quarter life crisis at (almost) 28

When I was younger, I imagined an exciting and fulfilling life for myself. I will become the first doctor in the family, I will provide for my parents, and I will travel the world in between. By the time I turn 26, I will get married and I will start my own family.

I did all the Math and it doesn’t seem unrealistic to a 15 year old me for as long as I study hard enough not to fail any subject and not get pregnant. I can do that alright.

And yet, that’s not exactly how things worked out for me.

For one, I didn’t become a doctor. By the time I graduated from my undergrad course, I needed to work because my dad’s employer abroad got sick and sold the company. Then along the way of saving-up-for-my-med-school-expenses, my Dad got sick and life happened that becoming a doctor was pushed back again and again and again and then eventually became just a childhood dream and distant memory.

Fast forward to today, at (almost) 28 years old, I am not a doctor but I have a full-time corporate job (just because it is the right thing to do at this age – to have a job that pays the bills), I do have a blog (but not even close to what I have imagined it to be), I was able to travel some parts of my own country (until Covid-19 happened and the world was put on lockdown) and I am in a (90% of the time) happy and stable three year relationship with my life partner.

I am feeling okay with where I am now. But it is just that – okay. Just okay. Nothing to look forward to and nothing to be excited about. Very far from the exciting and fulfilling life I have imagined for myself few years back.

But lately, being just an okay person has become… too hard. The thought of being just okay with everything made me tired.

My life crisis (or most commonly referred to as quarter-life crisis) was a sum of a lot of things – lost of loved ones that in every loss, I felt like a part of me died with them as well, a job that I wasn’t really enjoying, and feeling like I was stuck and having no idea on how and where to restart my life and my dreams.

I remember a few days ago,  I was driving off to work when I suddenly felt the need to cry. Not just the kind of being teary eyed all of a sudden. It was the kind of cry that children do when they didn’t see their parents outside their kindergarten classroom right after class, only mine was an ugly cry of exhaustion. I often asked myself a few life questions but the most common of all is along the lines of, “was I behind?”

They say that our 20s and 30s are supposed to be the best time of our lives — we are generally in good health, with minimal responsibilities and are able to explore opportunities and take chances in both our professional and private lives. But then we feel so empty and directionless.

Of course, I’ve read almost all the telltale signs that you’re having a quarter life crisis articles on the internet, but some of the things that shot right through the heart are these:

  1. You’re terrified by the thought that your best years may be behind you and you still feel like you haven’t done anything with your life. Remember being 15 and thinking about how at 25 you’d have your life together and be smashing it? Good joke (cry).
  2. You’re torn between thinking ‘F*** it, I’m going to pack in my job and go see the world while I can’ and ‘S***, I need to climb the career ladder and work really hard so I can achieve some success in my life’.
  3. You buy yourself an expensive handbag or gadget because you want it to appear like you’ve got your s*** together even though you’re not sure you can pay your rent this month.

COME ON, YOU GUYS. CONFIRMED.

Common life circumstances that lead to these kinds of crises include:

  • Questions about work and career: You might wonder if you’re on the right career path, whether you’d be happier doing something else, and what the broader meaning of your work is.
  • Concerns about relationships: You may be worried about finding a partner, considering a big change like marriage, or rethinking a longstanding relationship.
  • Changes in family structure: Having children, supporting aging or ill family members, and dealing with grown children leaving home can raise questions of role and life priorities.
  • Doubts about overall purpose: Simply wondering about what your life’s meaning is and how your 

AGAIN, right through the heart.

But really, I don’t want to be all negative about this. With lack of direction and feeling like I am now in my lowest ebb, there’s no way but up for me, right?

According to University of Greenwich, there are 4 phases of quarter-life crisis:

  • Phase 1: You’re in a relationship, job, or social group that you realize is not the right fit for you. You experience “an inner conflict…a desire to leave, but at the same time…a feeling that such a change would signal a failure of being a responsible adult, and possibly mean hurting others in the process.”
  • Phase 2: After considerable internal debate and anxiety, you separate from the commitment that is not working for you. This brings on a sense of loss of identity or uncertainty about what’s next.
  • Phase 3: You start to explore your identity in more depth and experiment with new ways of being, new habits, and new structures— all while trying to sort through what you really want and feel.
  • Phase 4: You start to live in a way that is more authentic to what you truly want rather than what others might have wanted for you.

Aren’t we all waiting for our phase 4???

And with all the readings I did just to figure out this life crisis thing, I also stumbled upon different advices on how to get out of this successfully. Most would tell you to get to know yourself more deeply and honestly. I’ve gathered a few things and I will share it with you once I figured out how I can apply it in my life.

But one of the things I will do is to document how I will survive this thing. My friends often describe me as someone positive and resilient. And I don’t want to lose that to whatever crises I am facing right now.

It is just now that I had the luxury of time to really sit down and speak from the heart. And I missed it. It’s therapeutic, writing everything down and just letting it all out. I should do this more often.