This blog post is going to be a little personal. I’m turning 30 in January, and
I’m having an insanely difficult quarter life crisis I wanted to reflect on some of the things I’ve been feeling about where my life is and where it’s going so far. I’m hoping that by being super open and honest about my slightly later than normal quarter life crisis, those of you who may be feeling some of the same things will realise that you’re not alone or crazy. And hopefully, by the end of the post we can all feel a little bit better about where we are headed in life!
Talent, Determination, Grit
If you speak to my parents, (which you should do, they’re awesome), they’ll tell you that I’ve always been a bit of a firebrand. If I wasn’t prancing around learning ballet or one of 5000 musical instruments, I was daydreaming about becoming an astronaut, an Egyptologist, or a spy. Or some kind of super space-ballerina-spy with an unhealthy obsession with pyramids. Don’t hate, I had dreams, yo.
I excelled at school and academics, in fact it was really only sport that I hated, and still do. So of course, academic achievement became expected of me, by me. My parents were super chilled, it was my own competitive and perfectionist nature that put the pressure on. I was a pretty serious kid.
On top of that, I had quite a gentle nature, and I enjoyed looking after people and animals. So I was hurt deeply by false friends, but I also learnt the value of being kind. Dream kid, right?
Even at university, I was considered an achiever. I have my MA, I received multiple awards and funding for my degrees. I even briefly lectured a course in my specialization, and presented my research at international conferences in South African and Austria.
Reality and the daily grind: the beginnings of a quarter life crisis
I’m telling you this so that you understand the title of this article: ‘Wasted Potential’. Because, as I sit here, I am currently a guest English teacher in 5 public schools in Korea, living on an island that no one has even heard of. I teach 25 hours a week, and most of the time I’m not entirely sure that I’m making all that much difference in my students’ lives. I’m meant to have a Korean co-teacher, but that rarely happens, so I’m unable to really give my everything to exciting lesson plans because I’m bound by what I can explain to my elementary level students.
I’m a pretty good teacher, I think, and I do enjoy it for the most part, but I certainly never saw myself as an EFL teacher. Space-ballerina 8 year old me is wondering what the heck happened. 29 year old me is googling “quarter life crisis”.
What happened was that I burnt out, and I wrote a little bit about it here. And almost 2 years later I still want nothing to do with academia. I ended up living in Johannesburg, working 2 jobs and still not being able to cover my half of the rent every month. I was driving hundreds of kilometers a week, and though I didn’t hate my jobs, I was wearing thin.
I trained as a drama therapist, and if you’re wondering what that is, that’s exactly my point. There aren’t really jobs advertised for DT’s floating around. My fellow DT’s are doing amazing work of pioneering the field, but I didn’t have the heart, nor the capital, to do that.
My husband and I got married in March 2016 and by the end of that year we had quit our jobs and applied to work in Korea. By Feb 2017 we were here. It was the best decision we have ever made, and I would make it again and again. I know in my heart that life isn’t all about the money, but my goodness having a bit of money certainly helps! It is an infinite load off my mind when my problems with saving money are not about paying rent every month, but for planning vacations and travel.
So what’s your problem?
Here’s the rub. It’s like as I approach 30 there are 2 more and more distinct ‘me’s. There is the me that is enjoying my new life, and loving writing a travel blog and getting to visit exciting places and buy the things I want, blah, blah, blah. And then there is the quieter me that kind of pulls at the corner of my dress and reminds me of everything I thought I would be at this point in my life.
This is the me that was sure we were going to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and change the world. This is the me that worked f**cking hard to get her MA and never got to practice as a therapist and test those muscles out. This is the me that is judgemental, and more than a little disappointed.
As I approach 30, I’m finding it harder to be both of these people and still function with kindness in the world, mostly because I’ve stopped being kind to myself.
That’s Fucking depressing, Monique, where are you going with this?
I’m kind of hoping that I’m the only person who has felt this way, because it’s shitty, but I’m almost certain that I’m not. Our dear wonderful Wikipedia says that a quarter life crisis is defined by feelings of being “lost, scared, lonely or confused about what steps to take to transition properly into adulthood.” They also say that studies focusing on quarter life crisis sufferers show that that unemployment or choosing a career path or huge parts of what stresses out young people and causes anxiety.
I’m incredibly lucky to have family that is supportive and kooky enough to know that I was always going to do life a little differently. I know that not everyone is that fortunate, and that many people beat themselves up only to go home or skype family and find more disparaging comments coming from those who should love you the most.
If that is you, I want you to know that you get to choose your family. You get to choose who gets a say in your life and how much power what they say has over you. If you can’t get away from that nonsense physically, I hope you find safe spaces in your head, on the internet, or wherever you feel loved. If you’re struggling, chuck me a comment or an email and let’s put my therapy training to the test (actually I’ll probably help to refer you to people I trust or organisations I know near you).
So here are some of the things I’m challenging myself to do, and hopefully, you can find some use for them to. It’s our ”quarter life crisis survival kit”
- Looooooove yourself. Seriously. Let’s work on that self-esteem a little bit and get back to being our biggest supporters. If you need some self care tips, we have you covered here.
- Counter intrusive voices with kindness. Imagine someone in your life that loves you, whether it is your grandma or your SO. The next time you think something terrible about yourself, imagine what that person would say to anybody that said that about you. Yup, grandma’s got your back, boo!
- Reevaluate your goals. Maybe the problem is that you have new priorities and old goals. Reevaluate what you want to achieve short term and long term, without judgement or comparing it to what you used to want. You are not a tree, you are allowed to move and change!
- Think about what you would do if you only had x number of months to live. This changed everything about how I view my current life. If I had 2 months left to live, I’d travel as much as I could. So how can I feel crap about myself when I’m literally doing that now! Priorities in check!
- Be open and real with the people who love you. When was the last time you had a deep meaningful 2am conversation with someone? We did it all the time as tortured teens, but we get so closed and scared as adults. Open up to people who know and value you and you might find they feel the same way as you. Or, you know, tell everything to strangers on the internet, cos that works for me.
- Get your perspective right. You do not have to have your shit together by a certain age. If you did, your life would be a hell of lot more boring.
- Give yourself small things to work on. Instead of getting swallowed up by quarter life crisis induced existential dread, make an honest list of the things that you really need to change in your life and get to it. These are small things, like getting more exercise, or reading more, things that together will add up to being comfortable with who you are. For more on how to combat anxiety, check this out.
Was that as good for you as it was for me?
Honestly, we only have one crazily short life to live. Don’t be miserable. There isn’t anything in this life that is mandatory (but try not to break the law kids, unless it’s an unjust law, in which case, punch the Nazi).
Just live your one imperfect and beautiful life because you are the only one who can.
Like it? Save it to your existential crisis Pinterest board!