It seems like Generation Y practically invented the term “quarter-life crisis.” While our parents may have gone through a mid-life crisis in their 40s or early 50s, we reach it in our 20s or early 30s. We begin to question what we’re doing with our lives before we’ve really done anything, and search desperately for a change in our career path, relationship status, or appearance.
If you find yourself rapidly approaching the ripe old age of 30, here are seven things that may cause you to end up in a quarter-life crisis of your own.
1. You’re always comparing yourself to others.
Especially online. There are a lot more Joneses to keep up with now that everyone you know and everyone you want to be like keeps a digital representation of their life on social media.
The big problem with that, though, is that you’re not seeing a clear picture. In Facebook photos, everyone is always smiling. Everyone appears to always be on vacation, or out on the town with friends, or married to the best husband/wife in the world. Most people don’t publicly show off the negative things in their lives, or post an album about doing yard work or struggling to pay off their bills. Since you’re seeing a curated view of their life, your own life is going to look shabby by comparison.
Don’t make that mistake, and don’t compare yourself to others who seem more fortunate. Comparison is the thief of all joy.
2. You have unrealistic expectations.
This is one of the defining traits of our generation. We expect to succeed immediately at almost anything we do, without all of that hard work and patience nonsense. We’re special.
No one said life was going to be easy, though. In fact, I believe the saying is “life is hard.” Not “bad”; just “hard.” Being successful at anything takes time and work. You’re not entitled to anything, and shouldn’t expect everything to be handed to you just because you show up. Try a little faithfulness.
3. You think a romantic relationship will make you happy.
I think this is a big cause of the quarter-life crisis. Many people grow up expecting to be married by a certain age, usually by their mid-twenties. But our generation is getting married later than ever—if they ever get married at all. So again expectations aren’t met, and there is pressure to compromise or settle for living together.
I’m married, and though I think marriage is awesome, it’s also hard work. And it definitely isn’t a cure for anything. It doesn’t solve any problems, or validate your existence. And if marriage won’t, then living together or dating and breaking up definitely won’t. Simply put, don’t make your happiness dependent on your relationship status.
4. You expect your job to make you happy.
Enjoying your job is a good thing. But it’s not a requirement, and it’s generally not what you get paid for. If something’s fun, people will do it for free. If it’s not fun, but it must be done—that’s what people will pay good money for.
One problem with looking to your job for satisfaction is that few entry-level jobs are all that satisfying. And entry-level is where, by definition, you must start out. Plus, one thing that makes a job enjoyable is being really good at it, but you’re not going to be really good at something right off that bat. It takes time and practice. If you get dissatisfied and job-hop too quickly, you’ll never reach the point of being good at what you do.
5. You think material things will make you happy.
They don’t. They may be exciting, briefly, or be seen as “cool” for about two months. But material things don’t bring lasting happiness. It’s a scientific fact, with more articles than I can really link to.
If you have excessive material possessions, they start to possess you. Cars break down. Houses require repairs, upgrades, and constant cleaning. The nicer your stuff is, the more you have to protect it or worry about something happening to it. And it all takes money, which can make you a slave to work or to debt. You end up feeling trapped, which is actually phase one of a quarter-life crisis.
6. You are focused solely on yourself.
Gen Y is known for being narcissistic. Before us, there was no such thing as a “selfie.” (In fact, my spellcheck tool just listed that as a misspelled word, because it wasn’t in the dictionary yet when the software was written.)
But life’s not all about you, and focusing on yourself will not actually make you happy. It won’t win you many friends, for one thing, and God designed us as relational creatures. You also won’t make much of a difference with your life if your life is all you’re concerned about.
7. You believe this world is all there is.
A quarter-life (or mid-life, or end-of-life) crisis actually makes sense if this life is all you have to hope for. After all, you’ve just used up a significant chunk of your life, and your time left is relatively short. And you don’t know exactly how short; something could happen tomorrow and a quarter-life could end up being all you get. So what have you done with your life? What are you going to do? And what difference does it really make?
Thankfully, this short life isn’t all there is. Maybe you only live once (YOLO), but you also live forever—in eternity somewhere. And you don’t have to work or behave in this life to “earn” heaven. Heaven isn’t dependent on what you’ve done or will do, but what Jesus did.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your life count. But the way to make it truly count is to invest in eternity, and in the people who will remember your name long after the earth itself is gone.
What’s causing your crisis?