I was sitting in bed with tears rolling down my face though nothing in particular happened. I just felt a lot of negative emotion. For weeks I felt disappointment, unfulfillment, sadness, anger, confusion, lack of motivation, you name it. It dawned on me that I was going through a quarter-life crisis. Call me dramatic, but it’s a real thing, and many of us go through it.
I’m almost 24, I graduated with my Masters (in biology) back in December (2016) and I’ve reached a point where I just feel quite unsatisfied and frustrated with life. What triggered this for me was setting up auto payments for my student loan debt. I have over $49,000 in debt and have to start paying almost $300 every month. I guess this is when I reached my idea of “rock bottom.” My debt to income ratio is absurd and I realized it would be basically impossible to pay for everything I have to pay for if I stay at my current job.
As many of you know, I would ultimately like to be self-employed, working from home, and living financially free. After graduating grad school, I had every intention to never work in the science field. I figured I would hustle my way to a decent income from my blog, YouTube, and other online businesses. Did that happen? Obviously not (yet). Did I put in enough effort? Absolutely not. It’s my own fault.
So after a reality check and adding up the cost of all of my bills, I decided it was time for a change. I started browsing Indeed for science jobs hiring, and there are many, with really great pay. I would be stupid not to try to get a possibly six-figure income that I’m qualified for. I wouldn’t make it otherwise and it would definitely relieve some financial stress. As bad as I wanted (and didn’t want to at the same time) to apply for those jobs right then and there, I told my boss I would begin job searching mid-July (I gave a couple month notice for multiple reasons).
Signs that you are going through a quarter-life crisis:
– You feel unmotivated
Unmotivated to wake up, do daily tasks, get work done, etc. Basically, if you were getting things accomplished before, but suddenly you no longer have the drive to do those things. You probably feel no passion for these things. It may not apply to all areas of your life though. For example, I didn’t lose my motivation to work out, I actually started working out more and more intense. Pay attention to the things that you still feel motivated to do, I’ll talk about that more in a moment!
– You feel disappointed in yourself
You may have thought you would have it all figured out by 20-something, but here you are, doing things you hate and just getting through each day as it comes. You might feel like a failure, you question why you’re not doing more, where did you go wrong?
– You feel unfulfilled
You may feel like you’ve done nothing with your life, you desire meaning and purpose and want to actually BE a human BEING. Your day to day is just not cutting it.
– You feel confused
Maybe you have a college degree in something you now despise and you have no idea what you want to do with the rest of your life.
– You are eager for change
You may feel the desire to move into a new home, buy a completely new wardrobe, find a new job, etc. This stems from your feeling of unfulfillment. Be careful though, don’t make any rash decisions.
– You searched ‘Am I going through a quarter-life crisis’ on Google
You probably are! If you’re feeling emotions that you’re not used to and there’s not really a definitive reason for those feelings, then it’s probably your quarter-life crisis creeping up on you!
The various forms of a quarter-life crisis:
– The confused, broke, unhappy crisis
This is what I went through. Like I said, I have a Masters degree and I’m working at an unrelated job that doesn’t pay me enough. Yet, I don’t really want to get a job in the science field because I didn’t love it, but I have to start paying back my student loans and I would never be able to do that with my current job.
To sum it up…I had no idea what I should do, I barely have any money, I desire feeling passionate and fulfilled with my life, and I constantly dread going to work.
– The well-paid but unhappy crisis
Maybe you’re making six-figures in your used-to-be dream job, living comfortably, and have achieved society’s idea of success BUT you’re miserable. You feel no passion for your career and you would much rather sacrifice some income to be able to do what you love. You may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.
– The confused and afraid crisis
You’re making ends meet or maybe you’re still in school but have NO idea what you want to do for the rest of your life. The thought of it makes you anxious and fearful.
How to get through your quarter-life crisis:
– Take a step back
If you’re reading this you’re probably on your laptop or newly updated phone with a coffee in hand and a roof over your head. What I’m trying to get at is things could be way worse and you’re probably doing a lot better than you think. Don’t allow these negative feelings to dwell, it won’t change a thing. Take a step back, evaluate your life, be grateful, and go from there. These are just FEELINGS, this crisis does not define who you are or your entire life. It’s temporary and things will improve if you seek improvement.
– Don’t compare yourself with others
"A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms." -Zen Shin
You might see some friends or old high school acquaintances that look like they have it all figured out. They landed their dream job, got engaged, bought a new house, whatever. It doesn’t matter what other people have accomplished, just focus on yourself. And remember that if you’re viewing people’s lives through social media, most people only post the positive things in life and not their struggles. Not everything is as it seems.
Everyone’s journey is different and timing of things can be crucial.
– Map it out/Plan
It’s time to get serious. This is the perfect opportunity for you to allow some changes in your life. Write down things you are passionate about, figure out how you can make money from those things, and get to it. It’s worth a shot.
Remember how earlier I mentioned to pay attention to the things that you stay motivated about? Those things are probably your passion and I guarantee you can make money from that passion. Doing something you love everyday will definitely lead to a fulfilled life. Start a blog about it, start a YouTube channel about it, write a book about it, sell products, create a podcast about it. There’s got to be something you can do with it. If you need help finding your passion, try reading books like The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything or The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding The Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life.
Maybe it’s time to find a new job or move to a different state. Whatever it may be just map out your plan as best as you can and figure out what you would ideally like to happen and focus your energy on that.
– Do things that make you happy
"Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is."
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to always be productive and “hustle.” I really would end up just overwhelming myself, getting nothing done, then feeling guilty about it. Now I make sure I have some fun things planned in the near future or that I go out more often. You definitely still want to enjoy life as much as possible. In reality, life is still short and we never know when our last day is. Enjoy it while you can.
– Start making positive changes
"Every positive change in your life begins with a clear, unequivocal, decision that you are going to either do something or stop doing something."
Moping around feeling bad for yourself will get you nowhere. Meditate, you may learn a lot about yourself as you sit in silence. Wake up earlier, get more done. Limit your time on social media, it’s a huge distraction. Drink more water, eat healthier, you’ll have more energy. Speak more positively, smile more, it’ll only benefit you. Read self-improvement books and listen to podcasts, you’ll learn a ton.
– Talk to friends/family
Confide in people you can trust or that may understand. They may be able to help you more than you think by offering suggestions, advice, and ideas. For me, I confided in one of my favorite people at a meditation center I go to weekly. She’s middle-aged, but she’s easy to talk to, a great listener, kind, and very supportive. She made me feel better about the situation, offered many suggestions, and reminded me that I wouldn’t get “stuck” if I found a new career. It was definitely nice to just talk about it.
– Do it NOW
"Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows." - Michael London
If you’re sitting on the edge of a decision that you think will benefit you, do it. I love the Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now” because it’s true. Don’t worry about the past, live in the present moment. This applies to many things in life…letting go, moving on, starting fresh, etc. Is your relationship sucking the life out of you? Leave. Are you holding onto something you or someone else did? Forgive. Do you want to start traveling the world? Book a flight.
This is likely the last years of your life where you won’t have things holding you back (but remember you have control of this as you get older!). For example, you may be in a relationship but not married. You can leave and not look back. Even if you’re married and completely unhappy, you can get out of it. You may not have kids…meaning you can take advantage of the freedom to spontaneously travel or move to a different country.
The longer you let something linger or just sit, the harder it will be for you to move on and grow. Take your chances, take the risk.
This may be a hard time in your life, but it might be just what you need. After realizing the reality of everything, I started putting in way more effort to my online businesses. I guess it’s true when they say that you work better under pressure. I have been more consistent with uploading YouTube videos, I wrote a bunch of my book, I started applying to various companies for affiliate programs, and I started planning/organizing my thoughts and plans of actions.
Hitting “rock bottom” might have been just the push that I needed. I didn’t want to get a job in the science field, but this might be a really good thing. What if I actually enjoy it? What if it brings more structure and discipline into my life? What if it brings me more opportunity to become more independent?
This doesn’t mean I have to settle for that job and get stuck for years and years. Trust me, I still 1000% want to be an entrepreneur. I visualize what I want my everyday to look like constantly. It’s ALWAYS on my mind. I will never stop chasing that dream. But if I have the ability to put myself in a more comfortable financial situation, I definitely need to do that.
Best of luck to any of you experiencing the same struggles!
“Nothing will ruin your 20’s more than thinking you should have your life together already.”