by Marta Garayoa
We have all heard about the midlife crisis but, I hope I’m not alone here, I believe there is also a quarterlife crisis that might be hitting more people than we think. Maybe even you, reader, can see yourself, to a certain degree, stuck in this weird phase without even noticing it. You’re certainly not a kid but you don’t see yourself as a full adult either, so you’re trapped in a sort of limbo. Maybe that discomfort, certain melancholy for the good old college days and the feeling you sometimes get when you actually don’t know where your life is heading but you just keep walking, are some indicators of what I consider my quarterlife crisis. Don’t get me wrong, I know those are all signs of being human and alive and I know it has nothing to do with age, but the sudden entry into adulthood is not a piece of cake.
Ten years ago, when I was 15, I pictured myself as I should be right now, and it was a whole different story. I thought I would have moved out of my parents’ place, I thought I would be in a stable relationship towards a future together with my significant other, I thought I would be working in a different country doing something meaningful to change the world. I thought I would have money to travel the world, wear fancy clothes and that I would have more answers. Instead, all I have is more questions. Maybe the problem is that I have never been too realistic, instead of a dark adolescent I was the dreamy kind, and now I’m paying the price.
My 15-years-old self thought of my 25-year-old self as an accomplished woman. Okay, I have a degree, actually two, I speak a few languages with certain fluency and I have a job. Full stop. I still live with my parents, I still depend on them financially, I’m not in a serious relationship or anything that could lead to starting my own family, I still don’t cook and I’m still the same height (I have to admit that I thought I would keep on growing after that age and, in a way, I’m still waiting for it).
During my college years I have done many things. I have participated in many debate tournaments, I have done internships nonstop in and out of my country, I have published articles, attended different courses and seminars, learnt languages, read many books and essays, worked on different personal projects… I am proud to say that those years were really fruitful. I always found a way to get involved in many things at the same time.
Right now, all I do is work. I wake up, go to work, come back for lunch, then head back to the office and at 9pm, when I finally get home, I don’t feel like listening to good music, or writing, or reading. My brain needs a break, or that’s the excuse I tell myself. “You’ve worked so much today, you deserve to rest now and not do anything meaningful”. And that’s the problem: I don’t do anything meaningful or fulfilling, the days pass, and suddenly, I look myself in the mirror and I am half as interesting and fruitful as I was a year ago. My brain is slowly drying out and I am not changing the world or even working on getting there eventually. I don’t like this B&W version of me. I refuse to think my fruitful years are over. Of course I think it’s just a phase, and that eventually I will adjust to this new real world.
Since I was 3 years old, when I started kindergarten, my life revolved around school: friends, books, schedules, holidays, exams, birthday parties, basketball team, teachers, projects… All that is gone now. You are suddenly kicked out of that system, with a paper in your hands that certifies that you have studied something and you’re supposed to face the world with just that, a piece of paper.
None talks about how empty your life can be now that it’s you who guide it, you who give and receive orders to and from yourself and that you are the sole responsible for your future. You are the only person who must choose whether to keep working somewhere you don’t belong or quit and look for something more meaningful and challenging, maybe out of your country, out of your comfort zone, something that would get you closer to the 25-year-old self you pictured 10 years ago, the person you would be proud to be. After being told what to do, what to read, what to write about in an essay and what to answer in an exam based on the teacher’s notes, you have to suddenly start thinking for yourself and making thousands of decisions that will have a direct impact on your life, and THAT, is scary. It’s always better to have someone to put the blame on for your mistakes.
I hope I’m not the only one who is having some trouble adjusting to this new and challenging phase of adulthood at the first-quarter mark of my life. I guess that’s what the adults of my childhood used to call “growing up”. I do not want to think what the midlife crisis will be like; I’ll see when I get there. In the meantime, I will make it through. I’ll take life in my own hands and shape it, perhaps not exactly into what I was dreaming of 10 years ago, but certainly into a life that I am responsible for, I am creative and I enjoy.