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How to Beat Your Quarterlife Crisis

Adam Starr | Inside Tech

June 11, 2010

Stay Calm, for this too shall pass

Understanding your symptoms will make it easier to control and direct the outcome. So how did you get to this place in your life, and what’s causing a seemingly endless sense of existential angst?

Your Quarterlife Crisis is a direct result of the transition between the structured life of a student and the vastly unstructured and adult reality of economic responsibilities and real world consequences. As a child you knew what you were supposed to do, not only because somebody was telling you what to do, but also because an entire educational system was built around this premise. First you went to Kindergarten, where they started you off easy with half days. Next you went through elementary, middle and high school. While your workload and playtimes kept decreasing, you still had a clear set of goals. You knew you needed to pass each grade and move onto the next.

As an extension of high school, clear expectations continued in college. Did you have more freedom? Sure, you did. You didn’t even need to be there. You could always just drop out of college, but that wasn’t probably something you wanted to do. Knowing what you were supposed to do was very reassuring. You needed to attain your credits, move through each year, and finally graduate with your degree. College was comforting because it was a gradual transition into adulthood that still provided you the familiar routines of your earliest schooling. After all, you still had long breaks and epic summer vacations. In college your main “job” was to study, get through each class and earn the credits for your degree. The question, “what should I be?” was academic. The question, “what am I?” was easier. You were a student. You understood what that meant and how you were expected to perform in that role.

Then you graduated and everything changed. The structure disappeared, what had always seemed like limitless possibility now became an almost crippling paradox of choice. When you can do anything, move anywhere and be anything, you can quickly become overloaded with options. You aren’t a student anymore. You aren’t in a little maze with a clearly defined exit at the end. Congratulations: you’ve made it to the end of that stage of life. Suddenly you need to know answers to the questions you’ve been putting off into the future.

The future is here. Time to decide: What am I? What could I be? What should I be? And most importantly for right now: “What can I be?”

Step 2) Understand the problem

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