Ballerina-astronaut-president-equestrian-superstar. For the first 8 years of my life, that crazy amalgamation was my dream occupation. I figured I would also be married to some hottie—maybe Justin Timberlake or Usher—and have 6 mansions with a gazillion pet horses. You could say I was a dreamer. But God knows I was not the only one.
Flash-forward to 2009. I had just graduated from 8th grade, and my whole life was ahead of me. I was somewhere near the top of my graduating class, so I decided to really shoot for the stars when it came to imagining which college I might attend. I remember one time that summer when my family stayed in a hotel in Cambridge on our way home from a vacation. It was a particularly boring hotel as I recall, but it did have a swanky gift shop with a whole section dedicated to Harvard paraphernalia. Being the idealistic preteen that I was, I asked my dad to get me a Harvard sweatshirt: not as a piece of memorabilia from our one night stay in Cambridge—we didn’t even visit Harvard—but rather as a manifestation of my ambitions in life. Of course he was totally down to buy it for me.
I finally threw that ratty sweatshirt out the day I decided to go to BC. I never even applied to Harvard—that dream ceased to exist sometime during sophomore year and was thereafter eclipsed by Georgetown, Dartmouth, Brown, then finally good ole Boston College. Simultaneously, a few other jobs replaced the fruits of my 8-year-old imagination. I thought I might still opt to be president at one point, and then I got hit in the head with a big brick of reality.
The difference between my younger self and my current self is not a deficit of dreams. I still have plenty of dreams; they’re just a tad more realistic and a lot more attuned to what I actually want in life. The real difference between these two is that my younger self had endless time to conjure up future scenarios of what my life might be. I recently got hit with another big brick of reality, and this time it has made me consider the scariest truth I’ve ever dealt with. The choices I am currently making and will continue to make in the upcoming years are the last major life decisions left.
I’m having a quarter-life crisis. I think we all are.
I’ve always thought that part of the excitement of life is not knowing where I’m going to end up. When we’re young, we really believe we could be ballerina-astronaut-president-equestrian-superstars because we have so much time to develop our talents. We really believe we can go to the best college and marry a celebrity for similar reasons. We have time.
Now we’re suddenly in a position in life where we’re making those big decisions. We’ve already chosen a college—that’s one major decision checked off the list. And, quite frankly, many of us have already chosen potential career paths. Picking life-partners is not too far down the road either for a great deal of us.
The quarter-life crisis is not based on disillusionment or a loss of innocence. I’m not worried about the fact that I won’t be marrying Justin Timberlake or that I likely won’t have six mansions. The real issue here lies in the realization that the days of fantasizing are coming to a close. We are getting closer and closer to piecing the parts of our lives together—like completing a puzzle, if you will.
There is a solution to the quarter-life crisis. Unlike the midlife crisis, the quarter-life crisis doesn’t need to be pacified by buying expensive cars and cheating on our partners. We can mollify our worries through one important realization: we may be making decisions about our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change our minds down the road. It’s no secret that plenty of successful people go to college, get a degree, pursue a career, then change that career twenty years in. And, while it’s a tad taboo to acknowledge it, divorce is an option if need be.
Even though it feels like I’m getting closer to seeing my future with every decision I make these days, I’m not that good of a fortune teller.