)

    At some point each one of them has struggled and had times when they’ve questioned themselves. Should I be buying a house? Or going travelling? Should I be getting married? Or staying single? Should I be going out more? Or staying in more? Should I be going back in time to launch a YouTube channel and make millions?

    Earlier this year I spent a month seriously on the brink of quitting my job and booking a one way ticket to anywhere before realising I had no money and couldn’t be bothered to move out of my flat.

    The problem is that we’ve got so many more options than any generation before us that it has all become a bit overwhelming. That sounds like a ‘my diamond shoes are too tight’ kind of problem, but it really can be difficult. There are reminders everywhere of what everyone else is doing – whether you’re trawling through a stranger’s Instagrams, looking up ex-classmates on LinkedIn or stalking old friends on Facebook – and that makes it harder than ever to be happy with what you’ve got, and proud of what you’ve achieved.

    And that’s why I believe that the overwhelming majority of twenty-somethings have sat in their rented flats in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, wondering why nobody at uni told us how hard things get after the exams are done.

    It might be fleeting, it might arise every few months or every time you have another bad day at work. You might moan to your friends or you might quietly stare into the darkness and put on another episode of Parks and Recreation to try and distract yourself from your internal monologue. But the quarter life crisis is real, and it’s here, and all we can do is get through it and look forward to the few years’ peace before the mid-life crisis kicks in and we all start googling second-hand sports cars.

    – Natalie Littlewood, @NatalieLittle

    No it doesn’t!

    I’m not sure the quarter life crisis exists. Don’t get me wrong, I panic and fret that life is going too fast and that I’m moving too slow. I compare myself to others and can find my failings easier than I can find a clean shirt some days but a quarter life crisis? Hmmm.

    The problems we have seem pretty universal and cross-generational; we want a job we enjoy, that pays well and has prospects, a place of our own, friends and family, enough stability to feel secure but not enough so we feel trapped and most people want a healthy relationship and quite possibly most will have an age in mind when they imagine they’ll have a family. So what’s changed?

    Well, we’re the more verbose, no-holds-bared, social networking generation yet and we think nothing of sharing everything with everybody and if I’m honest I think that’s given us a penchant for drama. Is it that that means we term our problems a ‘quarter life crisis’ instead of general worries and, more generally, ‘life’?

    Admittedly we’re also the generation that was told we can be whatever we want to be and it was only once we were on our way there that university debt, low wages and sky high house prices knocked us off track. So not only do we not have any money or the lifestyle we were promised, but we have more access than ever to those who have both of those things. Cue: comparison, stress, jealousy and…a quarter life crisis?

    No, I don’t think the quarter-life crisis exists; I think a social media crisis exists and I think that if we stopped with the comparisons, we’d all be happier, more content and maybe, just maybe, the first generation to say they’re happy with their lot.

    – Stephanie Bolton, @StephanieBolton

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