Meet the mid-life crisis’ evil younger brother, the quarter-life crisis


Sarah Hardiman

Illustration by

David Matos, Arts & Life Editor

The societal pressure to have life mapped out like a game of MASH can easily put any 20-year-old into a bit of a funk, or rather, a quarter-life crisis.

MASH is a paper-and-pencil game meant to predict the player’s future. Some examples of the categories include how many kids you’ll have or what kind of car you’ll own. Though a harmless game played by children, it becomes all the more real as you enter your 20s and your more favorable predictions start to crumble.

Psychotherapist Tess Brigham wrote in a June 2022 Forbes article the concept of the quarter-life crisis is “something young people have been going through to varying degrees for several decades.”

Similar to a mid-life crisis, according to Bradley University, a quarter-life crisis is when someone in their early to mid-20s is apprehensive about the course of their future. Your early 20s come with distressing expectations like filing your own taxes or saving for your retirement.

A 2019 survey by The Harris Poll found 48% of young Americans surveyed had experienced a quarter-life crisis.

Growing up, children are always asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From my experience, that question will haunt you the rest of your life, or, at least until your early 20s. And even as a college senior, I hardly ever have a tangible answer.

Nearly every time I’ve been asked what my imminent career looks like, I’ve given different answers. From a veterinarian, actor, therapist to journalist, the pure amount of careers I wanted to conquer was enough to make Barbie jealous.

One of my earliest memories about being asked about career aspirations is when each of my classmates in kindergarten was tasked to voice what they wanted to be when they grow up on stage in front of our parents. Why are children expected to know their place in society when they haven’t even taken algebra yet? Though I’m 21 years old and have completed all of my math courses, I still don’t have my life figured out.

Entering a quarter-life crisis while your peers are moving up in the ranks can also lead to a bit of jealousy.

Your friends might be taking major leaps in their new-found adulthood by landing job offers, buying their first car or renting their first home. While your friends are signing contracts you might be in the McDonald’s drive-through line wondering if you should go for the Big Mac or the 10-piece McNugget, and that’s OK. It’s not that you’re lazy, it’s just that everyone goes through life at a different pace and sometimes it’s better to slow down.

When you’re in the middle of a quarter-life crisis you might feel the need to say yes to an unpaid internship with negative reviews just for the “experience” or get into a loveless relationship because all of your peers already found their match. This is common when you’re looking to move things along in your life because, well, society expects you to. However, rash planning during any type of crisis is never the answer.

As cheesy as it sounds, taking the time to step back and reflect while letting go of that societal pressure is an exceptional way to conquer a quarter-life crisis. Hitting the pause button on your hypothetical remote can sometimes be the answer to finding your way through your most life-changing challenges.

Going through a quarter-life crisis is one of the most terrifying experiences any college student just entering adulthood can have. Just know that if you ever find yourself in a position where you feel like you’re making big decisions out of desperation and not for yourself, it’s time for your metaphorical life lunch break.