23 Oct 2023 ///

Are you having a Quarter-Life Crisis?

It hit like a runaway train; a sense of existential dread that’s frankly impossible to capture in words. Three years ago, to this very week, I had my 25th birthday. This was back when Oom Cyril still had us on a semi-tight leash and the COVID-19 pandemic still rampant. I woke up in a cramped Airbnb that I had gotten stuck in for far longer than I would have liked. I had no sense of excitement with no real aspirations of what I wanted in the present or the near future. Despite my family’s and loved ones’ best attempts, I didn’t feel special or seen. All I felt was lost. My quarter-life crisis had hit and let’s just say I’m still getting rag dolled on the regular by this cold, cruel bitch.

The truth is – the cute, neatly considered script I had carefully curated mentally in my teens had simply not become a reality and my life was nowhere near it. I didn’t picture the white picket fence with an Afrikaans girl in a sundress, two kids and a Golden Retriever waiting at home for me, but I had just imagined more. More stability, more financial freedom and more life experiences in general. The reality was far more bleak. I felt creatively stifled, constantly questioning how secure my meagre paying job was and I had recently been told by the person I was seeing that she simply had zero feelings for me (only a couple of days before my birthday, mind you). OUCH!

So I did what any sane, kind of insane person would do and booked a week long trip to Cape Town with nothing but escapism on my mind. It was a week filled with untamed, unadulterated debauchery involving copious amounts of whiskey and wine, Iggy Pop’s Radio Confidential, an intoxicating short-term sexual relationship with a model and a butt plug (but that’s a story for the memoir).

Image by Nick Fancher, courtesy of DTS

Chaotic as all this may sound, it did lead to a semblance of clarity for me with what I wanted going forward in both a professional and personal capacity, at least short-term. As therapist Satya Doyle Byock mentions in an article for the New York Times, “We’ve been constrained by this myth that you graduate from college and you start your life,’ she said. Without the social script previous generations followed — graduate college, marry, raise a family — Ms. Byock said her young clients often flailed around in “a state of extended adolescence.”

Which brings us to the big question: what the fuck are we all even suppose to be doing right now? The big question simply raises a litany of smaller, more convoluted questions on how to cosplay being a functioning adult successfully. Should I have life policies in place that will pay out when I retire? Should I have started using retinol earlier? Should I start using retinol now? Should I have a will? Should I be on the property ladder? How do I get on the property ladder? Or should I say ‘fuck the conventions’ and do the best Eat, Pray, Love impression that I can muster – travelling around the world making memories while meandering through monotony with minimal responsibilities?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Also, unlike your favourite out-of-touch-with-reality social media influencer, I recognise that giving overarching advice would be nothing short of irresponsible. Simply put, I am a mostly faceless online asshole who writes silly little one-liners and gets paid for it. I am in no position to give any form of financial or lifestyle advice, particularly because I myself am somewhat loose with my finances: see Casey’s Cape Town sexcapade from a couple of paragraphs ago as an example. From that shortlist of lingering questions, the only one I would say you absolutely should get on ASAP is retinol (I’m in my skincare era, besties). For the rest, we need to consult our elders, those who have been there and seen that. I’m not saying take every single detail to heart – our parents and grandparents lived in a very different world – but their insights can still be pretty valuable.

Image by Nick Fancher, courtesy of DTS

Image by Nick Fancher, courtesy of DTS

I’m about to hit you with the whole ‘comparison is the thief of joy spiel’. Cringe as it may be, this truth is plainly and simply the case. We must look inward and cut out the news of all the outward influences. Fuck the bloke bragging about their bug-eyed BMW, fuck the endless holiday trips, engagement announcements, apartment acquisitions accompanied by the obligatory “We did a thing” caption. You are not lagging behind or failing because you don’t have x,y and z (yet). The sooner we realise that there is no universal timeline, the sooner we can breathe. We are often our own worst enemy, placing enormous pressure on ourselves to have every little detail of life figured out, making ourselves go mad trying to micromanage the absolute uncontrollable chaos of everyday life. Psychotherapist Tess Brigham suggests in her article in Forbes that we should “PAUSE- Practice mindfulness, acknowledge your past, understand you now, stop judging yourself and enjoy the process.”

Admittedly this is one of those acronym buzzwords that make my skin crawl because it sounds like some shit anti-drug campaign you’d hear about in Life Orientation class, but it does touch on a couple of crucial points. There is a focus on reconnecting to self and allowing that to be the guiding factor. Do what feels right to you, and “right” is a vast spectrum. If you want kids and can afford to give them the life you want, go for it. If you want to prop up your looks for a couple more years with some preventative Botox, be my guest. Do you want to try and swindle money from your former high school peers with a “great business opportunity” because you find yourself caught in a pyramid scheme? Kindly fuck off. I’m not talking to you here.

To my mind, the quarter-life crisis is simply a crisis of time. Time which, yes, passes but something to which we give far more meaning to than it deserves. It’s always a case of “I need to be here by that age. I need to achieve this by ____.” rather than accepting and acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, all we need to achieve what we want is a little more patience and a little less focus on some socially constructed timeline.

Do as best as you can because that will always be more than enough.

Written by: Casey Delport

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