Is The Quarter Life Crisis Even A Real Thing?

That sucky period in your early twenties has a name, but is it a millennial myth? 

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

It seems like every day there's some new thing for millennials to worry about. Have you found someone willing to marry you yet? Do you have a career with growth potential? Why aren't you rich and Instagram-famous and best friends with Rihanna by now? What it boils down to is: why isn't your life perfect yet?

The quarter life crisis is a label I've avoided for a while now. If you believe Wikipedia (and if you're a true millennial, why wouldn't you?), it's defined as a "period of life usually ranging from the early twenties to the mid twenties, in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult." It's basically when you have a mid-life crisis before your time, and instead of buying sports cars and having affairs, you get really resentful of all of your seemingly-more-successful Facebook friends and start reblogging a lot of depressing text posts on Tumblr.

The quarter life crisis is characterized by the nagging feeling that life is passing you by and the sneaking suspicion that everyone has their crap together but you. Based on what movies have taught me, here's how you're supposed to fix it: travel (because even though you're broke you can somehow afford it), flirt with mysterious strangers in coffee shops, and do quirky things in trendy outfits. Basically, live your life like you're the star of your own indie movie.

But is the quarter life crisis even a real thing, or just another catchy name we invented for its hashtag potential? ("Here's a selfie of me sitting alone in my studio apartment. #quarterlifecrisis") At first glance, it sounds valid enough. Put ten 20-somethings in a room together and I'll show you 10 people who probably hate at least one aspect of their lives, and who spent the majority of their time in that room comparing feverishly comparing themselves and their accomplishments to the other nine.

The insecurity, the doubt, the anxiety - it's real, without a doubt. If you went to college, there's nothing more terrifying than graduating without a job offer in sight. If you chose a different path - work, travel, whatever - then reaching a point where you're waiting to feel like you "made it" is super stressful. Transitioning into adulthood - no matter where you come from or what path you chose - is no joke, but neither was the transition to college, or high school - hell, even middle school was a big deal at the time.

It's for that reason that I hesitate to label the difficulties of my twenties as a crisis. Because just reading the words "quarter life crisis" makes me simultaneously tense up and deflate. It fills me with the worse kind of sudden and inexplicable anxiety: Am I having a quarter life crisis? Should I be? Is it coming? Am I fooling myself by thinking I'm doing alright?

Your life is never going to be perfect - fate will make sure of that. People lose jobs, relationships end, and there will never be a period in your life where your hair always looks the way you want it to. But that's not a crisis - that's life. Even when it sucks - call me cynical, but that's still just life.

If the term is helpful for you because it validates what you're going through, then more power to you. I don't want to take that away. But sometimes, looking at the molehills of our lives and giving them names that would better fit mountains causes more harm than good.

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