I hope this post finds you well and in good spirits. As the title suggests, I wanted to take a few minutes today to write about my ongoing quarter-life crisis (heads up—this is going to be a lengthy one). In case you’re out of the loop, I’m 27 years old and I recently quit my job of nearly four years. I come from a mathematics and psychology background, but neither of those fields really had any kind of impact on my particular job, which had been in the financial derivatives area. Because of my unhappiness at the company, I decided my life would be more productive if I quit and moved back home. So I did.
When I moved home, I felt like I entered some kind of warped time zone. The house I grew up in was almost exactly the same, and going into my old room, I found old diaries and school notebooks filled with the hopes and dreams of a naive, but bright, teenage girl. It’s shocking to realize it’s been 10 years since I was in high school. In fact, my 10-year reunion is planned for Labor Day weekend next year. Reading through my old diary entries, I laughed and smiled at my former way of thinking, as well as the good memories I held onto, but I was also filled with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.
There was so much to laugh about when we were younger. When I think about it, I never really had the same candid moments of glee like I did in the halls of Springdale High. Reading through my old senior notebook, I’m reminded of a time when I was obsessed with Hayden Christensen, aka Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars, and of a time when I was so sure of the picture of my future to come. I was going to be a forensic scientist living in California. When I went away to Westminster College that fall, I began as a biology major, but through the nonsensical episodes of school and life, I finished with a Bachelors in math—no longer striving to go into forensic science. In fact, I really had no direction or plan when I walked through the columns on my graduation day.
The summer after graduation was spent looking for a “real” job, and in September, I finally got one in the Kansas City metro area. I was going to be a property claims adjuster for a large insurance company. The first 4-5 months were enjoyable… we were flown to Los Angeles for home office training, and we got to travel out of town for a week to do field training in the middle of the worst ice storm that year in Oklahoma. After months of training and licensing, we were finally released onto the floor where we were assigned a variety of claims to finish. And the claims kept coming. After a year, I quit that job, and it remains my most challenging professional experience to this day. I can honestly say that none of the people who were on my team at the beginning were there when I left. Job satisfaction was nonexistent, and the turnover was nonstop.
After the insurance job, I worked as a substitute teacher for a lady who would be out for three months on maternity leave. I had always been curious about teaching math, and let me just say that this particular experience cured that. For three months I taught 8th graders Algebra and Pre-Algebra, while mostly feeling like a babysitter and disciplinary figure. The experience left a sour taste in my mouth about today’s youth, and it was really disheartening to find that most kids had zero interest in math. Not only did I have to battle the attitudes of 13 and 14 year olds (most of them bigger than me), but the obvious dislike of a field of study I personally enjoyed, as well. I came into the experience with excitement and optimism, and left with disappointment and defeat. I did enjoy lesson planning and standing at the white board, but the amount of babysitting and disciplinary action I did far outweighed the satisfaction of the role. Most of my days were spent cleaning up spit wads, sending students out to the hall, and telling girls to put down their copy of Twilight and to pay attention. At the start of the new semester, I accepted a full time position at my most recent company. It is here where I realized that I was in the midst of a quarter-life crisis—the quarter-life crisis that has quickly come to define my generation.
Perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who always knew what you wanted in life, but for me, I did not. My aspirations seemed to change with the different phases of the moon. What is a quarter-life crisis? Well… it’s sort of this “OMG–FML” stage that can happen after entering the real world. For me, I felt hopelessly lost, confused and therefore stagnant regarding my future…and incredibly lonely. My dissatisfaction in my professional life made me obsess over what to do with myself, and because of that, my personal life suffered. I was so caught up in trying to force a “perfect” career path for myself, that I unknowingly was attributing all of that negativity into every other area of my life. As the oldest daughter in my family, I was raised with the idea that getting married and having children should take second to being a fully independent woman with a good career. I went through all of high school, college, and my first few years in the real world believing I didn’t want marriage or children. My father always told me, “Never depend on a man for anything in life.” So I didn’t. “Find your passion, Sandra.” I tried. These two phrases are forever ingrained in my mind. My father would also tell me that for the majority of people in the world, their first few jobs would assist in helping them figure out what they did not want to do in life. He would tell me that figuring out jobs I hated doing was still helpful in me figuring out what my passion was. That’s all I feel I’m accomplishing—crossing off things that aren’t for me.
However bleak I feel my current state of affairs are, I am so grateful and happy to be home. I have learned so much about myself in these past couple of months, which I was never able to do in being tied up in a full time job. As corny as it sounds, I have been doing a great deal of soul-searching, and I’ve come to terms with several aspects of my personal desires which I will soon share with you. If you feel like you’re drowning, keep your head up. There is a great deal of pressure and responsibility on our generation. Many people don’t fully understand the implications of that, and I do wish to share my feelings on it soon. Every challenging situation eventually meets its end, and you’ve got to be ready to pick up the pieces and push purposefully onward.