I used to think that this whole “quarter-life crisis” phenomenon was a myth. In the least, I thought it was something for those twenty-somethings who didn’t have their lives together. It definitely wasn’t something I thought would hit me, the person who continually made jokes about how, as a 24 year old who already has tattoos, a nose ring, and a flair for being the black sheep, I didn’t have any crises left to experience. I learned early on, though, that crisis reveals itself in unique ways to each person.

I was waiting for the itch to get a puppy (which, for the record, is always an itch but I’m good at putting Benadryl on that quickly), the desire to go skydiving (…again), or the interest in the neighborhood biker boy with tattoos (still not opposed to this).

My quarter-life crisis snuck up on me because it didn’t look like any of these. My crisis involved me becoming hypersensitive to how hard my job seemed. It looked like me taking 10+ Myers Briggs personality tests and spending hours researching my Strengths Finder results. It looked like me figuring out what my gifts and passions were and if they could, in any way, lead to a career. It looked like me loving the city I’m in but at the same time wanting something more, something bigger, something…different. Adulting is tough, and I also wasn’t in love with what I was doing.

It looked like a jumbled hot mess. Crazy enough, it looked like a crisis.

Take heart though, because there are ways to approach your crisis (regardless of what it looks like), with grace and without getting that basic butterfly tattoo.

How I’m dealing with my quarter life crisis

Learn who are you are

You are very much more than what you do, and when what you do seems like a complete contrast from who you are, frustration is almost inevitable. I can attribute at least 95% of my quarter-life crisis to the dichotomy between my work and my strengths/passions.

Ideally, your vocation, strengths, passions, and personality would merge to create this sort of super-career. You would still have hard days, but ultimately if you can’t answer the question, “Why am I doing this?” with confidence, you should probably reevaluate your career path.

Learning who you are (not what you like, we’ll get to that next) is crucial in figuring out why you’re going through crises. It also sets you up to transition out of it well. From the gazillion tests I took, I learned that one of my strengths is positivity, which shed light on why being with people who are “negative Nancys” is draining for me. Side note: I have always felt really bad for people who are named Nancy. I know some really great, positive Nancys. I understood that it is really important for me to guard myself from people who are pessimists or complainers during any given situation. I book conference rooms, go for walks, leave the house—basically whatever I need to do to withdraw from negativity and insert myself into a more positive environment.

When I took the time to learn who I was, it set me on the launching pad I needed to start figuring out what my todays will look like. I asked for responsibilities at work that were more closely tailored to things I’m passionate about and good at. I began spending more time doing things I love during my free time.

My tomorrows might look completely different, because people are dynamic and we change, grow, and develop new skills and passions, but right now, in this moment, I’ve got it figured out.

Learn what you like

Take time to learn what you enjoy and what you are passionate about because those are the things that will give you life. Evaluate where and how you feel most energized. Where do you voluntarily spent a good chunk of time? Ask yourself these questions and make a list. Those are likely the things you want to incorporate into a career or, if that’s not possible, into your spare time. Make hobbies, and then make time for those hobbies.

I’m an extrovert, so being around people and in social environments gives me energy. Besides making time in my schedule to get dinner or lunch with a few friends each week, I’ve started bartending part time because where you find beer, you find people. I enjoy running and working out; exercise, simply put, keeps me sane. Therefore, crafting some structure around a workout schedule is important to me. I’m trying to be more intentional about making time for self-improvement learning projects because I like having a variety of skills and interests. If you don’t believe me, ask my Myers Briggs. Creative writing has always been an outlet for me that I don’t get to exercise in my 9-to-5, so I’ve been forcing myself to sit down and write, even if it means putting off sleep an extra 20 minutes. All of these are examples of how I’ve discovered more about what I like, and how I’ve learned to incorporate those into my schedule by, well…incorporating them into my schedule.

As important as learning what you like is learning what you dislike. My life up to this point has been far less figuring out exactly what I want to do and more figuring out what I absolutely don’t want to do. Spend less time doing what you hate and more time doing what you love. Even if you aren’t capable, for whatever reason, to make it a career. Add what you enjoy into your routine and watch those passions work their sorcery into making you a more energetic, joyful person.

Embrace it

According to Dictionary.com, crisis means:

  • a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
  • a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
  • a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person’s lifeDon’t most of our twenties look like this? Don’t most of our lives look like this? If crisis is defined as a turning point, instability, or upheaval in our lives, then it is just a matter of time before we all experience the quarter-life crisis, whether we are 25 or not. And chances are, we will encounter it more than once, so learn to embrace it now. Life has this rather annoying but extraordinary way of teaching you the most when it’s the most uncomfortable.

And if, after all this, you still feel led to get that butterfly tattoo, at least you and your horrified friends and family can take a little more comfort in knowing that you actually did think long and hard about what it would look like when you are 80. After all, you’re a grown-ass adult. You can make these decisions…right?