From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The quarterlife crisis (QLC) is a term applied to the period of life immediately following the major changes of adolescence, usually ranging from the early twenties to the early thirties. The term is named by analogy with mid-life crisis. It is now recognised by many therapists and professionals in the mental health field.
Characteristics of quarter-life crisis may include:
feeling “not good enough” because one can’t find a job that is at one’s academic/intellectual level
frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
confusion of identity
insecurity regarding the near future
insecurity concerning long-term plans, life goals
insecurity regarding present accomplishments
re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
disappointment with one’s job
nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
tendency to hold stronger opinions
boredom with social interactions
loss of closeness to high school and college friends
financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
desire to have children
a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you
These emotions and insecurities are not uncommon at this age, nor at any age in adult life. In the context of the quarter-life crisis, however, they occur shortly after a young person – usually an educated professional, in this context – enters the “real world”. After entering adult life and coming to terms with its responsibilities, some individuals find themselves experiencing career stagnation or extreme insecurity. The individual often realizes the real world is tougher, more competitive and less forgiving than they imagined. Furthermore, the qualifications they have spent so much time and money earning are not likely to prepare them for this disillusionment.
A related problem is simply that many college graduates do not achieve a desirable standard of living after graduation. They often end up living in low-income apartments with roommates instead of having an income high enough to support themselves. High underemployment for college graduates contributed to this problem; spiraling house prices are exacerbating it. Substandard living conditions, combined with menial or repetitive work at their jobs create a great amount of frustration, anxiety and anger. Nobody wants to admit to feeling like a ‘loser’; this secrecy may intensify the problem.
As the emotional ups-and-downs of adolescence and college life subside, many affected by quarter-life crisis experience a “graying” of emotion. While emotional interactions may be intense in a high school or college environment – where everyone is roughly the same age and hormones are highly active – these interactions become subtler and more private in adult life.
Furthermore, a factor contributing to quarter-life crisis may be the difficulty in adapting to a workplace environment. In college, professors’ expectations are clearly given and students receive frequent feedback on their performance in their courses. One progresses from year to year in the education system. In contrast, within a workplace environment, one may be, for some time, completely unaware of a boss’s displeasure with one’s performance, or of one’s colleagues’ dislike of one’s personality. One does not automatically make progress. Office politics require interpersonal skills that are largely unnecessary for success in an educational setting. Emerging adults eventually learn these social skills, but this process – sometimes compared to learning another language – is often highly stressful.
In The Cheating Culture, David Callahan illustrates that ills of excessive competition and insecurity do not always end once one becomes established – by being awarded tenure or “partner” status – and therefore the “quarter-life crisis” may actually extend beyond young adulthood. Some measure of financial security – which usually requires occupational security – is necessary for psychological development. Some have theorized that insecurity in the “New Economy” will place many in a state of, effectively, perpetual adolescence, and that the rampant and competitive consumerism of the 1990s and 2000s indicates that this is already taking place.