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The Late Twenties Crush

June 16, 2009

There is lots written about the quarter-life crisis, but a bunch of friends and colleagues and I have been talking about what happens when you around this age (27ish).  We are comfortable with our jobs, have lived on our own for awhile, making a livable salary, possibly in stable relationships. And then at some point, you look around and go “Oh! Apparently, while life was happening – I am an adult.” As in, I can rent cars, have a file with previous years taxes, compare renter’s insurance policies, plan for retirement and vacations and if I got pregnant or married or something, it wouldn’t be scandalous.

What seemingly happened to me is that I had plans and goals, and along the way – they changed. I went with the flow a bit, and ended up in places that made me really happy. I just assumed that at some point, something would change and I would magically end up at Point B. But here I am, an actual adult and I am at Point C. And the view from here? Pretty awesome. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I would have gone a different way. And then you have that quarterlife crisis all over again, but wonder – is it too late? Should I just stick with Point C and enjoy it? Go to grad school for something else, something totally different? Will it open more doors, or just waste time?

I am an adult – shouldn’t I have figured this out yet?!

For me, I decided to stick with Point C, and go to an affordable grad school that works with my Point C lifestyle in case I want to go off in another point when I have my “Early Thirties Crisis.” And, I finally decided to get that dog that I always dreamed of having when I was an adult. Except, that means I have to move – most likely to the suburbs.

But sometimes I can’t help but feel like I have failed, or given up. Sure, I am happy and content. But, what about all those dreams deferred? I read a lot of great business books, magazines and blogs, and follow some wonderful movers and shakers – and sometimes I can’t help but feel jealous or wistful. I always saw myself as an entrepreneur, and would love to open my own business (don’t ask me doing what – the list of things I would love to be involved in and think I can make work is absurdly long.)

If I wanted to change all that, there are plenty of people out there who want to show me how – to take a risk, and do my own thing. I can’t help but feel a lot of pressure to just take the leap. Except, for me – it doesn’t make sense right now and it may not ever.  And I don’t think I am alone in feeling pressure at this particular age to do something fabulous and groundbreaking and risky. But that doesn’t make sense for me, at this point in my happy life.  And yet, I feel that by delaying it or leaving it as a dream, and making a decision that fits my own life, I am failing the younger, idealistic me. Even if that version of me also thought that Doc Martens and long skirts were the height of fashion.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret permalink
    June 16, 2009 6:06 pm

    “Boy, do I ever know how you feel” said the girl who gave up a great job and a stable life and moved away from all her friends on the blind hope that a new country would bring lots of adventure and her dream job working on a Baz Luhrmann movie. Hmmmm. I’ll let you know how the flip side is working out. So far, kind of the same, but maybe that’s just because Baz hasn’t hired me yet.

  2. June 16, 2009 7:06 pm

    Don’t underestimate “happy and content.” Happy and content is the point — all that other stuff is just a means to get there.

    • June 16, 2009 10:09 pm

      That’s what I keep thinking! Most days I feel so fortunate, but then those few slip in and I wonder if I am not “reaching my full potential.”

  3. June 16, 2009 10:12 pm

    I feel like that actually accurately describes my quarter life crisis (I realize that’s probably not the norm and probably why I have such a hard time relating to people my own age). I moved out more or less immediately after high school graduation, spent a year studying abroad, went to culinary school, got jobs working at exactly the types of bakeries I wanted to (small, locally owned, organic…) and that other bakers would kill for and until January, had been dating the same boy for 6 years.

    Then I suddenly came to the realization that I had everything I thought I wanted and basically zero satisfaction with my life. I felt, I feel, stagnant. Like I’ve done a lot of settling and dream deferring. The person I am is so far from the person, younger, incredibly idealistic me wanted to be or thought I would be.

    So back to school for me. With the stipulation that I have to choose a somewhat useful major (as much as part of me might still major in Arts & Social Change) that is also socially responsible to try to bridge idealism and desire to not be poor for forever.

  4. Erica's Mom permalink
    June 17, 2009 8:52 am

    I think it is interesting that you are questioning your full potential! As a kid because you were brilliant you never had to study and so things were easy! You adjusted in life and accepted certain built in limitations (only 6 dresses to choose from for a bat mitzvah)
    however your expectations of certain people are very low and adjusted down often.
    People need to step out of their comfort zones to grow and so in your case that may mean celebrating Kwanza or playing canasta or staying awake when you drive! You are introspective in an entertaining way and I suppose you get that from me (of course) LEARN TO EAT CHOP LIVER, stand up for the rights of the car parkers everywhere! Your friends may be fun and supportive but I can give you a kidney if you need it!

  5. Alexis permalink
    June 17, 2009 10:07 am

    Wow, I really know how you feel. As I type this I am sitting here at my desk contemplating taking some steps backwards in my life and going to a vocational school for esthetics. I went through college and even on to get my master’s in public relations but I have yet to find a job that makes me happy. So did I do it all wrong? Did I make a grave (and costly) error in judgment? After a lot of thought I have slowly and painfully come to the conclusion that I let others in my life influence my decisions about my career path early in my life. I was too terrified to tell my parents that instead of going to a 4-year university I wanted to go to cosmetology school; I was petrified of letting them down and hearing their disappointment. Now I am 28, have changed jobs 4-5 times since the age of 23, have massive student loan debt and am thoroughly unhappy. Now I don’t know what to do…

    • June 17, 2009 10:12 am

      Wow. That sounds so confusing and frustrating. Is there anything you can do to freelance/volunteer to see if you like doing esthetics before committing to an expensive and/or lengthy program?

      • Alexis permalink
        June 17, 2009 10:24 am

        Honestly, I am not sure. I am looking into things but haven’t come across anything quite yet. I don’t know what to do because I am terrified that I might start an esthetics program and not like it, and then I am right back at square one. I don’t really have anyone I know that is in that industry so I am kind of out in left field. I am thinking of maybe talking to my hair dresser to see if she knows anyone but that is about the only person I could think of that would be a source. It is SO frustrating to feel so…lost. I really wonder if I will ever find what makes me happy and that in and of itself scares me.

  6. June 17, 2009 11:03 am

    I definitely went through this in my late 20s, and continue to do so every so often in my 30s. I think it’s just natural that as you get older, your ideas of what you want, what will fulfill you, etc., change.

    But then again, I think people also hold on to some spark of hope regarding our core dreams and desires. I mean, hell, I still want to sing for a living. Do I honestly think it will happen? No. But do I get a little slice of fulfillment at the karaoke bar every week, and the occasional contests that I enter? Hell yeah!

    Sometimes it’s just a matter of making little adjustments in your life and in your dreams, and finding a way to somehow incorporate them into your “real life”…if any of that makes sense. 🙂

  7. June 17, 2009 12:28 pm

    I definitely know what you mean. Though I’m past the twenties!! So I’m dealing with the thirties thing you mentioned. The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂 It helps to be content with who and what you have, even if it is only some of the time.

    Watch Fight club, it might help 😉

  8. Robin Leathers permalink
    June 17, 2009 2:14 pm

    This is very much a difficult battle, if that’s what we want to call it. It’s really more of a trial, than anything else, where your mind is testing whether you think you’ll get the most out of your current situation or whether something entirely new will better let you ‘live up to your potential’.

    But it’s a trap. Because we don’t know what our “potential” is until we actually meet it, so whenever someone tells you (or you tell yourself) that you’re not living up to your potential, it’s a load of hogwash. Neither you nor the people in your life know what that is.

    The only thing we can do is try to make the best decisions for us NOW, since we are notoriously terrible at predicting what’s going to make us happy in the future (for instance, I am now dating my best friend for the past 8 years….for 7 years I thought he was just a good friend. I had no idea what our ‘potential’ was until we reached it. I have no doubts that there is more to come).

    I think it’s natural for us to always wonder if we should be doing something other than we currently are – I do this *constantly*. The only thing that take me out of ‘freeze mode’ and utter anxiety is to do one thing at a time and see how that thing vibes. I learned that I didn’t want to be PA once I realized what I would have to do to get into school, and that it wasn’t worth it. I learned that I wanted to start a blog by realizing how much I worshiped my GRS feed. I learned that I didn’t want to get a PhD by talking to numerous and seeing how depressed half of them were.

    It might seem like a slow process, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only one that works.

    Thanks for the post – the best way to get people thinking is to share your own trials and tribulations.

  9. June 17, 2009 2:20 pm

    “But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I would have gone a different way.”

    I was literally just thinking about this last week (I even wrote about it). I think you definitely hit on a key aspect of being a 20-something. It’s just as much about what we have done as it is about what we haven’t done.

    I think I sometimes worry that my life – as happy as it is – isn’t “enough” for some invisible standards I’ve set for myself or that I think exist in the world. I feel like I should be doing more.

    A lot of people are always shouting about “doing what you love.” But sometimes it’s not that easy.

    • June 17, 2009 2:25 pm

      Exactly! I think I am doing what I love. And I never think I am “settling” until someone starts up on the whole “be outstanding! be inspiring!”

      I think I am going to try to be inspiring by being myself, successful in areas I didn’t expect, and take joy in the stuff that really matters to me.

  10. June 29, 2009 9:39 pm

    Quarter-life crisis: I’m there and I’m almost graduated. I feel like that should put me over the hump right?

  11. Paul permalink
    April 7, 2010 6:19 am

    Oh wow,

    I am 27 and I just signed up for summer classes at the local community college to make a complete life-changing career switch. I went to college right after high school, graduated in 4 years and then went on to various jobs: started out low paying, worked my way up, until I had a comfortable job making decent money in the field that I studied for. After 2 1/2 years, I was laid off due to the economic conditions…now there isn’t much in my particular field in the way of jobs which has made my job hunt that much more difficult. So, being a lost, mid-late twenties adult/adolescent, with too much free-time on my hands, I began to explore my options. I am feeling both good in that I’m going back to school, but bad in the way that I’m returning to ground zero. I’m glad though, because the sooner I get into this new career, the faster I can get started on a new career (always new things to learn)

    Should I be upset with my life choices? Do I regret not deciding this future for myself sooner? Am I happy knowing that my little brother got started in this career field right off the bat and is currently where i see myself in 5-6 years? Am I making the wrong choice as far as careers go? Should I be going for a masters or furthering my education in the career that I know?

    Just feeling a little lost at the moment!


    • April 7, 2010 11:16 am

      I can’t believe I am going to do this, but I think I am going to paraphrase Dear Abby. How old would you be in 5 years, if you DIDN’T follow your dreams?

      Or something like that. Essentially, you are going to get older no matter what. You may as well do what you want to do now, instead of not doing it, and still being older and being unhappy.

      Or at least I think that’s what I’m trying to say.

      Good luck 🙂


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