The Quarter-Life Crisis: What It Is and How To Manage One Part II
Over the past year or so, many of those around me have been going through what is termed the Quarter-Life Crisis - myself included. Here is my guide on what it is and how to manage one.
[read Part I here]
My quarter-life crisis started in 2014. So far I had managed to tick off more than a few items on the Great Checklist of Life, including obtaining an Honours degree and landing a job in Canberra on a grad program, I was even in a relationship that was going quite well! But something just didn't feel right. I decided that I wasn't suited to the job I was doing and started looking for a change. As a member of the public service, there were plenty of options for me to move around within or between departments. And so I jumped at the chance to change areas.
By mid-2015 I started to realise that maybe it was public service that was the problem. So many people around me were so diligently ticking off items on the Great Checklist of Life, but whenever I ticked something off I didn't seem to quite get the same buzz. Was something wrong with me? Just like my seemingly endless search to find a decent pair of jeans (size 9 but got booty) I had to admit to myself that perhaps this career wasn't for me.
Some other friends around the same age as me (mid- to late-20s) were also considering changes. A master's degree here, a stint of leave without pay there. And so the seed planted by my initial job change began to flourish.
I changed my hair, started a fitness program, looked at additional qualifications and even a move back to my old job. But at the end of the day I wasn't happy. Either I had to just put my head down, power through and force myself to be happy with my life, or something had to seriously change.
I was living comfortably, with an excellent lifestyle, great friends, interesting-enough work. But there was always an itch, somewhere inside, that needed a good scratch.
You're mad. You're crazy. You're so brave. I could never do that. What about financial security?
They were just some of the responses from my family, friends and colleagues when I told them of my decision to resign. Why don't you just take leave without pay? We'll hold your position for you for a year and then you can just come back when it's out of your system. You'll be back soon enough.
These avenues were tempting. What if things didn't work out? Wouldn't it be good to know I had a job to come back to? But that wasn't the point. I didn't want to come back to that job. Having that security and time limit on scratching that itch felt limiting and restrictive.
So I sold most of my worldly possessions, packed the rest in some tubs to store under my parents house, sold my car, quit my job and bought a one way ticket to Japan via Singapore. It was daunting as all get out, but it had to be done. Only once I was completely removed from my old life could I start afresh.
The first chapter of the rest of my life didn't really get off the greatest start, but I was determined to commit to finding my new path, whatever it might be. Reflecting on my strengths and passion for design while weeding a dry stone wall in the mountains of Japan an idea started to take shape in my mind: that I would become an architect.
After a Skype call with the folks, in which they were unexpectedly rather supportive of the decision, I started to investigate a return to uni to study architecture, something that takes no less than five years (plus a few).
Most have called me crazy, some have called me courageous and even inspiring. We have all heard the sound bite that those from my generation will have at least seven careers in their lifetime, and there is increasing evidence that if you do change your mind about life then you will, in fact, survive, and probably even thrive. And if you really think about it, you have the skills from your previous career and can probably go back to that if that career change all goes arse up anyway!
And so here I am, once again at the bottom of a very steep hill, hitting reset on my career and pursuing a passion that I didn't realise I had. While it's not all sunshine and rainbows all the time, my Great Checklist of Life looks a little different these days. So I encourage those of you who are just not vibing with where your life is taking you to reflect on your strengths and your passions and consider how you might rewrite the Great Checklist of Life for yourself.