I’m facing being a middle aged man later this year as I approach my 40th birthday. The closest thing I’ll come to a midlife crisis is probably a ridiculously calorie baked hamburger. That’s right. No crisis. No regrets. Nothing but net. The reason I won’t have a midlife crisis is the same reason I didn’t have a quarter life crisis: I had a plan.
Being older means that I can form strong opinions and people sometimes listen to me. Is it an obligation we have as we grow older to form these strong opinions? Maybe. But for whatever reason as I get older I also feel like I need to give my wisdom to the next generation. Why is that random internet reader?
My thoughts have turned to the quarter life crisis. I know a few people who are setting themselves up for it. It’s something looming on the not too distant horizon for them. It doesn’t have to happen but it can. Here is my definition of the quarter life crisis:
Here are some signs that a quarter life crisis may be in your future:
1. You are Floundering
I left the country while still in my teens for about 2.5 years and when I came back a lot of my friends were still doing the same thing when I left. Some were failing through community college or just hanging out. There was a lot of partying and just plain floundering. We were having fun, so its not like I can say it was all bad. But there was no direction. No thought for the future. No goals.
Maybe I’m strange because I feel like I need to have something I’m working towards or I’m not happy. But this floundering or lack of direction, seems to be the first sign that you will probably have a quarter life crisis.
2. You do lots of meaningless jobs
The second sign that a quarter life crisis might be looming for you is if you have changed jobs a lot during the past year. How many jobs have you had? What are you looking for? I’m all for people finding better positions, but if you’re just going from one meaningless job to another, what are you thinking will get better? What types of jobs have you had? Are they pointing towards something you are passionate about?
This could also fit into the floundering bullet head, but if you are in a single job and you are really trying to do well and make a difference then I don’t think you are floundering. If you find no joy in your work other than the money you get from it the quarter life crisis is gonna hit you hard.
3. Your Partner(s)
There are different ways partners can drag you into a quarter life crisis. The first way is if you hitch your wagon to somebody who is floundering. A good partner can bring you up, a bad partner can bring you down. Its hard to tug a boat that’s anchored in one place. Its hard to change a person. My hardened view of the world is that it is rare for people to change. Most people just don’t. You hear about people changing, but usually its after the crisis. People evolve but they don’t radically change. When you see it, its amazing. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen very much.
Another way you can tell a midlife crisis is coming is if you go through partners like you do jobs. If you are constantly looking for love and not feeling satisfied maybe you’re the problem. Or maybe you’re looking to dance with the wrong people and you should change your scene.
It’s natural to feel discouraged if you are not finding anyone you can connect with. I felt that way when I was in my early 20s. Seemed like I could never find anyone that I could connect with and then found my wife. My sister in law didn’t find her soul mate until she was 33. So don’t give up and don’t flounder because you’re waiting for someone. Instead, spend time with friends and feed your passions.
One last thing here: Internet Dating is not a bad thing. I know too many success stories of people who subscribed to a dating service. I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it work.
4. Your Debts
Do you have debts that are unrelated to school? Do you spend more than you take in from your meaningless job to keep up your hip appearance? As you continue to pay the minimum balance on your credit card you are heading towards financial disaster.
My stance as a parent is that I won’t loan money to my kids. I’ve learned from books and other sources I can’t find and I’m too lazy to reference that paying off your kids debts doesn’t help them learn. It’s a hard lesson they should have had ingrained in their heads before they graduated high school.
If you keep amounting debt and you haven’t turned 25, and that debt is unrelated towards a goal where you can be earning money to pay it off (like college or a special project) then you are heading towards a quarter life crisis.
5. You Keep Score
As you start to compare yourself to others you are heading towards a quarter life crisis. If your friend drives a nice car or goes on ski trips and you don’t then you start to feel bitter. We all know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others if we want to be happy. Instead, try to think about what you have done this year compared to last year and compare yourself to your old self. If you constantly compare yourself to others you are heading towards a quarter life crisis.
The cure to the quarter life crisis: Pick a Plan
The closest I came to a quarter life crisis was when I was in community college 6 months before I got accepted to a 4 year university. I had a plan in place, but I was unsure whether it would work. It was long and it was monotonous. There was no recognition from peers. No one said: “Hey that’s awesome, Finance Jerk is getting his AA from a who-cares-community-college”. Everywhere I looked people had more money, better relationships, and just looked like they were having more fun than me.
I came up with the mantra: “Stick with the Plan” as my daily affirmation. What is your plan? In reality it doesn’t matter too much what the plan is. It could be get an electrician’s license, get a real estate license, finish community college, get your BA degree, or pay off your debt.
If you have something you’re working towards the joys of the journey and the payoff at the end do so much to lift you out of depression and spitefulness. The setbacks that come can be mitigated because you know in the back of your mind that you have a plan and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s important to note that once you reach that light and you accomplish your goal that you make a new plan. If you have a plan, then the effects of the quarter life crisis will be diminished to just another day on the way to the end goal.