I found this old article through a link in one of my Google Alerts. At first I was intrigued…then confused. The word “scientists” in the title really throws me off. I guess it was first published in New Scientist and these “scientists” are psychologists. Either way, the article was lacking any serious depth, as are most things about the quarter-life crisis issue (trust me, I’ve done the research). Anyways, the article goes on to put your quarter-life crisis into five phases: 

Phase 1 – A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.
Phase 2 – A rising sense of “I’ve got to get out” and the feeling that you can change your life.
Phase 3 – Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a “time out”period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.
Phase 4 – Rebuilding your life.
Phase 5 – Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.

The sample used to find out “exactly what happens during a quarter life crisis” was only 50 volunteers – not impressive. So I’m not sure what kind of “science” this is. I also don’t know how they did their research, or over what kind of time frame. I’m also obviously bitter and annoyed by the article, particularly the whole “phases” thing. I guess that’s what scientists do, but as a self-declared member of the quarter-life crisis club I just don’t think its that simple. Even if it was that simple, these phases aren’t even right. Phase 4 and 5 definitely need to be switched. The rebuilding comes after everything else. How can you rebuild if you haven’t developed new commitments yet? I also think there needs to be something bad/dark/awful in there. You know – like the stages of grieving has anger and depression. Guess what? So does your quarter-life crisis. Not telling the whole truth got us into this mess, so let’s just be 100% honest. My “scientist” (me) says the phases actually go like this: 

Phase 0 – Be suckered into thinking that other people know what is best for you, do what they think you should do and what other people have done so you too can have that ‘American Dream’.
Phase 1 – A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling betrayed, living on autopilot. 
Phase 2 – Thinking you’ve gotta get out, but feeling for a very very very long time that you can’t. Think that you can’t quit because you have bills and care what people think about you and besides – this is what people do. They commute and work inside and talk about the TV shows they watch and how much they hate their jobs. Think this until you can’t take it anymore. Take lots of hangovers to work. Cry during your commute. React irrationally to things you normally wouldn’t react at all to. Get depressed on Sunday nights. Hit rock bottom. And then get the feeling that you can change your life.
Phase 2b – Make a plan to change your life. Throw it away because you have bills to pay. 
Phase 2c – Make another plan to change your life. This time for real cause you can’t take it anymore. You have bills to pay but you’re gonna figure it out and you just don’t give a fuck what other people think anymore. 
Phase 3 – Quit the job/relationship/whatever. Embark on a “time out” period. At any point during this period you WILL be broke/unemployed/happy/miserable/excited/depressed/scared/full of regret/full of hope/humbled by a broken ego and feel a million different other emotions not mentioned here. You will try out new experiences (that have an equal chance of sucking or being awesome, being a positive experience or negative experience, taking you two steps forward or three steps back) to find out who you want to be. 
Phase 4 – Work your ass off developing new commitments that are more attuned to your interests and aspirations. Even though you are still trying to figure out what those are. 
Phase 5 – Rebuild your life. For the rest of your life. (Or until your next life crisis. Then see Phase 1.) 

The only thing I really can get behind in this article is the fact that having a “quarter-life crisis” is a good thing.  Well, sure it is. But it isn’t good until you’re on your way out and that can take very long period of not-good things. In my experience, these feelings came about for one reason. We are told to follow our dreams, but are never really given a chance to define our dreams for ourselves. The definition of success is dictated by society instead of the individual, and is usually too closely related to money and status. When you look at it this way, there is absolutely no way to avoid a life-crisis of some sort unless you are in complete agreement with those values. If that is your idea of success, great. Otherwise there is going to be internal conflict and some major unhappiness. I get that life is tough and I’m not looking for an easy ride, but there has to be a better way. It almost seems as if we are setting young people up for failure and having it blow up in their face, but it’s OK because we’ve given it a name. This isn’t doing anything to help this world. We’ve really got to start to change our way of thinking as a society so that this period isn’t so tough on young people. Stop telling young people that there is only one way to do things. Let them know its OK to follow their own version of their dreams and not someone else’s. Instead of having to do a complete 180, maybe they’ll just have to do a couple of 30 degree turns. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on the article but I think it makes light of a serious issue. 

Who knows, maybe its all just a bunch of BS. The more I learn, the more I start to think that this is less of a quarter-life thing and more of human-life thing. It doesn’t end, we just become better at making it better. I wish we could all just talk about it in a real way instead of just accepting that its how its supposed to be. I felt pretty alone through most of my recent “crisis” because nobody would talk about it or give me real advice. People are too busy putting their best pictures and moods on Facebook. Insisting to young people “that’s just the way it is.” Trying to convince themselves that they are happy. Well, I’m not going to do any of that. If you want to know anything about my life-crisis experience, or your life-crisis experience, or anything else – just ask. I’m an open book.