The Quarter Life Crisis

Have you ever woken up one day and realised that you're not quite the same person anymore? No matter how hard you try to shake the feeling off it just won't go away? 

Around 2 months ago this happened to me. I realised how much I've changed as a person and even though I know I've changed for the better it still scared the hell out of me. The things that used to matter so much stopped being so important and some of these things are what I once thought as elements that defined me. I silently panicked. There's nothing particularly wrong with my life, I'm happy and blessed alhamdulillah. I'm doing well at varsity, great friends, loving family and not to mention, I have a better relationship with God than I ever did before. For some reason, I started questioning many things about myself. The kind of questions that never crossed my mind before. 

What is my place in this world? What truly defines me? What could possibly be God's plan for me?

They're not very simple questions as you can see. My instincts told me that in order to find out the answers I had to take some time away from the world and seek from within. Yes, I'm aware that I'm beginning to sound like Yoda but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. For the past few weeks I haven't gone out much and  I've spent more time towards reading books, hadiths, the Holy Qur'an but most of all, I reflected a lot. However, no soul-searching journey would be complete without Google, right? That's how I discovered there's actually a term for what I'm going through. It's called a 'quarter life crisis' and it usually affects those in their 'mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalise on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation'. Here are some of its symptoms:

  • realizing that the pursuits of one's peers are useless (Not necessarily my peers but people in general. I think a scary amount people are too consumed by materialistic wants that they forget their means of achieving success goes against religious and/or moral ethics.)
  • confronting one's own mortality (I can't believe I turned 23 this year, before I know it I'm 40 with a mid-life crisis!)
  • watching time slowly take its toll on their parents, only to realize they are next (as morbid as this sounds I do think about what it would be like to lose my Mum)
  • insecurity regarding the fact that one's actions are meaningless
  • insecurity concerning ability to love themselves, let alone another person
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships (You mean friends aren't supposed to lie compulsively and I don't have to take their crap? Wow. )
  • lack of friendships or romantic relationships, sexual frustration, and involuntary celibacy
  • disappointment with one's job
  • nostalgia for university, college, high school, middle school or elementary school life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions (Refer to point number 1.)
  • boredom with social interactions (No, my friends aren't boring. They're far from that. I just want more quality time together.)
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.) (Damn those beautiful Aldo, Charles and Keith, and Pedro shoes!)
  • loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies
  • desire to settle down in life and have children (Not now but definitely someday.)
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than oneself
  • frustration with social skills

I bolded the ones I could relate to. I reckon involuntary celibacy is a funny one and I almost bolded it for fun but I didn't want to send the wrong message and start getting online proposals from creepy guys. Anyhoo, jokes aside. This quarter life crisis thing is real and it doesn't only happen to women as men face it too. Alexander admitted that he was experiencing one and described it as 'part of the very theatrical process of becoming a man: waking up one morning realizing it’s time to stop pushing our own ego and start pulling our own weight.' If you want to read a man's perspective on the life-changing crisis check out his post here.

So what does one do upon finding out that they have a quarter life crisis and how does one cope with it? Olivia from Powered by Tofu embarked on a brilliant project called '101 things in 1001 days' and then she came up with an inspiring '30 before 30 list'. I love how she took charge and did something proactive. She went on a world trip to 18 countries and covered Asia and Europe for her 101 things project. I don't think I can do something of the same magnitude until I start working and saving some hard-earned money! The '30 before 30 list' is more feasible but since I'm only 23 I think I'll tweak it and make it my '25 before 25 list'. Now all I have to do is come up with 25 things that I hope to have done by the time I'm 25.

As for my questions...yeah, the really deep, mind-boggling ones about what defines me and all? After taking some time out and doing some contemplation I think I've figured them out for now. It's clear that I'm going through a paradigm shift and anticipating new beginnings in my life but I'll elaborate later so stay tuned for that and my 25 before 25 list in my upcoming posts!

Related articles: The Quarter Life Crisis, Welcome to Your Quarter Life Crisis, How to Cope with a Quarter Life Crisis

P.S. Speaking of paradigm shifts and new beginnings I'd like to wish Happy New Hijri Year to all Muslims. I hope you had a meaningful first day of Muharram. 


RS said…
I must be going through one right now though. But I'm only 18 though! Oh boy.
Aisha said…
wow, after reading this, i can only conclude that im going through the same thing i think. i never knew this existed, thank you for this!

i'm nearing 23 and i'm forever thinking about my purpose in life, where things are going, whether i can make something of myself in order to support my mum and dad...but yes, like you, alhamdullilah, i have a happy life so its not like i'm worrying non stop. just doing alot more thinking about growing up =)

p.s your on your way to amazing new beginnings in life, lady, don't mistake that for one second!
Hanafedora said…
I knew my purpose in life is to devote myself to Allah and restraint myself from the nafsu and in the end it's the heaven I seek. For me life is a challenge and it's a place for bersusah payah, like a test/exam and if you're faithful enough you'll get a reward beyond your magnificent imagination. But what scares me in life is how I'm constantly forgetting who I'm supposed to be. Especially living in an Era without our prophet to guide us except Quran and Hadith.

Sha, you should read a book by H.Yahya about "kaum-kaum yang pupus". It's a very great book.. :) They have it in English too... I'm reading it now :)
ᖇᗩE said…
don't worry, though, this too shall pass ^^
Nina said…
Oh man, I'm only fifteen and this is already happening to me.
And I've been feeling like this since last year.
I agreed with everything on the list and I almost agreed with the "settling down" fact until it said "and having children."
I get terrified everytime I think about that, haha.
*Farah Pop* said…
....i absolutely loved reading that...and i know exactly how youre feeling too...its scary but reassuring and comferting least youre aware of whats going on :) ...may Allah never cease to guide you...<3
Shahirah Elaiza said…
RS: Don't worry, you're not going through it (yet). Trust me on this one. lol

Aisha: A lot more thinking and growing up, yes you're right! They say the frontal lobe of the brain is the last part to develop properly so I guess that's why ;) Thank you Ashi for your comforting words.

Hanafedora: Sounds like an interesting book, will look it up inshaAllah =)

Bitten: I have no doubt that it will.

Aminah: 15? Oohhh that's no quarter life crisis you're going through. You're just entering a serious stage of teenagehood lol. I don't envy you =p

Farah Pop: Oh thank you sweetie! It does help to know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Just another phase in life, I suppose. InshaAllah khair!
K said…
haha, i totally get you! im the most cheesiest person in the whole world, when i get all -omg, who AM i?- ill just go to my gmail and read a bunch emails i get from suscribing to (it seriously does help
!!) hahah, btw, i think it takes time, realizing that you changed, but also sticking to your principles, i mean i changed a lot these past few years, but the scary thing for me now is, should i move forward and change even more? esp, being a muslim, theres so much knowledge to be unfolded, so the learning and practicing builds up. InsyaAllah, our hearts are always open to the teachings of the Prophet SAW and the Divine Inpiration(AlQuran - The Words of Allah), Ameen.