The Quarter-Life Crisis

Unhappy WomanEveryone has heard of the mid-life crisis, but have you heard of a quarter-life crisis?  The quarter life crisis typically strikes after or during a period of great change or upheaval in a young person’s life, such as graduating from high school or college, or moving out of the family home.  Suffers range in age from late adolescence to people in their early thirties.  People suffering from a quarter-life crisis often begin to feel doubtful about their own lives and their future prospects, or feel as though they haven’t accomplished anything of note in their many years on the planet.  Both the movie, The Graduate, and Simon and Garfunkel’s song, Leaves that are Green, explore the feelings typically associated with a quarter-life crisis.

The concept of a quarter-life crisis was first proposed by renowned developmental psychologist Erik H. Erikson, who theorized that there are eight potential crises that human beings may face in their lives.  The quarter-life crisis occurs in response to an identity crisis.  Often, children and teenagers have their immediate futures planned out for them.  You go to school and don’t really have a choice in the matter (at least until the legal drop-out age).  Everything is set, and then suddenly the individual comes to the end of the established road, typically by graduating from high school or college, or moving away from home.  The future is suddenly a lot more uncertain, and it can feel as though one has entered into a free fall as she struggles to become an adult.  This can be an alarming time for both parents and young adults.  It is important to note, however, that not all young people will experience a quarter-life crisis.  One’s susceptibility to a quarter life crisis depends upon both external factors such as occupation and marital status, particularly as identity has often been linked to those external attributes, and one’s own sense of identity.  The best way out of a quarter-life crisis is self-discovery:  finding out what is important you, and what purpose you wish your life to serve.  Of course, saying that is the easy part; actually doing it is much harder.  If you or anyone that you love is currently going through a quarter-life crisis, good luck, and rest assured that the process, although uncomfortable and somewhat alarming, will most likely result in a happier and more self-aware individual.

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