When you’re a kid, you dream of growing up. Turning 16 means you have control of your life, as long as you get access to four-wheels and a motor. Turning 18 means you no longer have to listen to anyone but yourself, although if you’re smart you’ll still listen to your parents sometimes. Turning 21 means, for most people, a real party. Personally I don’t drink, but it’s definitely rite of passage for others.
But somehow, when you graduate from college and start working, birthdays lose some of their meaning. Really, what happens at, say, 23?
As soon as we leave the school bubble, we really do have to grow up. So here I am, employed in my first job and facing the first dreaded milestone in my life: 25th birthday and the quarter-life crisis.
My generation grew up believing in ideals: Chase your dreams, follow your passions. These beliefs permeated our actions as we strove to be not only the genius, but also the dedicated athlete, volunteer, musician, etc. A well-rounded generation of dreamers and achievers.
Throughout my education I was well-versed in balancing homework, extracurricular activities, and a social life. I could work on a paper, study for a test, and still go out with friends. When it came time to leave college, I cheated the system and went to grad school. Two more years of the school bubble. Two more years to avoid reality.
Of course I did eventually make a decision. I’ve lived in New York for almost 6 months now, and my whole lifestyle has changed from the laidback Austinite to the fast-paced New Yorker. I’m working at a large public relations firm, and I like my job and my team. I like the city for all its sights and adventures, and I’ve made new friends.
Yet I still feel lost.
The quarter-life crisis exists because of this big transition in life. Every idealistic notion I had for the past 24 years was demolished with a diploma and a decision about my career. Many of us face the problem of balancing reality with passion. When we leave school, we have to start thinking about the future, which means we can’t spend all our money traveling the world, or else how will we ever afford our 2.2 kids and that house with the white picket fence?
Somehow the achiever is still achieving, but the dreamer is dwindling.
There is only one thing we can do: recalibrate. I am balancing new factors while slowly building new routines with my passions. Yes, a lot of it revolves around work, but it’s also some of what I enjoy, like exploring the culinary delights of the city, and becoming a mentor to teens.
What I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to know what you want or exactly where you’re going. Just try to have a vague idea of where you want to be, and slowly make your way to that general vicinity while trying everything along the way. You’ll figure out what you do and don’t like, and you’ll start dreaming again.
What I think I want changes constantly, but every day that passes I am learning more about where I want to be. 25 is here, and it’s not so bad. I’m looking forward to everything I will learn and experience as the years pass.
I’ll just have to keep that in mind when I approach the infamous 40.