Unhappiness is the root of the Quarter-life Crisis
Every Quarter-Life Crisis stems from some sort unhappiness. A subtle recognition that there is a gap between the fulfilment, joy and love currently experienced and the amount that is either deserved or believed attainable. The gap comes from achieving whatever pursuit you were on and being disappointed in the result. That it was supposed to fill you more than it does. That it was just a quick fix and now you need more, and you start to believe that you could never be totally full, that there will always be a part of you needing more. Just like a junkie, you’re out for the next fix of prestige, power and a mountain of shiny objects.
You’ve gotten everything you thought you wanted, and you’re still left wanting and yearning. Still incomplete. What do you do? You have everything you were supposed to want. And yet you are still lacking… What a rip-off! Don’t you want the tens of thousands of dollars and hours of investment into a university degree and a good job back!?
This was supposed to make you happy!
Isn’t that what we are all chasing though? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? Feel happy? Or at least feel good? Why does the means not achieve the end?
We get degrees, to get good jobs, to have money, to give us security, the security will lead us to acceptance, and belonging and this will make us happy. In the end we do it everything to find happiness and if we’re lucky fulfilment. Isn’t everything we do with the goal to feel good?
When our decisions are motivated by fear, we create a barrier that protects us from catastrophic failure (which is conveniently exaggerated by our fear). It also prevents us from ever experiencing the full spectrum of love and joy that is out there.
(deep breath….) Let go
It takes some humility to accept your own unhappiness. And it takes awareness to realize in the first place that you’re less than over the moon about your life.
Understand that who you were when you made the decision and the person that you are right now are simply no longer the same. This experience, is called growth, evolution, adaptation You start out your life on breast milk, then you move to baby food, then you move to ‘real food’. The food you eat changes as you grow, why can’t our lives and lifestyles evolve as well? Sure, when you’re 18-months old, eating pureed meat and potatoes is delicious and you’re living the high life. But when you become grown up now, you want to eat a REAL STEAK. Simply because you wanted to be an accountant at 17 and then went to business school to get a degree in accounting and now, at 23 you want to become a photographer, or a housewife or a lawyer, or a nun. That’s totally okay! This is not only totally okay, but also a completely normal experience. This can also extend to lifestyle changes rather than simply job changes while still having the same 9-5 corporate lifestyle.
We’ve been told we should want the same things out of life for our entire lives.
Unhappiness: a gift
You really are one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, most people don’t even honestly ask themselves if they are truly happy. They allow their fear to answer this question for them. They say: “I have a good life, I should be thankful”, “I worked so hard for this, of course it’s what I want”, “I can’t quit my job, I’d never be able to find another one this good”, “Everyone else is envious of my job.”
This realisation of unhappiness is the first step in doing something remarkable: you have started on the path to true happiness. Now, you have to push through the fear. The fear, will keep you satisfactorily happy. Just happy enough for you to continue on through life, assuming that you’ve gotten everything any human could want, so there couldn’t be anything more. Never really deeply unhappy. But also never really completely satisfied and joyous to be living every single second of your life. You’re in this middle ground, of nothing-ness, it’s not miserable, you’re comfortable, but unfulfilled. You will become easily restless, needing a new promotion, a new job, new friends, every few months, just so that you can feel the temporary thrill of change.
You can choose to fill this unhappiness with “if-then”’s (if I buy this new phone, if we get married, if we move, if I get a new job), where you will enter into a perpetual chase for happiness with “if only….”. Or you can set out on finding your own signature brand of happiness.
Rather than admit our means isn’t bringing us to the end we want (happiness). We keep chasing moving down the path hoping that happiness will be just around the corner. We keep saying somewhat unconsciously to ourselves (and never ever to anyone else) if I get this promotion, if I get the guy (or girl), if I buy this new phone. Of course, you’re different. You don’t chase material possessions. At least on the surface, but deep down ask yourself, honestly. Why are you buying a new phone, why are you chasing that new job, the apartment or condo, why are going on vacation? To feel good! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, But does it really fill that need ?
Will the iPhone 6 / promotion / new house make you so happy that you could die tomorrow and you would die happily?
Didn’t think so…