I never really considered myself one of those people who was scared of change. I never dreaded a new school year or starting a new job beyond the usual jitters about the first day of work. I was more excited than terrified to move to Edinburgh. I had some mild anxiety about backpacking around Europe by myself for the first time, but I pushed through with copious amounts of coffee and Google maps. I never wanted being ‘scared’ to be the reason I don’t give something a try.
I like to try new things. Food. Places. Hanging around new people. All part and parcel of that whole “living and growing” stuff I read so many flowery quotes on beautiful scenic photographs on the internet of. I think I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the last twenty-three years, but I don’t pretend to know what the universe has in store for me, and how that might affect me. And I used to like not knowing. All the different possibilities seemed exciting, but now they feel overwhelming and kind of suffocating.
I’ve always had a plan. I was that little kid who knew from the age of five that they were going to go to university. No one else in my family had (excluding my aunt), but I knew that I wanted to. I loved learning. In fact, the first job I ever wanted was to be a teacher before realizing that I was not the sort of angel who could handle years of dealing with hormonal teenagers. Then I wanted to be a political analyst, next a forensic psychologist. I never panicked switching my degree several times throughout university. Eventually I decided I wanted to travel, and that I would just finish up my history degree and come back and apply for law school when I was ready.
Travelling was everything I needed. It was learning in a completely different environment, but no less important. I met some of my best friends. I met another girl who wanted to be a writer like me. Despite being completely out of my comfort zone, I’ve never felt more comfortable. Fifty dollars could get me to Paris and back. I could hop into the car with a friend and see the magnificent sights of Glen Coe or the Old Man of Storr. I could walk four blocks from my flat and climb Arthur’s Seat to look across the skyline of Edinburgh from the Pentland Hills, over the Old Town to the castle, and out to the Firth of Forth. Even if I had a moment of doubt, a fleeting “what am I doing with my life” serving full-time to pay the bills, those experiences always made it worth it.
Then I came home. I missed all of my family and friends, and seeing their faces was definitely worth the airfare, which was significantly more than fifty dollars. Several proper Canadian breakfast were consumed, half a dozen slurpees, driving on the appropriate side of the road again, and seeing the sun on a more than semi-regular basis. I had plenty of time to focus on writing, but found it increasingly hard. Not because I was busy, but because everyone around me was. I had all the time in the world, and I filled it scrolling through tags on tumblr. If I stepped away from my laptop (meaning rolling out of bed) I was consumed with the idea that I was doing nothing with my life. I’d debate studying for the LSAT to kill time, and then decide I owed it to myself to give myself a proper chance as an artist. I kept repeating, ‘I’m still young. I still have time.’ But time just keeps ticking, and I feel like I’ve grinded to a halt.
I tried to get a job relating to my degree, which turned out to be pretty impossible. Now I’m serving… again. One of what I’m sure are hundreds of thousands of university educated people making minimum wage in the service industry. My bachelor degree sits at the bottom of one of the many boxes I’ve yet to unpack. I book more trips to have something to look forward to. Montreal. Australia. I love travelling, but being a wandering nomad conflicts with that deep-rooted pressure to get a job, have a career – to grow up.
I think what I’m going through is a “quarter-life crisis.” And before you roll your eyes and groan, I can make a pretty compelling case for it (see that inner lawyer at work already).
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a ‘mid-life crisis.’ The buying a fancy new sports car, getting a sudden divorce, or getting a boob job – all punch lines to a bad joke in a terrible movie. While a ‘mid-life crisis’ never became a formal diagnostic category, it has been studied as a transitional period in adults usually marked by a significant event (a death of a parent, a child moving out, etc.) and suggests a new ‘decade’ for that individual. Many psychologists hesitate to use the term ‘crisis,’ because it can actually be a good thing. It’s a time to reflect on your life, and make changes. Sure, it can lead to depression, but it’s often more of a transitional period. The ball has been rolling for so long that the opportunity to stop, breathe, and think can have as many positive impacts as it does negative.
And while my nonexistent child hasn’t moved out, nor am I between the age of 37-59 – I think a quarter-life crisis rather accurately describes my life at the moment. I don’t have the money for a sports car, but the motivating factor resulting from a disillusionment with life – where you saw yourself versus where you are – is pretty similar. Of course, I’m young. I have plenty of time to sort myself out, or so everyone keeps telling me, but increasingly those societal expectations slap me in the face despite their encouragements. Career. Marriage. Mortgage. I’ve never been one to follow the flock, but the squawking is pretty loud regardless.
So without the sports car, I sink into the couch. Wrapped up in blankets, eating my second bag of Doritos, and marathoning yet another television series, long having giving up trying to convince myself that this is “research” for my own writing. I force myself to shower when I have to work, and complain about asshole customers to my co-workers as we casually sip dark lager from our coffee mugs so no one is the wiser. I watch my friends study for masters degrees or get jobs that require them to work nine to five as I spend an increasingly alarming amount of time talking to my dogs. When people ask what I’m doing with my life, I explain that I just moved home from Scotland and I’m working to get back on my feet. Though ‘just’ doesn’t quite fit anymore as it slowly approaches six months since I moved back into my mom’s house. I don’t feel like I’m “just” doing anything anymore. I feel like I haven’t done a thing.
But the most important thing for me to remember is that whether it’s a mid-life, quarter-life, three-quarter life, or one-sixteenth life crisis (if I turn into a robot or am somehow made immortal), is that it is just a transitional period. It’s a chance to stop and make lasting changes, no matter what age you are. To do what you want and not just what you feel like you are supposed to be doing. There is always time.
I mean, my bank account might not agree with that philosophy but I try not to look at my bank statements that often anyway. Perfectly acceptable adult behavior, right?