Quarter-life: crisis or challenge?

Find your zen and be at peace like Buddha: it's a challenge, not a crisis!

One of the new concepts in popular psychology today is Quarter-Life Crisis. I don’t like to call it a crisis, because what happens when it’s a crisis? People panic, get crazy, desperate, and don’t know what to do because of the urgency of the situation. It creates a mental and emotional state that is both paralyzing and full of uncertainty due to the unfamiliarity.

I like to reframe most words or concepts I come across in order to think positively, make my own luck, and skate on through without adding any more negativity to my life.

For example, I believe that nothing is impossible, just highly improbable–anything can happen. Likewise, I believe in calling this phase–if there is one–the Quarter-Life Challenge. The mindset I adopt when I think of it in that sense is a calling, a chance to prove myself, test my mettle, and give it a try, as opposed to a crisis which makes me wonder what I’m supposed to do and how I can even do it, scrambling to figure it out before it consumes me.

I visualize things in creative ways to help maintain that mindset, and make small goals that I attempt to meet so that it’s a step-by-step process to the next step instead of one long, drawn-out race to the end that exhausts me. One way I see my life and its uncertainties is as a video game, and I set goals such as “send out five resumes today” then after I’ve done that, I imagine the Xbox achievement or Playstation trophy popping up in front of me saying I’ve unlocked a new achievement or trophy; then when I get hired, they appear again saying “achievement unlocked: hired at awesome job” before more text appears on-screen and says “new goal: get better job” and “new goal: save up to buy motorcycle.”

Let’s look at my Sunday quest list (yes, I used to play those old adventure and role-playing games before 😉 ) for 2010 September 19 then: 1) send out five or more resumes, 2) post one blog entry and draft at least one more, 3) talk to at least one pretty girl, bonus points for getting her number, 4) study for the GRE, 5) attend GRE prep class, 6) go to training tonight for management part-time job at pizza parlor. I accomplished five out of six. Not bad!

So it doesn’t have to be a to-do list on your calendar or a bunch of post-it notes around your work area, but just a way to motivate you to keep moving forward instead of burying your head in the sand and pretending nothing’s happening in hopes that it’ll go away on its own. Reality check: if you don’t make your own decisions or take initiative, other people will get ahead of you and life will decide for you. Instead of being the captain of your own ship, you’re dragged along with the current.

Third Culture Kids should especially be aware of learning to be independent and make their own decisions in life, good or bad. Instead of being dragged around by life and becoming a victim of circumstances and your parents’ jobs that take you from one place to the next, learn to travel on your own terms, go out there and explore instead of being taken for a ride.

Who cares if you don’t know how to get money from the bank without using the ATM machine or take the bus alone? A lot of people take their first steps at different phases of life, you aren’t expected to know everything and be perfect the first time. It’s that initiative to learn and know you’re going to make mistakes that marks your success for every mistake you learn from, that drive that tells you that you can be better and do better instead of wondering what you’re going to do in life, which is why I am an advocate of adventure.

The best part: it’s not about making too many bad decisions in life or wondering what the right decision is, but the process you go about when making those decisions.

If you have to get approval for your decisions and get people to vote on a consensus before you do anything, you won’t be happy because you’re doing what they say is best for you instead of taking a few bruises and realizing what you truly like and enjoy. Some of those people are the same ones who used to say “Why do you bother writing, Johnny? There’s no money and you won’t get anywhere, it’s a useless skill.” I’ve learned to ignore them or at least consider where their perspective comes from, before making my own choices.

What have I discovered? Well, I do my own research and make up my own mind about what I do, and most of the time, I’m right in the sense that I’m happy with what I do and who I am. It’s a big contrast from going up to everyone and asking what is the best or “right” thing to do, since what they think is good for me isn’t what I think is good for me, nor is it what is actually good for me. So instead of asking for permission before you do something, try asking for forgiveness after you’ve gone out and done something that you realize wasn’t that great. It’s a big step toward finding where you want to be and who you want to be.

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