I stuff another cookie into my mouth, trying to extinguish the growing anxiety within me.
Soon, I run out of cookies.
You better be careful.
I might be knocking on your door next, asking if you have extra cookies to share.
My anxiety is growing.
Questions about what I’m supposed to do with my life, what I’m even doing with my life, and why I’m here keep floating into my head.
Painful questions, with no straightforward answer.
I keep running away from them.
I open the fridge, trying to find another chocolate to get.
In the face of difficult questions with no ready answers, running seems to be my only option.
Within a month, I had grown by 8 kilograms.
I hope this is not you today.
As young adults, we come to a point in our lives where we start asking existential questions.
Why am I doing this?
Why am I on Earth?
Where am I going?
Where am I supposed to go?
That can be a time fraught with anxiety, fears, and disappointments.
You don’t know how to find the answer. Worse still, you don’t even know if there are any answers.
I wish someone had told me these when I was going through this time. I’ve gone through two quarter-life crises in four years.
I may not have all the answers. But I hope these experiences help you to better your journey.
The only way is through.
It’s tempting, isn’t it?
To run away from your fears and anxieties over not knowing. We run away with different things, with different actions.
Some may turn to drink or drugs. Others turn to busyness.
Few turn towards themselves.
Stop running. Sit with it. Sit with yourself, however discomforting it may be.
In Russ Harriss’ great book, The Happiness Trap, he shares how we often allow our actions to be determined by our emotions.
When an emotion like anxiety appears, we start screaming,
Get IT out of here!
Get ME out of here!
We keep running.
What if emotions were neutral… but it’s how you act that gives it power?
Next time you feel something, try labelling it.
Oh, that’s anxiety.
Accept the emotional part of yourself, as a legitimate part of yourself.
When I was seeing my therapist, she once pointed to the empty chair beside her.
See, John, I’m sitting with the emotional John.
Then she points at me.
Stuffing your emotions is not an option.
There’s a balance here. I’m not saying that you should get in an introspective rut where you are always asking yourself why you feel a certain way.
But it’s useful to metabolize your emotions, getting it out somewhere, somehow.
Some people find it helpful to write about their emotions.
Others find it easier to talk about their emotions with their friends.
Whatever you choose, emotions have an entry… and they need an exit.
Don’t let it bounce around in you.
Rejoice in the journey
Rejoice, is a strange word, isn’t it?
It’s like juice. And re-juice.
You squeeze the juice of the orange, and you squeeze it again.
You can’t bear to throw it away.
There’s still pulp!
Have joy, and re-joice.
As cliche as this sounds, rejoice in your journey. Finding joy is an active process, not a passive one.
The quarter-life crisis is bad enough. You don’t have to make it worse for yourself.
Some days, you might find yourself in an endless rut of negativity.
Or you find yourself comparing yourself to the great lives you see on Instagram.
Why are you torturing yourself?
Finding Joy is not about watching Jerry Seinfeld everyday and getting a laugh.
Rather, it’s about taking things less seriously.
That rejection you have from the job application?
Tell yourself it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world!
Find three things you can be grateful about each day.
This is not another self-help technique that’s designed to make you feel good.
Rather, it’s about realising that the world is not all bleak. There’s still good to be found.
Another helpful thing?
Create Joy for someone else.
That’s joy with a capital J.
As you go through your quarter-life crisis, it can be easy to think about how bad things are for you. How things don’t seem to be working out for you.
Why not try bringing Joy to someone else?
As painful as this sounds, this life isn’t just about you.
It’s about us.
All of us.
If you’re overwhelmed, start small.
Break things down into their most basic steps.
‘Finding a job’ can sound like an immense task.
Break it down into its component steps.
- Write CV.
- Find company’s application form.
- Send application form.
- Follow up with email.
Or if you are trying to figure out your life’s calling, don’t start by trying to find enlightenment tomorrow.
- Start by treading where others have been.
- Read ‘What Color Is Your Parachute’ by Richard Bolles.
- Do the Flower Exercise within.
- Talk to someone more experienced than me.
Today’s social media shows us the achievements, without the accompanying action. Actions that take people through pain, suffering and self-doubt.
Your next action might seem tiny and insignificant. But it’s at least a step in the right direction.
I have a confession to make.
I’ve been losing hope in recent times.
I feel like I’m slipping back into another quarter-life crisis.
Do you want to know something?
Even after going through it twice, I’m still scared.
Because I know the journey is going to hurt.
But it’s not going to harm me.
Wherever you are today in your quarter-life crisis, see it as a trip to the dentist’s chair.
Yes, it’s going to hurt.
But it will not harm you irreparably.
Instead, you come out fresher, lighter, purer.
And raring to go.
John Lim writes about how millennials can have passion and purpose at their jobs, whilst living well in body and mind at liveyoungandwell.com.
Image courtesy of Martin Péchy.