I’m going to die when I turn 88. How do I know that, you ask? Well, I’m 22 and just experienced (and might still be experiencing) my quarter life crisis. My whole life I’ve been working towards an end goal: graduation. When I graduated pre-school, then there was kindergarten; after 8th grade came high school and after that came college. There was always something that was supposed to come next. Not anymore. In May I reached my final destination: college graduation. The “norm” says to get a job that has something to do with your major (or not) or go to grad school. People say you’ll find happiness when you find “that person” or rent your own apartment – no roommates. But, who decided that that’s what I’m supposed to do after college? How do they know that’s what will bring me happiness?
I’ve always thought the “norm” was a bit too mainstream for me, so I came up with a different plan. During my senior year I knew I wanted (and needed) to learn another language to have a successful international journalism career; that I wanted to see more of the world and learn firsthand about new places and cultures. Finally, I knew I wanted to take a camera with and really tell stories while traveling. So, I decided I was going to move to Rome and learn Italian. Getting a visa couldn’t be that hard, or could it? I would save up enough money to move and take language courses by waitressing for the summer.
My plans to work and live in Italy came to a crashing halt in September and I like many twenty-something-year-olds began to feel lost.
I didn’t have a back up plan; it seemed like there was nothing to look forward to; I began wondering if I should have looked for a more permanent job. As I began asking myself these questions, my head started to spin, the waterworks began and I cried my eyes out for unknown reasons. I stayed up all night looking for jobs, making “Life Plans A, B and C,” and trying to figure my life out (all in 24 hours, of course).
But then, it hit me: I’m 22. This isn’t a so much a crisis as it is a turning point in my life. I have the rest of my life to work the 9 to 5 job and get my own apartment. I don’t have the rest of my life to pick up and move to Europe. Now is the time to take risks and continue traveling. It’s the time to be a little bit selfish and pursue my dreams. It’s not the time to be comparing myself to others and trying to please everyone by following the “norm.”
So, although some might call it foolish, others say it’s smart. I’m moving to France to learn French. I’m going with a one-way ticket, because who knows how long I’ll want to stay (visa permitting, of course) or what opportunities might arise? Who knows who I’ll meet while living in Nice or Paris or a small town of 300 people?
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that every twenty-something-year old that finds him/herself experiencing a moment (or month… or two) of crisis should take the opportunity to do something unexpected. Embrace feeling lost, scary as it might be, because the moment you do everything seems a little less scary.
This isn’t to say you won’t have another crisis or two. I’m currently undergoing a packing crisis – how am I supposed to decide what I want to wear for three months or six months or year? Then again, I’m slightly dramatic. Maybe I should reconsider acting.