“Stay in school,” they said.
“Just get good grades,” they said.
“You need to get an education,” they said.
“Work hard,” they said.
“It’ll all pay off when you graduate,” they said.
“You can be anything you want to be,” they said.
They meant well. And technically they weren’t lying, because they probably all believed it too.
But technicalities never made anyone feel any better.
You played the game, just like me. You did those all nighters trying to memorise graphs and buzzwords. Is chapter 6 in the exam? Do we need to study chapter 6?
You thought you were going places. You thought there was light at the end of that exam tunnel. Oh, those dreams. Such big dreams.
Then you got to 25 and the dust settled. Holy shit, you said to yourself. There’s no pot of gold here. They were just buttering you up to be mortgage-paying, tie-wearing, tax-paying oompa loompas.
Say hello to the quarter-life crisis.
You know why every 25 year old is fucking depressed these days? Because we never got what we were promised. No one jumps through more hoops than a 15 year old. First you learn how to find the angles of a triangle. Then you learn how to translate Hamlet’s gibberish into a 1,500 word essay. Then you learn how to turn x and y into numbers and then back into letters again. And we did it all, just like they told us to. Why? Because good shit was supposed to happen after that.
“You’ll have everything you ever wanted.”
“The world will be your oyster after this.”
“You’ll have the whole world in your hands.”
The whole world? Really? All I ended up with in my hands was a calculator and a one hour lunch break.
We were never going to be rockstars. None of us were meant to be rich or famous.
There’s a sense of entitlement among my generation, but it’s not really their fault. We were raised that way. Parents and teachers and movies and governments said to us every day, “work hard in school and you can become anything you want to be.”
Why the hell do they say that? It’s a lie. It fucks up our expectations. They teach us not to lie about stealing candy yet it’s okay for them to lie about life.
Instead, they should be saying “work hard in school and statistically you are most likely to graduate with a bunch of student debt, get a job you don’t like, earn around $39,000 a year, spend 25 years paying off a mortgage for a house that wasn’t your dream home, drive a second hand Corolla and probably have a couple of kids before getting your first divorce.”
It’s not the best sales pitch. But does it need to be? 100 years ago parents just told their kids “study hard and you’ll get a good job.” What happened to that one? At least it’s the truth.
Jack Nicholson was just joking you know. We can handle the truth.
Instead, we all grow up to be bitter and pissed off because we passed all those maths exams and didn’t end up a movie star.
So here you are. 25 years old, give or take. At the quarter way point, and realising life in the real world isn’t quite what you thought it would be. It’s like a bad practical joke, 25 years in the making. You’re showing all the quarter life crisis signs, neck deep in quarter life crisis depression, Googling for quarter life crisis books to save you. Bad news. Nobody’s coming to save you.
But here’s the good news.
You made it. You survived. You got all those pieces of paper and you made it out alive. And you probably learned a few things along the way, like how to find the area of a triangle. By now you’ve probably figured out finding the area of a triangle isn’t essential to happiness, or even getting a job. But it might serve you well at a pub quiz one day.
But here’s the real good news: You can break out of this. You’re young, you’re able, you’re fit and intelligent. With the right mindset, the quarter life crisis doesn’t stand a chance. Because me and you – we’re going to conquer this quarter life crisis together. Here’s the gameplan.
How to deal with a quarter life crisis
1. Start Over
25 is not the quarter point of your life. It’s the beginning. Conquering your quarter life crisis isn’t about going extreme or living in self pity. It’s about starting over.
Forget everything you were taught about the world.
A degree? Just an option. Not a necessity.
Marriage? There’s no such thing as too late. Only too early.
Buying a house? Only once you’ve travelled the world and decided on a place to call home.
The first step to solving the quarter life crisis is understanding you have been conditioned to believe what they want you to believe. You’ve been buttered up to be just another noddy. Now, instead of living in this Truman Show, you need to create your own. Understand that reality is whatever you want it to be.
Unlearn everything. Try and see the world with fresh eyes. Learn to make your own decisions and generate your own ideas. Life begins today.
2. Go Back To School
They were right about one thing. You need an education.
You need to learn, and you know nothing right now. Life has just begun, remember? So ask yourself, what do you want to learn? I know for damn sure it’s not trigonometry or algebra, so what is it?
Maybe it’s the guitar, or painting, or dance, or sailing. Maybe it’s cooking or boxing. Only you know. School isn’t going to suck this time around. You’re going to be chasing a passion, you’re going to be hungry to learn.
Nobody can force you to study periodic tables while dangling a carrot of fame and riches in front of you now.
“Young man, you better learn that K is potassium or you’re never going to the job of your dreams!”
Ain’t no periodic tables in my dreams.
You decide when to show up. You choose the subjects. You’ll like school this time.
Decide What You Want
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The best question you’ve ever been asked. Too bad it gets asked when you’re four years old, and all you want to do is eat ice cream and play with ninja turtles.
Do you know the best time to ask yourself that question? Right now. When you actually know what it means. When you actually have the chance to do something about it. When you actually know what it takes to get there.
Do you wanna be famous? A rock star? An A-list actor?
Go for it. At least you know what it takes now. No more empty promises. You know the struggle, the unlikelihood, and the long journey it’ll require. But this is how to deal with a quarter life crisis. Seeing reality, and venturing out to create your dream anyway.
Maybe your dream might be one that’s a little easier to attain – maybe a yoga teacher or a world traveller.
Whatever it is, you know the deal now. You don’t need to pass chemistry to make it happen. Decide what you want and go for it with everything you’ve got.
Understand there is no normal
You know what the best part about the status quo is?
Stomping the shit out of it.
Think about all the people you look up to, your role models, the people you admire. What do they all have in common?
I don’t know who your idols are, but I’m going to guess they’re all outliers. Exceptions. There’s nothing normal about them. They stand for something, and they don’t care what others think.
There’s a handful of people I admire – Mike Tyson, Eddie Huang, Curtis Stone, Anthony Bourdain, Kobe, J Cole, Pharrell, to name a few.
None of them are normal. That’s why they’re inspirations. None of them sit behind a desk in shirt and tie. None of them wait for their annual leave before they go get their shit done. They all believe in something and they live by those beliefs.
What about you? Where do you want to go in this life? What do you believe in?
People tell you normal is having a job you don’t like and mortgage you can’t afford. Blink twice and you’ll see there’s nothing to gain in striving to be normal. Normal is there to serve CEOs, governments, banks and corporates, but not you.
So what do you want to be? A professional treasure hunter? A ballerina? Awesome.
Are you afraid that’s not normal?
The only thing that should be normal in this life is people being exactly who and what they want to be.
Invest in yourself
When people talk about investing, they always talk about the stock market or getting yourself a rental property. That’s all good stuff, but there’s an investment vehicle that’s far more important than any other – you.
You can never, ever go wrong by investing in yourself.
You will always be you. You will always have this mind and this body. Invest in it. Make it amazing. Upgrade yourself to the top model and then upgrade yourself some more.
What does that mean?
It means instead of spending your money on shoes and iPads and your time in front of the television, start spending as much of it as you can on yourself. Take classes every day – dancing, yoga, writing, martial arts. Read books. Eat healthy food. Learn a second (and third and fourth) language. Buy a gym membership. Travel. Take time each day to relax and meditate. Don’t spend your hard-earned cash on superficial junk and don’t spend your time building someone else’s dream. Invest your time and money on building the best possible version of you.
Fuck everybody else
I know how it feels. You feel like you’ve been living your life for everybody but yourself. You worry if your friends and family will approve of who you’re dating. You worry what everyone else will think of the outfit you wear to work. You worry what society thinks of your job.
Worrying what everybody else thinks does nothing but make you miserable. You know why? Because you can’t please everybody in this world.
Some smart famous guy once said, “I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.”
If other people are unhappy, that’s their shit to worry about – not yours. So ask yourself, what do you care about? What would make you happy? Learn to put yourself first. You can worry about everyone else’s feelings later.
The quarter-life crisis is inward. It’s a personal crisis. Feeling unfulfilled, following a dream that’s not yours, always desiring something or somewhere else – that all begins from the inside. You can only be happy if you do the things that make you happy; you can only do the things that make you happy if you choose to do them. What do you want to be good at? Who do you want to be? What do you want? These are the questions that change your life. Answer them.
Where to begin? A few places:
- If you want to travel, my free book and budget travel course is available here.
- If you’re ready to go back to school, Udemy is a fantastic place to start – like a mini online university, with expert courses on pretty much everything. I’m enrolled in several (aff link).
- For a toe-dip into self improvement, check out the 4 small things I do each day to try and be more awesome.
- If you’re stuck in a 9-5, I’d suggest reading this relevant post on how to get the most out of it.
- Start reading. Some of the best books for a quarter life crisis are on my reading list. Check it out here.
- If you have any other questions, tweet or email me! I’d love to help.
Here’s to your second quarter being fu*king amazing.
Excellent post, Bren. You are hilarious and oh so accurate. I quit my job to travel this past year and it’s been amazing. I’m at home taking a break now before the next leg of my trip, and I have to say Sunday nights don’t suck nearly as much when you’re not dreading going to work the next day!
It feels as though your blog was created for this article, it just elevated the whole purpose of your blog way beyond just travel. It’s great to see an article like this that delves into your psychology and philosophy because your life is a living example of your message and it’s really inspiring and motivating to see what you can achieve with this attitude – they’re not just empty words on a screen, you’re living your truth. There’s so much brutal truth here but you have to be brutal to break through all the lies we’ve been brought up with our whole lives. I’m actually going to share this with my younger brothers and cousins before they start high school, it’s the best life advice they could receive before being molded into living a mediocre life of middle-class slaves, this may at least help open their minds to all the possibilities before they get lead astray. So many people succumb to it and believe it’s normal, I’ve seen it far too much and it’s hard to break through the conditioning in some people but they need to know the power is in their hands.
“Unlearn everything. Try and see the world with fresh eyes. Learn to make your own decisions and generate your own ideas. Life begins today.” I was saying almost the exact same thing to a friend last week and she said she’s never heard anything like it, that’s how strong our expectation of “normal” has become and it’s gotta change.
This should be shared everywhere because it applies to everyone growing up, young or old – unless you plan on dying tomorrow it’s never too late to believe in and reclaim your life.
Hey Victor thanks for this, I sense you’re starting to blaze in your own trail now too which is great to see and that your sharing your insight and journey with others to hopefully inspire them too. Keep moving forward brother.
Ciao Bren =)
I’ve just discovered your blog and I think it’s amazing.
Actually I discovered it because, in the middle of my quarter-life crisis, I decided to book a single flight ticket to Auckland (the further place from my home) and I needed some lessons about NZ slang. ahaha I’m a bit worried about not understanding anything!!
Anyway I really like reading your articles.. I agreed with every single words you say.
Magari, ci si vede in NZ 😉
Thanks a lot 🙂 I think it’s awesome you’re heading off on your own adventure. Do let me know when you get to Auckland, I may still be around!
Sure! I will invite you for a Salsa =)
Inspiring post! You have a talent for writing. I’m ready to push my chair back and go make a change. Thanks for the wise words!
Thanks for reading 🙂
I am an introvert turning 25 next month (Sept). Been through the so called Quarter Life Crisis.
All set for my first Solo trip to Goa on my Bday. My gift to myself. Must say this article really helped.
Great to hear Raj. Enjoy your trip!