I found the term “quarter-life crisis” to be quite inaccurate. After all, it positively assumes that you’re going to live until 100 years old, a feat that’s only 0.0075% of the world’s population have achieved, providing them with the coveted title of Centenarians. Regardless of the term’s accuracy, the problem that it describes is very real for people in their twenties, especially early to mid-twenties. As an individual that belongs to this cohort, I’ve found myself increasingly discussing this problem with my peers. Sometimes, it indirectly appears in our conversations.
The term quarter-life crisis is often associated with the feeling of anxiety over one’s direction or quality of life — aka the “I’m young and I’m still figuring out my life” problem. This typically happens during an early career when the trajectory of a person’s life isn’t fully clear yet. When I speak to my friends, issues that relate to the quarter-life crisis problem typically revolve around work, relationship, and the meaning of one’s life.
I have spoken with friends whose ideological view of the world partly inspired their quarter-life crisis — this ranges from disliking the shallow aspects of society such as corporate politics and the outright idolatry of success intensified by career-oriented social media such as LinkedIn. On the other hand, I’ve also spoken with individuals so pragmatic and conventionally ambitious that they feel worthless during setbacks or when their plans don’t play out perfectly.
“For a twenty-x years old that is still discovering your career and life goals, feeling sad about yourself because one of your friends is selected to be in Forbes 30 under 30 is the equivalent of a teenage girl feeling bad about her body image and social life because of Kylie Jenner’s latest Instagram post”— my own thoughts
Social Media & Generational Gap
These days, social media glorified success more than ever, creating pressure for younger individuals to compare themselves against a benchmark that they can access 24/7 from the palm of their hands. Social media enabled not just movie actors and musicians to gain a following, but also successful business leaders and innovators of our time. Take a look at Elon Musk, for example — with a following roughly equal to the population of Canada, he’s able to influence an entire generation of young professionals. This, of course, acts as a double-edged sword. On one hand, he’s portraying that successful business leaders and innovators are human too. His fascination with memes gives him a more realistic persona than the conventional perception of a stern CEO. Whereas his ability to get away with unique antics also showed us that our society currently holds innovators on a pedestal.
Furthermore, it is also factually more difficult to reach success in the conventional financial term for Millenials in 2020. In the US, the percent of total net worth that Millennials hold is minuscule compared to the previous generations, with only half earning more than their parents, setting a record figure for the lowest share of children earning more than their parents in history.
All in all, the combination of social media’s glorification of success and the increase in difficulty to achieve financial prosperity created unrealistic expectations for young professionals, wrapped in the perception that it is easier than ever to achieve anything if you simply work hard. The key here is not to give up — but to have a balance of being driven and ambitious, while also realizing the facts and set of circumstances that we’re currently living in.
I want to write about this topic not because I want to act like a guru and tell people how they should think, but I want to elaborate my thoughts on the matter because I often find myself on the receiving end of this discussion (when I don’t think that I deserve to be). Mayhap I haven’t truly encountered it, or maybe I’m blessed with the emotional intelligence to have successfully solved it at a relatively young age. Whichever it might be, I hope that my two cents will be able to help some people navigate through this unique phase in our lives.
A Japanese term that best describes my view on how to approach the quarter-life crisis problem is Ikigai. It is a concept that roughly means “a reason for being”. It aims to achieve balance in one’s life amidst the various aspects of society including your skill-set, what you care about, what the world needs, how you can get compensated, and just a general overview of how the world works. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the following diagram will be able to explain this concept better than more paragraphs from me.
I’ve definitely felt fear, uncertainties, and doubts in my life — whether it be emotionally or professionally. By understanding that it is a normal feeling that the majority of people go through, only then can one start solving it through various methods that are best suited to your personality.
My own method relates to the name of my blog. I’m a very solution-oriented person and I don’t find comfort in reassurance when there are no concrete steps to solve the problem. To me, accepting a setback or a failure and quickly moving on after reflecting on it is much better than dwelling while my friends comfort me by saying lines such as “it’s okay”. Pensive Pragmatism means being thoughtful and reflective of your most logical decisions. To me, it combines the two traits that I hold dear and have helped navigate through life in the past twenty-three years (so take it with a grain of salt).