“So you’re a freshman, right?”
I sit there absentmindedly in my political science lecture, in my slightly awkward GSI’s office hours, in a “mandatory” review session — whatever the location, that question is always asked. OK — yes, I am sitting in your 100-level class, yes I stalk you in office hours to ask a million questions, yes I sometimes appear to be dazed and confused. But no, I am not a freshman.
Instead, I’m here because I am trying to make another year, another semester, an opportunity to take new classes in search of a subject I genuinely like. That didn’t happen as a freshman.
But I am not a freshman anymore and I still don’t know what to do. I am in this middle phase of my life, surrounded by walls — by the distinct memories of high school and the distant idea of the rest of college. And they are slowly cornering me in.
I remember it too well: the anticipation, the nerves, the senioritis and most of all, the fearlessness. Just like myself — not too long ago — there are eager high school students waiting to graduate, to turn 18 and venture off to college. Then there are those who turn 21, ready to take Rick’s by storm, their weekends — and choice weeknights for that matter — get more interesting. Then there are the college seniors who, especially in the midst of a numbing winter semester, may be feeling excited about their bittersweet graduation because it means they are about to enter real life.
Then there’s me, a junior at the University, who is still not 100-percent certain of what she wants to do with her life. So, what about students like me? What about those of us who fall in between these two major milestones? What about us? We aren’t high schoolers anymore, and we sure aren’t clueless freshman. But we aren’t upperclassman or seniors either. I can’t go to most bars since I’m not 21 and my fake never came. Shout-out to the guy at Silk Road that likes to con poor and innocent college students.
The people who are stuck — we are getting older, but we aren’t conquering any life hurdles, we aren’t accomplishing anything huge.
Last April I turned 20 and I can’t help but feel uneasy. I’m no longer allowed to be an immature teenager — those years are behind me. I feel nostalgia for my lost portion of experienced youth. I feel nervous because I’m entering a new phase in my life, and yet everything will still remain fairly the same. My routine of school, work and play will not be altered. So why do I feel like I’m dropping closer to oblivion? This is my quarter life crisis.
OK, well obviously it’s not a full-blown quarter life crisis. I am 20, not 25 — but you get the idea.
Up until now, most of my life has been spent enduring numerous hours of school five days a week. Think about the countless hours spent sitting in high school classes blankly, not taking anything in. Think about the times you were forced to sit through a two-hour mass once a week. Think about the number of times you googled your math homework and memorized the steps, just to pass a class.
And then college came — a time when I thought I would take classes I would love and enjoy. While this did come eventually, it was first met by a multitude of random and not-so-exhilarating courses. I think about the year wasted trying to find what I love and what I would be passionate about, only to find out what I hated and would never take again — a necessary part of the process, perhaps? I can’t help but think about this and wonder what I could have been doing instead.
Don’t get me wrong, school is important. A holistic education is important. But just think of the hobbies I could have taken up. I could have learned how to dance. I could have learned to play an instrument. I could have actually learned Italian (not just struggle to pass four required semesters) — but there simply wasn’t enough time. I do have my hobbies, but they are lackluster and there is always the want for more.
I remember all of the times when I said “no” to going out to stay in and study for an exam that I ended up doing average on anyway. The days spent locked in my dorm or apartment taking notes and reading pages of textbooks. The times when I didn’t even go outside so I could get more work done. Where does it end? When does it end?
The hope is that we work hard now to get a decent career going, and then what? We get rich, we retire, we move to Florida and tan for the rest of our lives. Oh, if only it were that easy.
In reality, we keep working hard to keep that career going. To be promoted one day. Which is all fine and well, if you love your job. But that’s not always the case. They call it paying your dues. Work a crappy job until you are middle-aged, then people will respect you and take you seriously. I don’t know about you, but when I’m middle aged, I don’t want to have just started my career.
Turning 20 means that I am closer to graduating, closer to the next chapter. So everything I do now will shape the person I will become, in every facet of life. Ideally, I would want to work in either the fashion or entertainment industry. My obsession with pop culture, celebrities and their noteworthy events make me perfect for it. While we are told to follow our dreams, the fact is, they need to be realistic too.
I want to be like Jennifer Lawrence, who earned her first Oscar at age 22. I want to be one of those people who make a life-changing app one night in their dorm. I want to be that girl who happens to be in the right place at the right time and makes a network of connections that sets her up for life. I want to be the youngest Fortune 500 CEO, or write a book out of college. The heart wants what it wants and yet it gets something else entirely. It gets a contract to be a data analyst in a cubicle for a few years. An offer to be an assistant to a secretary, a job plagued with “administrative duties.” It gets to live back home after experiencing years of college freedom — it gets the real world.
So here I am, fresh on to 20, choosing a subject or two to devote the rest of my college and career around. How is there not a crisis specified for this exact moment?
After sorting through all of these anxieties and insecurities about the not-so-distant and unstable future that is my life, 20 seemed to be looking pretty intimidating.
There are all of the things I have done being outweighed by the experiences I have missed out on, the activities I never even got to try. What will I have time to do? The funny thing that I’ve learned about time since being in college is that there is not enough of it.
This quarter life crisis has turned out to be all too real. No one wants to be the bookworm who finally got what they have been working for at age 40 — delayed gratification if I’ve ever seen it. Where is the miracle elixir we take to make all of this anxiety and uncertainty go away? If I ever find one, I will be sure to let you know. So, what I’m going to try to do is live.
I’m not going to miss out on parties or social events because of an exam, but I’m not going to flunk out of college either. I’m not going to put aside my passions because they aren’t smart or tangible, yet I don’t see myself as struggling while committing to one path. I’m not going to put different parts of my life in different boxes, like I normally tend to do.
Instead, I’m going to do it all. I’ll keep up with creative writing while studying for political science exams. I’ll apply to fashion internships while I look for positions in strategic marketing. I’ll make my own time. As simple as it seems, the one thing I — and most college students — struggle with is finding the proper balance between school and play, between reality and passions or dreams. Something should not be put on the back burner to make way for a new opportunity.
Maybe the way to combat the quarter life crisis is as simple as splitting your time into quarters — a work of completion.
While it may seem insane to be going through a quarter life crisis at the age of 20, it actually makes total sense. The last 20 years of our lives have been spent as children and teenagers — constantly dependent on others. And now it is time for us to forge our own path, but it doesn’t have to be constricted to one passion.