Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Quarter-Life Crisis

Hey readers!

Does the title of my post look very depressing and off-putting to you? If it does...well, sorry. If it seems all too relevant, however, keep reading. There is hope. I promise.

I was just discussing the idea of the quarter-life crisis with my dear friend/housemate/fellow SMC blogger Alex, and she showed me this post from Humans of New York (if you have never checked out HONY, go click on that link and prepare for a lifetime of awesome and yet another thing to help you procrastinate. You're welcome.): HONY quarter-life crisis

For those doubters, the quarter-life crisis is actually a thing. It DOES exist. My professor even mentioned it in class the other day. She said she was concerned for us because whenever she asked any of her students how they were doing, the major response was "overwhelmed". We joked that we'd just be extra prepared for the mid-life crisis, which as she confirmed for us, also exists.

So I haven't graduated college yet (trust me I'm not rushing it), which means that my quarter-life crisis doesn't totally compare to that of the young HONY couple. But I am 20 years old, so I know a thing or two about the quarter-life crisis, even though I'm just entering it. Then again, I think I'm one of those people who is just very susceptible to it, because I felt its beginning stages very young (or maybe that just means I'm going to live a shorter life...). Ever since about 16, I've been in a constant cycle of freaking-out-ness. This involves asking questions like,

What am I doing?

What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

What have I achieved so far?

Goals? What ARE goals?

Should I be doing more? What is there to do?

Is this all really worth it?

Can I just climb back into bed and stay there forever?

Are you stressed out yet? I am.

I realize that this semester has caused me to plunge pretty deeply into the quarter-life crisis. I always thought that when I got like this I was just being whiny and overly-existential, but it seems that the quarter-life crisis is actually a thing. And so far, its climax is during junior year of college (but I'm sure this is just the beginning. Yay.). It seems that all of my friends are struggling with the same issue. As if your first two years of college are sort of stressful but mostly just a whole lot of fun and self-discovery, and then BAM. The real world hits you.

If you're struggling through your own quarter-life crisis, here are a few things I've found to work well in fighting against it:

1.) Get out of bed. Get dressed. Open the shades. Get on with your life. The longer you put things off, the worse it will be. So I like to make sure that I'm out of bed by 9am on weekends. Sleeping until noon makes me feel like I completely wasted a day to clean, do homework, and get my life together. Once you get focused, time flies, and you can accomplish a lot in one day (probably more than you thought you could).

2.) Set realistic goals. Both long and short term. Make a to-do list for your day, and cross things off as you go along. Remember to put things like "eat dinner" on your list--it's important to take care of yourself. My list for today:

Up at 9; breakfast
Apply for at least 1 internship
Write blog post
Go to Rite Aid
Transcribe interviews
Write questions and prepare for tomorrow's interview
Laundry/Organize closet
Study Abroad meeting; 4pm
Chill Time
Bed at 11/11:30

Your long term goals can be realistic too, like "obtain summer internship"; "secure study abroad program"; "go to grad school".

3.) Chill time. Don't overwork yourself, friends. Also, don't sweat the small stuff. If you bombed your history exam, see if you can do extra credit and also study hard for the next one, but remember that one test in one class will not decide your future. Do the best you can, and then leave some room to relax. Last night I went to my friend Sheila's house and just spent time with friends there. Before I go to bed every night, I sit around the living room with my housemates and we talk about our days. When I do this, I'm focusing on winding down and enjoying time with them, not on anything I have to do.

4.) A cup of tea. This doesn't have to literally be a cup of tea, but some little thing you can do throughout the day to appreciate the little things. Repeat your favorite quote to yourself; sing; smile until you mean it. I happen to make myself tea. Probably not ideal (I should invest in non-caffeinated), but if I need seven cups then I'm going for it!   

One of my favorite quotes from Oscar Wilde, also brilliantly reincarnated in this song by Brandon Boyd.

5.) Enjoy it. This is a crazy time of life, sure--and it will only get crazier from here for the next decade or so. But being A Very Busy Adult With Many Important Things To Do* is actually kind of fun. And yes, I know what fun is. But I'm finding that when I'm doing work that means something me, I'm really happy. My favorite homework assignments are when I'm looking for a new feature story topic, because I get to spend hours searching the library and the internet for new things to spark my interest. It reminds me why I like journalism so much--I like to learn about all kinds of things, and this major allows me to research literally anything--from environmental awareness campaigns such as divestment to effective strategies for public speaking (two things I happen to be working on right now). If you're not finding interesting or fun things about the work you do, maybe it's time to consider pursuing something else. But you haven't wasted your time--you never know until you try!

Well, that was a long-winded rant. I think I mostly wrote this for myself, and for all of the friends who are going through the same kind of stress right now. There are plenty of things that could keep this list going, and I love making lists, but the main thing is: We're twenty. We're young. We have a lot of life ahead of us. We don't have to be perfect, and we don't necessarily even need to have a plan right now. All we need to do is look at this moment--right now--and realize the potential it has. We could go anywhere from this moment. That's huge, and probably intimidating. But it's also wildly exciting. So take this moment and run with it, as far as you can.

Now, I can go cross "write a blog post" off my list and get on with my life.


*Phrase shamelessly stolen from Cards Against Humanity.

PS- The Best Questions to Ask Your Tour Guide (TBQTAYTG?) is coming back next week! :)

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