PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMAN BODNARCHUK SHUTTERSTOCK
These days it seems everywhere I go -- be it a dinner, the club, work or a movie night with the girls -- the quarter-life crisis discussion is unavoidable. And after hours of carousel-like chitchat we always part ways even more confused than when we began.
According to Dictonary.com, the quarter-life crisis is "a crisis that may be experienced in one's twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one's life." The Urban Dictionary adds that you "feel as though you're waiting for your life to begin."
A few years ago, aged 23, I began to feel the effects of the quarter-life whirlwind and wrote a short piece titled 20-Something and Stuck in a Rut? Since then I've realized two things: A -- what I was experiencing wasn't the pinnacle of this so called "crisis" as I had dramatically written and B -- whatever it was, was going to last for a very long time.
While living through this phase I've often felt unaccomplished as I've idly watched friends, and Facebook friends, evolve, leave the country, get promoted or walk down the aisle. Needless to say that although their picture perfect uploads added salt to the wound, envy added an additional filter to the scene.
It's so easy to look at those around us or even celebrities and idolize their lives, quick to list all their accomplishments but forgetting to acknowledge the struggles endured along the way. Dare we ask about their hustle, the times they almost gave up, cried themselves to sleep or sought validation in everything else besides themselves.
Through it all I've come to realize that this is no crisis but growing pains experienced during the process of life as you transition from who you are into who you are becoming.
Maya Angelo poetically said, "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
What the caterpillar endures to become a butterfly could be a mirror to the quarter-life crises. And yes, it is necessary. How can you expect 9-year-old you, 16-year-old you or even 21-year-old you to be mature enough or strong enough to handle the things that 25-year-old you has to face? Or expect 26-year-old you to handle what 29-year-old you will face. Whatever you're dealing with is not meant to break you; but meant to toughen you as you prepare for what is to come.
Don't merely focus on the discomfort of the process but understand why it's significant in your life. Learn to see through the walls of the cocoon to what lies on the other side.
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with life that you ended up doing absolutely nothing? Your apathy leads to stagnation. Stagnation brings about discomfort and eventually you become comfortable with being uncomfortable which results in a crisis. The thing is you want more out of life and you know you can be more but you don't want to make the sacrifices to achieve more.
How many New Year's resolutions do you have that are a duplicate of the previous years? Why have you not achieved them? Do you actually want to leave the cocoon or have you become comfortable with being uncomfortable?
What you need is a game plan. Get out a pen and paper and write down where you are, where you want to be and then (possibly the most important step) how you're going to get there.
Actively place yourself in places where your opinions will be challenged. Talk about religion or politics and have an opinion! Don't be silent because you're afraid you'll offend someone, by being silent you're already offending someone. Learn to be happy on your terms and stop relying on public affirmation on social media, at work and at home. Do you and stop apologizing!
By the way, I'll have you know, I'm writing from inside the cocoon. I'm in my 25-year-old bubble. I don't have the answers. I'm still fighting the areas of my life where I've become complacent. I don't like discomfort or the pain that comes with growth but I've come to understand that the only way to the other side is through it.
As I write this, I'm reminded by Elizabeth Appell's quote that reads, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
So call it a crisis, if it pleases you, but don't fail to acknowledge what's really happening. You're in transformation.
Yes, it hurts, it's messy and it's beautiful. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll question life, love and everything in between. You'll give into the things you once swore against and veer far off the path to the plans you made when you were 21. Some of your closest friends will become acquaintances and a stranger you meet on a two-hour flight will become your best friend. From time to time you'll cry yourself to sleep and in another breath rise up with even greater strength. The transformation tests everything.
Steve Maraboli beautifully said, "Life doesn't get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient."
And, if you're strong enough to hold out long enough -- and sometimes that means just standing in silence while you regain your strength -- you'll eventually break through the walls of your cocoon. The thing is, once you're free, you're going to need to learn how to fly.