Catalina, 22- 01/17/2012
She is currently on summer vacation, but is studying Advertising in a Chilean university.
Q. What are the first words that come to your mind when you think “quarter life crisis”? And how would you apply these words to your life right now?
A. Confusion, I am confused because I am yet very young and supposed to be having fun and living life, but at the same time, I am asked to be responsible and act as an adult, and dress like an adult most of the time, and there’s a lot of hurry for girls my age in Chile to have everything figured out and I really only want to chill and be reckless. I was kind of mature as a child, so by taking school and Uni too seriously always, I now realize I’ve missed a lot of the fun and see myself surrounded by older people, which is the “main cause” of my QLC.
Q. What are some things you really want to change about your life to help lessen your “quarter life crisis” situation? How would you plan to do that?
A. I want to change my focus on my career, I’m basically finishing with Uni next semester and what I am going on a trip through Europe or to Australia. So the plan is that when I graduate, I take a vacation first (I am not sure how long, but long enough) and then go to Australia, to study further in communication. Also, I kind of have a job offer down there but I don’t want to take it just immediately otherwise I will never get a break in my entire life!
Q. Do you live at home right now? If so what are the complications with that? Will you move out after graduation? Do you want to stay in Chile?
A. Yes I live at home. There are not many complications because here I’m close to my friends, to Uni and to my family. I will move out when I am married, unless I move to Australia. I would like to stay in Chile but after having spent a couple years overseas.
Stephen, 24- 12/19/2011
Currently finishing up his first semester of graduate school at SciencesPo in Paris, France
Q. Can you briefly touch on your upbringing? Where, kind of family, etc?
A. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Richmond, Virginia at a pretty you age and stayed put there until I left for college. I grew up in a suburb of Richmond in an upper middle class family if you go by average income, but there was nothing ostentatious about my upbringing. My parents both came from modest backgrounds. I have a normal family by all accounts, one younger brother, no divorce or even ever fighting. If anything, the normality has caused lasting psychological damage. I was always slightly secretly jealous of people with screwed up families. My upbringing was just as normal as my family, good grades, student athlete, Eagle Scout, Acolyte in church, all-American girlfriend, went to the “right college”. It wasn’t until I came to Paris four years ago that I found some refuge from the Kafkaesque normality of my childhood and was able to kind of reimagine the possibilities that life could offer. I was on a crash course towards socioeconomic reproduction.
Q. What is your current or latest quarter life crisis?
A. Ever since the widely quoted NY Times article on emerging adulthood that was published my senior year of college, I have kind of been fascinated by the phenomenon. I suppose last year I underwent a sort of self-induced quarter-life crisis. I think it has slightly been postponed for now as being a student sort of offers you temporary shelter from the existential storm of young adulthood, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself in a similar state of mind after I graduate. With that in mind I will be taking a year off to do internships in Casablanca and Brussels next year. I think my crisis was rather typical of liberal arts students in an era when a college degree is becoming less and less valuable and thus, not a guarantee for a job. My crisis was less about finding a job, but more about choosing a career path. To quote myself from my blog,
Why didn’t my guidance councilor bring up things like the changing nature of the world economy, growth projections for different industries for the next 15 years and why did my degrees in political science and French cost the same as one in commerce or pre-med, if the others were more expensive I can only imagine that I would have realized they were better. But alas, my privilege blinded me from recognizing what are now painfully clear market signals and when I flexed my family and personal networks, no jobs materialized. Anyways, I would feel much more oriented in life if it had some sort of comforting economic logic, if my diploma enumerated some time tested skill that I could more easily match with rewarding contractual employment. Why didn’t I choose a career field with more traditionally defined roles to occupy? I’m not even saying I would have abandoned my cherished liberal arts education for one of those career fields that involves tinkering with widgets, but maybe I would have developed some sort of extracurricular passion that has more viable economic returns.
And to sum up the conclusions I eventually reached,
I have often pondered, rather cynically, about the idea of a calling or a passion of any kind. There’s nothing innate about it. I’m pretty sure I was doomed to political science and French because my parents liked to travel and my mother really likes France despite her Tea-Party leanings. It’s crazy to think that a single book or experience can orient your entire life by instilling you with some sort of drive to become a doctor or VCR repairman. I find this same absurdity in the choices I am faced with now. While they are daunting and inspire an endless amount of stress, the fact of being young detaches outcomes from choices in a way that is exclusively particular to the first quarter-century of life. It’s very apparent the graduate school, job or even city I will find myself in for the next two years will have a profound influence on the next 50 years of life, just as my choice of university was the first choice in this critical set of decisions that links youth with adulthood. It seems more and more that this year in my life is all about coming to terms with the choices I have made thus far then immediately closing my eyes and jumping off the cliff of my choice. Perhaps life is in reality an endless sequence of years like this and I will be able to relate to this sentiment for the rest of my life or perhaps I will smugly look back on the my cliché, youthful anxiety once I have found the purpose and stability necessary forget that such questions ever burdened my banal quotidian thoughts as I watched rugby on a Sunday afternoon.
I was never really able to resolve the lingering questions. I just cheated and went back to school.
Q. What are some things you are really itching to change about your life right now? How do you see yourself doing that?
A. I am fairly happy with life right now. I honestly have few complaints. Two things come to mind I suppose. I’d like to overcome my aversion to relationships that was born of a series of long relationships during high school and college. For the past two years I have had zero desire to be in a stable or long-term relationship. I cannot fathom marrying before 30, but at the same time, it’s not healthy to be single for too long. Even if you remain single a majority of the time, it’s good to establish some more stable relationships from time to time I suppose..I won’t convince myself through logic of the reasons why they’re good as opposed to a more fragmented appreciation of the gender, so I guess I will just have to enter one and prove myself right or wrong. Secondly, being a student in Paris is not exactly conducive to a healthy life-style. I did the Paris Marathon last year and I’m doing it again this year along with a bunch of other half-marathons and 10ks. I’d like to really set my sights high this year as opposed to just doing the minimal to get through it with a respectable time. That’ll entail rediscovering some of the athletic discipline of my youth!
Katie, 27- 12/11/2011
Currently, unemployed, applying to grad school, and looking for work.
Q. Where in the world are you right now and what do you do?
A. I graduated from Colorado State University five years ago this month and immediately moved to Washington, D.C. to begin working on Capitol Hill for a Senator from my home state of Arizona. Though I had incredible experiences during the three years I worked on the Hill, I couldn’t quite find my niche in either my personal or professional life — D.C. never felt like home and I had difficulty assimilating to the East Coast; similarly, the positions I held while working were never a great fit. Three years later, I returned to Arizona and entered state government. Strangely, that job would prove to be infinitely more stressful than the ones I held in the U.S. Senate and I burned out after a year and a half of no vacation, long hours, and an incredibly stressful work environment. The expectation was that staff would work 12 hour days, be on call at night and on the weekends, and, though there were generous benefits, requesting the annual leave staff was entitled to was frowned upon. I quickly realized that this was not the lifestyle (or job) I wanted and began planning my next steps.
After much consideration and consultation with the people I was closest to, I opted to quit my job and travel (and thereby make up for what I hadn’t done in college or immediately after). A number of my friends took time off in between college and their first real job and, having gone straight from one to the other, I had been feeling the itch to get out and see the world while still young (ish) and relatively unattached. During the course of several months over the summer and fall, I travelled in Europe for a month, down to the Caribbean, Hawaii, and had several intra-United States trips.
Now that I’m back in Arizona full-time, I’ve been faced with the prospects of what to do next and each day is a (hopeful) step in that direction.
Q. When did you start coining the term “quarter life crisis” to your life?
A. Even during college — going back as far as freshman year — I’ve always struggled with the age-old question, “What do you want to do with your life?” I had several majors and never took a class that spoke to me in a way that made me feel I had found my life’s passion. I got through school quickly and fell into politics by way of an internship during my last semester of college. Political science and history were always things that I was interested in, but they often competed with the more creative side of me; I think competing interests — and ones that don’t overlap a particular field — have sidelined me to the point of being unable to make any sort of a decision about my next steps.
Similarly, during the five years I spent in the working world, I never felt like the positions I held were perfect fits and they certainly weren’t things that I saw myself doing long-term. There were components of each job that I enjoyed, but others that weren’t a good fit — further, the political lifestyle is one that I found to be difficult to adjust to.
The term “quarter-life crisis” has really entered my repertoire with real regularity this year. Over the past two years, I’ve felt especially lost and I attribute that to both the job I held most recently, as well as a slow evaluation of the things I enjoy and what sort of career I’d ultimately like to have. In that evaluation, I realized that my current field was something I had gotten into by chance and the resulting time in Washington, D.C. and state government were never goals that I had in high school or college. I’ve always had other, non-related interests (writing, makeup artistry) and it was thinking about those things that kept prompting the question, “Am I doing what I really am meant to do?” It’s a difficult question but I think it’s that desire to find my life’s passion set into motion my current quarter-life crisis.
Q. I assume you just got back from traveling pretty recently. How do you spend your days now that is helping you to move forward in a specific direction?
A. It’s too difficult to sugar-coat this, so I’ll be honest — it is really hard being back and thinking, “Now what?” My days are spent job-searching online for positions that appeal to my interests, exploring graduate degrees, physical activity (which helps keep the stress at bearable levels), working my connections (so lots of lunches, etc. with former colleagues and friends in industries I’d like to learn more about), and keeping in touch with the people who aren’t local, but may be able to assist me in my job search.
It is a tremendous adjustment from my former life — I’m used to being busy and stressed (albeit in a different way), so this has been a real transition for me. As confused and lost as I feel at this moment, I know that I would do it all again — I would still quit my miserable job, I would still travel the world. It’s all been worth it and I continually remind myself that I worked too hard in college and my first five years in the real world to be unemployed for long. And once I’m back in the working world, I know I will have wanted myself to enjoy this breather.
Q. How do you think traveling, being true to yourself, quitting your jobs and just leaving helped you gain better insight on your life and dreams?
A. I was still very much thinking about my life while I was travelling. I can say that there were two things that came out of my experiences that really made it worthwhile — the first being the memories I made while travelling through Ireland, England, and Sweden with my Mom for a month. I kept having moments where I would think, “I’ll remember this trip and this moment with her long after she’s gone.” I made priceless memories and will never forget that trip with her as long as I live and, to me, that was worth any of the stress I currently feel.
Second, taking a “timeout” was so incredibly useful in that it gave me a level of perspective I never would have gained otherwise. Prior to leaving my job, I truly felt like my only professional options were the current job and another in state government. I was terrified that I would have to pick from the lesser of two (what I perceived) evils and that was altogether stifling and depressing. Being in Europe and the Caribbean and interacting with people who have taken all sorts of paths made me realize there’s not one proscribed path out there for each person — the world is a huge place and I have any number of options available to me. Whether that’s moving to another state to work for a political organization, moving to Ireland and working at a B&B, or moving to the Caribbean to serve cocktails — whatever it is, I can take my life in any direction I want and that knowledge was so freeing.
While in Grand Cayman, my sister and I rode horses on the beach and the woman who owned the stable was a Florida native, but moved to the Caymans 20 years ago with her horses. She built a business doing something she loved in paradise and I just looked at her life and was so envious, but also inspired. There are people like that all over the world and knowing that gave me a lot of hope and comfort.
The other thing I thought was interesting was how supportive nearly every single person was of my decision to travel and re-evaluate where I was and where I was going. Especially in my industry of over-worked, over-stressed, career-minded people, I just assumed that I would be looked down upon for doing something so different and so unexpected. But, surprisingly, I found a tremendous amount of support and, interestingly enough, envy. I can’t tell you how many people said, “I had the opportunity to travel after school, but I never did and now I’m married with kids and a mortgage.” Those people made me realize that life is short and if we have the chance to do something like what I did, we should take it. I wouldn’t do it differently and for the few people who didn’t see the wisdom in it, I quickly realized that we had different definitions of life and what was important.
Q. Where do you want to be a year from now and what do you want to be doing? How do you plan on getting there?
A. One year from now I hope to have a job that is engaging and fulfilling. My dream for myself (maybe not in one year’s time, but five) is to have the type of job, career, or business where it doesn’t feel like work. I want to have a job that I look forward to going to and feel passionate about. I need to spend some time and think about concrete ways to make that happen and, again, my stumbling block is always about what direction to focus my efforts. In order to be moving forward with my life, I’m also applying to graduate school for fall 2012 enrollment. Of course, if I land the job of my dreams and can’t do both, I’ll put grad school on hold but, in the meantime, will keep that door open.
Kevin Dua, 24- 12/05/2011
Q. What do you do right now?
A. Right now, I am a fulltime student via Boston College Lynch School of Education Donovan Urban Program. I am studying to earn my masters in secondary education in history/humanities. As a part of my graduate program requirement, I am a student-intern at the Boston Arts Academy 9-12. I also volunteer at the Performing and Fine Arts Director at the Watertown Boys and Girls Club and a mentor via AmeriCorps City Year Boston. These various fields, though volunteerism, are geared towards my growth as a future profesison as an educator.
Q. Can you briefly touch on your upbringing?
A. I was raised by two immigrant parents (from Ghana, Africa), with three other siblings, in Alexandria, Virginia (northern part of the state; six miles south of Washingto, DC). We were raised with Christianity morals, coupled with a fusion of African and American culture.
Q. What is a quarter life crisis in your own words?
A. A quarter life crisis tends to be a particular mental dilemma within one’s life at an early age (20s) where one grapples with significant life-altering decisions (ie relationships, jobs, employment, location, etc).
Q. What is YOUR quarter life crisis right now, and how are you dealing with it?
A. My quarter life crisis is determining “where” I will physically be (or where I want to be) a year from now. I know that I want to/I will be teaching as a high school history teacher; but figuring out which environment and school system will best fie “me” is a difficult decision to make. Right now, prayer and communicating with family, friends and God have been my outlet in organizing my thought process. My latest crises has been receiving a wave of news of friends getting engaged, married and/or starting families with a new child. Though I am not ready yet for a family, seeing friends enter that new adulthood chapter now makes me realize that I want my new adulthood chapter to begin too–being a fulltime educator somewhere outside of Boston.
Q. Was being a teacher something you always wanted while growing up? How did you realize it was THE dream you had to follow?
A. I have always wanted to be a writer or an artist since I was a child. Around high school through the first three years of college, I was aiming in becoming a criminal prosecutor. Teaching fell in my lap due to my passion in history; through the courses I took in college, I saw history as a way to be reintroduce to students in a creative, stimulating manner. It was my two years volunteering for AmeriCorps City Year Boston, working with elementary students on literacy and math was when I knew I wanted to educate young minds for years to come.
Q. What is the most recent lesson you have learned while living in your crisis?
A. The most recent crisis I have learned is realizing that I cannot “save” every student. As an educator, I have the power to stimulate, challenge, educate and inspire individuals within the confines of my classroom. However, my own doings and intentions may not coincide with another student, especially one who refuses to embrace my teachings. I have to understand my students, find a happy medium, learn from them and vice versa; it is only then may I have a chance to help a student out. If I am unable to, as long as I tried, I will be ok in the long run.
Q. What is something other than your career that you’ve finally figured out in your life?
A. I figured out that I am at a content, transitional part in my life where I am able to focus towards my goal. I would love to have a wife, children and a family one day. I would love to be able to support my siblings and parents one day. These are dreams that have become feasible realizations for me. I am growing up and I am enjoying my new mature outlook on life and others.
Hebba Youssef, 22- 11/27/2011
Currently working for a commercial real estate firm. Recent college graduate.
Q. Can you give me summary of how you grew up? Family, background (if you want to share), location, were you known for anything in high school (athlete, queen bee, chess player, trouble maker), what about college?
A. I was born in Huntington, West Virginia and spent 6 months there before moving to upstate New York, my first memories are from Ithaca where we lived. Cold winters and lazy springs. I have three older siblings and therefore there was never a dull moment in our house. We moved again to Virginia Beach which is where I call home. We’ve lived in the same house most of my childhood. Growing up the most important thing stressed in my family was a good solid education. I grew up reading constantly and always wanting to learn new things. I went to a magnet high school where it was cool to be nerdy and smart. I was your average straight edged high school kid, I had a core set of best friends and we spent most our time hanging out and having some of the most memorable sleepovers of my life. Very innocent. College was probably some of the best times of my life as well as some of the most eye opening experiences. I changed the most during those four years. I learned who I was and most importantly who I did not want to be. I was hardly the smartest kid, but I learned enough to get by. I learned enough to know that with a solid education I could do anything I really wanted.
Q. What’s you’re definition of a quarter life crisis?
A. I think a quarter life crisis can be many different things depending on who you ask.
For me it’s the overwhelming feeling of having a million different choices to make. Like feeling like you’re going everywhere but nowhere at once. I think a quarter life crisis arises from not knowing what you want but knowing you have the ability to make your wildest wishes come true. Fear and uncertainty yet anticipation all play into it.
Q. Can you expand on how graduating college may have helped/worsened anything you’re going through?
A. College gave me the tools I need to realize what I can and cannot do. It made it possible for me to dream big and to be motivated enough to make anything happen. While that feels great some days, other days I’m so terrified at pursuing something I really want. Terrified at knowing failure. College both helped and worsened my personal quarter life crisis.
College pushes your limits. Makes you realize your greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses. You get all this knowledge pushed at you and you learn. You learn so much about different topics and so much about yourself. I realized I had all these grand dreams and suddenly I was prepared with the knowledge and skills to make those dreams come true. That helped the crisis to know I had this background of a solid education and that I was intelligent enough to find ways to make my dreams come true. That also worsened my personal crisis because I can’t help but feel stalled right now. I want those dreams to come true but I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of being torn and unable to decide what I really want to do,career wise.
Q. Was your job something you were looking for or something you found? How long was the period between college and finding something to take up your time?
A. Both I think. I like things that are out Of my comfort zone at the same time it is something I found. The best part of the job is being in dc everyday. The daily inspiration I get is a amazing. The City is a alive and always moving reminding me to never stop dreaming and believing I can make things happen. Between college and job was the summer. Enough time for me to realize I need to get out of Virginia Beach and try some place new.
Q. What is something that you are going through RIGHT now, specifically, and how are you dealing with it?
A. I am currently dealing with mending a few relationships in my life and in the process of reviewing other ones. I got lost sometime last year, lost myself and lost sight of what was important to me. In the process I damaged a few relationships. Forgot about what I value the most in friendships- honesty. It’s harder to mend what is broken when you no longer have the ability to see the person daily
Right now I’m trying to repair a few friendships that I let go of by accident. I’m making the biggest effort to stay in touch. Talk to them as much as I can, and just be there for the people I care about. Let the know that I made mistakes by letting them go but that I am still invested. When I care about someone it’s very rare that I just stop.
Q. Any personal lessons or struggles you want to specify on or share?
A. I think the biggest struggle for me has been dealing with my egyptian culture in an American society. The disconnect that arises from having this cultural background in a liberal society is hard to remedy sometimes. Culture is such a big part of my life but at the same time i’m still figuring out what I do and do not believe in. And having to defend what you believe in to your parents who raised you a specific way can be difficult. Forming my own opinions after having my parents’ opinions instilled in me has been my biggest struggle.
Q. What does it look like when you envision yourself settled from a quarter life crisis?
A. Peaceful. Part of a quarter life crisis is the struggle that you go through, so when I’m finally settled I see my life having a sense of peacefulness to it. Then I’ll probably start my mid life crisis. It never ends!