Zoologist, geologist, nun, writer, lawyer, White House press secretary, news anchor.
At some point in my life, each one of those titles answered the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m still struggling to find the answer.
Like scores of my fellow millennials, I was raised thinking I could truly be whatever I wanted to when I grew up. Well, maybe not an Olympic athlete or a surgeon (I hate blood) — but almost anything. Suddenly, after years of putting such high expectations on your life, you find yourself no longer a recent college grad, just working an average job, living an average life and you realize being whatever you wanted to might not be possible.
Enter the quarter-life crisis.
While I am currently struggling with my own paralyzing fear of the future — note my recent post about whether or not to get an MBA — I’m going to focus on the larger issue here: MONEY.
Over the last few years, I’ve observed this paranoia of mediocrity take hold of my peers. Documentaries are made, novels are written and blog posts go viral about the decision to “follow your dream” and “live a fulfilling life.” A book-turned-movie like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ inspires a generation to just up a quit a steady job to travel the world teaching yoga classes and communing with humanity.
Give me a break.
A majority of millennials are tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt. Going off to find yourself won’t pay the bills. I’m not advocating a life of suits and climbing the corporate ladder (although that does appeal to some), but I am saying your struggles with self-actualization shouldn’t completely come at the cost of your bank account.
As I get closer to 25, I’ve started to notice the various types of quarter-life crisis.
The Job Quitter
“I hate my job.” “What’s the point of sitting at a desk all day and not making a difference?” “I’m not even using my degree.” “This isn’t what I wanted to do.”
The job quitter starts with small rumblings. She begins to feel panicked at the thought of getting stuck in a job she hates just to pay the bills. She often dislikes the routine, reads articles about people making a difference before 30, surfs travel sites at work and day dreams about the day she’ll put in her two weeks notice.
Suddenly, after one too many BuzzFeed listicles featuring compelling GIFs about why she should quit — she calls a meeting with her manager, throws down her two weeks notice and decides to just give acting/ teaching yoga/ documentary film-making/ being an au-pair/ starting a band a try. She wanted to always do that anyway.
There are two types of wanderlusts. Those who have a nomadic spirit but a healthy respect for money and stability and those who are genuinely happy having all their possessions in a backpack.
The first watches too much travel channel, sends in audition tapes to ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ and starts a savings account just to fantasizing about a golden number that will be enough to quit work and travel the world (hint, this is called retirement).
The latter seems to rarely find full-time employment and starts traveling the world after college (or high school). She manages to live a seemingly glamorous life (aided of course with the right Instagram filter) just by wandering the globe, meeting fabulous people and some how coming up with money.
A, potentially, respectable quarter-life crisis. If you aren’t finding fulfillment at work and have a Shark Tank worthy business idea, go for it. Well, as long as you can still pay the bills, cut checks to your lenders and maybe don’t have any dependents…
This version of the quarter-life crisis has the potential to drain all the money from your bank account because you get too close to your idea and can’t admit when it’s failing. It also could be the next Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, etc, etc, etc.
The Family Man/Woman
There are those who crave marriage and children early on in life. A quarter-life crisis isn’t always brought on by career goals, but instead can focus on a lack of romantic fulfillment by a certain age. It plagues both genders.
You all know one and if you don’t — you probably are one.
The whiner loves to complain about lack of money, an terrible job, never getting to do anything, having no hobbies, no passions, no direction and yet does absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.
Just make a change — carefully
Making a change in your life, quitting your job, starting your own business or traveling are valuable life experiences. Just remember: money is important. If you’re going to make a risky decision; save up first, create a exit strategy and have a source of income. Don’t just blindly leap into the unknown because Julia Roberts made it look so appealing in that movie you saw once.