Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

1/4 Time Crisis?

Someone sent me an article in the mail recently. It came (gasp) in an envelope, which had a stamp attached and my name written on it. The article was photocopied, and with it was a note that said something like this...

"My daughter, in her twenties, sent this to me, and told me that this is pretty much exactly how she and her friends feel..." The article is, "welcome to your quarterlife crisis". I'm not sure how I feel about the article, because I'm not sure how I feel about the now popular notion that people in their mid-twenties are facing a crisis, as if twentyfive is the new fifty when it comes to emotional health, in the same way that our new discoveries of olive oil, meditation, and exercise, are supposed to have turned fifty into the new thirty when it comes to physical health.

The author spells out the crisis at several levels; it's a career crisis because these people don't yet have a firm sense of direction; it's a relationship crisis because these people are marrying later; it's a money crisis because these people are amassing debt due to school loans, lust for travel, and a general void that's filled by spending. Here are the author's anecdotal illustrations of the angst:

He bikes to work at an advertising agency, where he uses his master’s in English to proofread ad copy, and spends several hours reading music blogs and watching movie trailers, periodically Twittering updates about his workday to his 74 followers. He doesn’t really hate his job, but feels as if his skin is crawling with vermin most of the time that he’s there, so he has a plan to move to Thailand, or to maybe write a book. Or go to law school.

At her government job, she instant messages her friends and mostly ignores the report she’s drafting because she’s planning on quitting anyway — and has been planning to quit for about a year now. She spends her lunch hour buying boots that cost slightly more than her rent, then immediately regrets it.

The article goes on to talk about the multi-faceted nature of the crisis, concluding by offering support resources ranging from credit counseling, to social networking, to career counseling. I finished reading the article, and immediately wanted to share several musings for your feedback and reaction.

1. Does the fact that things have changed mean that this is a crisis? Maybe, but I'm not sure. OK, so people are marrying later now than they were when I was in college. When I was in college, my generation was marrying later than when our parents did. And the generation before that was even earlier. Debt? It's the same story. We carried more than our parents, and now our kids carry more than us. Part of me thinks this crisis is the product of baby-boomer's self-obsession. We're so self-referential that we think generations who don't do it like we did are somehow missing the mark. Narcissus would be proud of us, but I'm not sure this pathology even exists. Many, many of my friends in their twenties, though they've rejected the boomer's obsessions with upward mobility, and are often ambivalent about 'settling down', have a commitment to serving this broken world and making a difference that was decidely lacking in we, their parents. So perhaps we who are older need to lighten up and celebrate a new generation of adults who want to live meaningful, creative lives, and whose commitments to that make them marry a little later, change jobs a bit more often, and have a few more adventures. Personally, I admire and respect this new generation. Their energy, creativity, and authenticity inspire me.

2. On the other hand, it's possible that I'm idealizing this new generation and completely missing the mark. Maybe they are, in fact, self-absorbed, commitment phobic, and lacking any kind of ethical north star to ground them in commitments. It's even possible that both observations are true; there's greatness and new challenges.

3. If the artcile has any measure of accuracy, I'd want to offer the following bits of advice to this emerging generation:

A. I don't blame you for being a bit commitment shy, considering what we, your parents did to the notion of marriage. However, the truth remains that it's there are some elements of our souls that will only ripen in the context of profound commitments like buying a house (commitment to place), getting married (commitment to intimacy), and commitment to your faith community (commitment to Jesus' mission). Don't just DO any of these things because of social pressures, but don't run from any of these things either. There's a need, at some point, to jump in the water.

B. A rich storehouse of intimacy with Christ, and an ordering of life according the time honored practices of the faith, provide a rich center, out from which direction and guidance will come. Become a traveler of these ancient paths and you're more likely to be Gandalf at the end of your story than Gollum.

There's more that could be said, but I wrote primarily to hear from you, so please help me by responding:

1. Is this quarter life crisis real?
2. How does it show up?
3. What can we who are older offer?


At 5/8/09 08:07, Anonymous Anna said...

I've been really enjoying your blog!
This post really struck me because I feel like I am having, to a certain extent, a "quarter-life crisis." I am often frustrated that I seemingly have no direction in my life. Though there are many things I like and few about which I am passionate, though I am involved in deep relationships and active in my church, I can't figure out how to make that into a career. It drives me batty.
Of course I know many people my age who know what they want to do and do it. But I know many more people, my age and even older (I say "even" like I'm old--I just turned 23 today) who still don't know what they want to do. We work one, two, three jobs to pay rent and student loan bills and have some semblance of a social life.
It is terrifying to feel like I still don't know where I'm heading.
All that said, I would be much more frustrated than I am without the constant guidance and listening ears of older people in my church and my parents. People who can point out my gifts, be an extra set of eyes and ears for me, and just keep encouraging me through this uncertainty.
Hope that helps. :)

At 5/8/09 08:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quarter-life crisis is totally real. I experienced it just over a year ago, when I was 25. I was in the middle of finishing my Master's thesis, looking for a job, moving, and planning my wedding. For me, the crisis wasn't so much being bored at work or wanting adventure. Instead, it was a giant transition from "kid" to "adult." In a span of 5 months, I went from being a student who was mostly financially dependent on my parents to a young, married professional. I typically have my stuff together, and so I severely underestimated the impact this would have on me. It was somewhat of a "role-identity confusion" experience. I knew who I was as a student. I had been a student my entire life and was very good at it. But would I still be "me" when all of a sudden I was a wife and a professional? The answer, of course, is "yes," but it took me several months to realize this, and I spent countless sleepless nights, anxiety-ridden days, and sessions with a counselor to get through it. There's a book that helped me quite a bit only in the sense that it helped me realize I wasn't alone in this. It was called, creatively, "Quarterlife Crisis." There's a website around the book:

At 5/8/09 09:54, Blogger Katie said...

I'm not so sure that the article gets at the real heart of the cause of this crisis, if there is one. They offer several causes for this "Quarterlife Crisis," but the underlying theme I got from this article was that many 20- and 30-somethings are focused on THEIR OWN SATISFACTION. Are young people so focused on self that what have to be fairly normal concerns that people have coped with for...well, forever (debt, marriage, children, housing, relationships) are now a "Crisis"?

This inherently selfish view that says, "I want to do X, Y, and Z," or "I want A, B, and C from my relationships," or even "I want to know what to do with myself for my future," is not, I think, compatible with being Christ-like. Christ was always outward-focused, caring for everybody else, and not saying "I want..." and then feeling dissatisfied when that desire wasn't fulfilled. Fear of the unknown future is legitimate, but wanting to know the future ultimately shows that you need to focus on building your faith, not trying to see into the future for reassurance. (I'm speaking from experience - I have only very recently stopped praying for God to show me what He wants me to do and started praying instead for wisdom in all my decisions, trusting that God can use me whatever happens.)

Is this sense of dissatisfaction and apathy, the flailing around looking for a meaningful career (or whatever), a result of a generation growing up thinking they *deserve* to be happy? I'd humbly submit that the Christian life isn't one that guarantees satisfaction, comfort, or even happiness. These things just aren't realistic to expect out of life; although they may make an appearance here and there, our joy should come from loving God and loving others, whatever situation we find ourselves in. Our sense of worth should come not from our jobs or material things but from our relationship with Christ. Maybe this "Quarterlife Crisis" is trying to fill up that void that only a relationship with our Creator can truly fill.

I guess my point boils down to asking: Is this "Quarterlife Crisis" actually a crisis of faith?

At 5/8/09 09:56, Blogger Katie said...

Sorry - forgot to mention I'm 25 years old, married, living in an apartment in a town and state I'm not wild about doing a job I'm equally unenthusiastic about. I'm the perfect candidate for a "Quarterlife Crisis" (marriage aside), but I'm not buying it.

At 5/8/09 11:24, Anonymous GG said...

The quarter life crisis is real, for those who have not been living in reality.

I remember my psychology professor speaking of the major life changes and re-evaluation that happens in a persons late 20's, and early 30's. Some of it is hormonal, emotional, and potentially a physical comparison view to our friends and community.

The 1/4 life crisis in comparison to a midlife crisis, has everything to do with disappointment in the choices one has made, and much less to do with what someone has earned or achieved.

The younger generation, which I guess I am now on the older cusp of at 33, have grown up with MTV cribs, Paris Hilton, reality shows, and the sense that getting EVERYTHING for nothing is what life is about.

TV, consumerism, media all play a role, but as individuals we have the right to say no. We have the right to work hard for the RIGHT reasons, and not just in the name of consumerism.

This has now been compounded with a collapse in Free money system we grew to love, and these 25 year olds thought would be there for them.

Free money from:

Credit cards, HELOC's, Stock Markets, Stock options, 0% loans etc..etc.. free money, fewer jobs, no stuff, but they continue to see the media show garbageola on the boob tube, showing them all the stuff we don't have.

If we have chosen to value our life in stuff, and money, and easy ways out, we are not having a life much worth living.

Before the downturn, I chose to live simple. My wife son and I. We make the difficult choices, and never take the easy road. We do what is right, and make decisions we are proud of, and try to live by example. This has included beginning going to services at BCC in 2005.

Family, community, accomplishments in giving are our new currencies, and our lives have never been more plentiful.

We give, we share, and go against the grain.

At this point in my life, I have never felt more needed, useful, and successful.

With all of that being said, I think ANYONE can be in a 1/4 life crisis, but naming it shows a lack of accountability for ones own ability to choose their value system. It has to do with the measurement of expectations, and maybe these crises are the wake up call to fulfillment and happiness.

There can also be other issues then media that I have not gotten into, i.e. These are the same kids where everyone was given a trophy. Everyone is a winner, nobody loses etc, and we are now seeing the outcome of this.

People need a reality check, quit crying, and start living the way they want others to be.

At 5/8/09 11:26, Blogger ryan said...

I think the "1/4 Crisis" is real in many senses: Yes, there are huge transitions taking place; Yes, we are looking down the barrel of career path; Yes, we are trying to decide if we are going to accept the lifestyle models of our parents and the generation before us. We may have debt, our degree may get us nothing, and we may be alone. I'm nearing the 25 mark, and these are very real parts of my daily life.

However, this time in life can be a HUGE impetus for celebration! I get to look at the way I've seen life modeled and see if I think that lines up with the Gospels. How will I spend my money (or lack thereof), how will I center my life on relationships and community, what do I think about the models of consumerism and the single-family housing model? What food will I eat and how will I care for those in need?

Because of my place in life, I am able to make big and radical decisions that are going to set the course for how I live my life. What an opportunity!

Forgive my rose-colored view of the subject...Yet this has been big revelation for me recently that is bringing much life to this tumultuous time. I think it's time to take Jesus' words seriously and let him mold our lives while the clay is still wet.

At 5/8/09 11:29, Anonymous GG said...

Also wanted to mention...

When the media puts a name like, Quarter Life Crisis, into the universe it can do serious damage.

We have been diagnosed with something if we have these serious life transition issues, that have ALWAYS been there.

Live your life the best way you can. Understand life isn't a bowl of cherries ALL the time.

Give, serve, love.

At 5/8/09 15:44, Blogger Bree said...

I looked up the word crisis in the dictionary and this is what I found...a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.

So does the 1/4 life crisis exist? Heck yes! I just started the last year of my twenties and looking back on the last 7 years (since graduating college) I have most definitely been in a state of "crisis".

The future most certainly hinges upon the choices and action of this critical time in life. Our 20's are the first time in our lives when we are cut free to make our own way in the world. And unlike generations before us there are more choices of careers, more needs in the world to address, and greater heights from which to fall. To say being in your 20's is overwhelming is an huge understatment. We want to make choices that won't cause us to look back on our lives with regret. We want to make choices that will leave this world better than we found it. It can be paralyzing to our forward momentum, the weight of these choices.

Maybe "adults" warned me before I entered the quarter-life that it would be hard, but I don't remember it. I don't know what can be done to stop the crisis or that the crisis should be stopped. For it was in the struggle of my quarter-life crisis that I found so many of the answers that I needed. Just to be reassued that the future is worth the struggle when things feel to heavy to carry alone.

To those that turn their noses up at the coining of the term "quarter-life crisis" I say shame on you. By naming this struggle we find comfort in knowing we aren't in it alone, that it's real. The nay-sayers discount a generations desire to take this struggle to make the right life choices seriously.

I am coming through to the other side of this crisis now and finally moving forward. Time, soul-searching and perserverance are the best things I can recommend for making it through.

At 5/8/09 18:31, Anonymous Nathan said...

I think quarter-life crisis happens because we tell our kids "you can be ANYTHING when you grow up." It's such a broad (and misleading) phrase and it's not really until we get done with College and out into the workforce that we understand that maybe we made the wrong choice. And since we're supposed to be able to be or do anything we set our minds to, we quit our jobs and move on to the next big thing... or at least mope around and move back in with our parents for a while so we can think about what the next big thing is. And they let us move back, because, after all they BELIEVE in us and want us to have the best possible life...

At 6/8/09 00:24, Blogger postcall said...

There is a simple reason for both the 1/4 and 1/2-life crisis: lack of contentment.

In a mid-life crisis, there is a profound personal dissatisfaction with the course of one's life, and people feel trapped by their careers, their marriages, and the inexorable march of time. What used to be enough, suddenly isn't. And there's nothing we can do to change it.

In contrast, us twenty-somethings (or unmarried thirty-somethings) don't feel trapped. We're unhappy even before we know what cards life has dealt us. Of course we feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face. Crushing student debt, expectations for a super-hot super-christian super-spouse, and the desire for a job that is both spiritually and financially rich. When I talk to people from my parents' generation and the World-War 2 generation, I am always struck by how happy they were (and still are) with conditions that we would label impoverished and boring.

What is the cause of this? Advertising and the gaudy lifestyles on TV does play a part. But I think the biggest part is globalization and the internet. We're taught by our society, our teachers, and especially our church, to think BIG. This is great when it comes to envisioning projects that build wells in Uganda. But isn't it curious that the joy from such a project does not translate into lasting personal joy? It's because we then take these outsized ambitions and focus them on our nascent personal lives, and we get frustrated and depressed.

The best antidote to this, I think, is the concept of Journey. We need to let go of the need to have all the right "gear" before starting on our hike. Our parents climbed their mountains without the benefit of North Face, REI, or GPS devices. We need to simply start walking, and realize that we have a long ways to go. And that we have a great God.

At 6/8/09 02:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame on me for not liking the term? The term gives the idea relevance, and sets up an excuse model that hadn't existed for past generations who have gone through the exact same scenarios.

The term is a crutch.

Life can be hard, but when you are young(25 is still young) take chances. Take the hard road. Challenge yourself. Do any of these things before life becomes obligations.

Choices may seem easier in the past with more upside, but it is all relative. Not acknowledging the hardships of previous generations is simply egotistical and short sighted.

At 6/8/09 05:29, Blogger Katie said...

"And unlike generations before us there are more choices of careers, more needs in the world to address, and greater heights from which to fall. To say being in your 20's is overwhelming is an huge understatement. We want to make choices that won't cause us to look back on our lives with regret. We want to make choices that will leave this world better than we found it. It can be paralyzing to our forward momentum, the weight of these choices."

Really? Why? What's different about our generation compared to previous generations? Didn't they have to make decisions about money, careers, spouses, and homes the same way we do now? The world has changed so much, and yet it has changed so little in the things that really matter.

I think postcall got it right: We expect more and feel less content with what we have in all aspects of our lives. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul says, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Paul's satisfaction didn't come from how much he had; it was his relationship with Christ and doing His work that gave him fulfillment. I think all of us candidates for the "quarterlife crisis" would do well to remember Paul's example.

At 6/8/09 09:47, Blogger Bree said...

My comment that my generation has more facing us than generations before has been called into question and I want to answer that question. My parents, other elder mentors/friends, teachers and such have all said that they see that the world is becoming a more and more challanging place, regardless of age. The difference is the elder generations are now passing the torch of leadership on to those in their Quarter-life. I want to take that torch and I stepping forward boldly to do so. But like many quarter-lifers, I have hesitated in the past not because I am lazy or aimless or discontent, but because I am afraid to fail at a task that I so desperately want to succeed in, being a good steward to the life and talents God has given me and making a positive impact on this world for His sake.

The quarter-life crisis, in my eyes, has little to do with contentment. Contentment has to do with here and now. For me, the real crisis comes in thinking about the future and trying figure out what my life should be. Regardless of my comfort level at the time, I have always felt that I am right where I am supposed to be, learning the lessons I am supposed to be learning. Contentment does not equal comfort. I think that is what Paul was talking about in Phillipians 4:11-13.

Earlier in Phillipians, 3:12-14, Paul also said, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

So with Paul, I press on. Not beacause I am discontent, but because I know that God has bigger plans for me than the life I now live. Plans to prosper me, to give me hope, and a future.

At 6/8/09 13:36, Blogger postcall said...

Bree said:
"... I am afraid to fail at a task that I so desperately want to succeed in, being a good steward to the life and talents God has given me and making a positive impact on this world for His sake."

You've hit it right on the head. We're afraid to fail. But why are we afraid to fail? Furthermore, what does failure look like? Or success? Would I even be able to tell? Is failure even possible?

In my own life, once I thought about these things, the more I let go of my expectations. Eventually I decided that my 1/4-life crisis was entirely of my own making. At least for me.

At 6/8/09 16:53, Blogger Peter Nelson said...

Whatever the reasons, I can assure you the quarter-life crisis is as real as it gets. I'm 31 and have been there for at least 5 years.

At 6/8/09 18:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is from the P90X guy, Tony Horton. Enjoy.

It's not your mother or your father. Not your sister or your brother. It's not your God or your Government. It's not the high school bully or your eighth grade home room teacher. It's not your therapist or your wife or your boyfriend. It's not luck or even circumstance. It's not your height, weight or age that makes life great, or not. It's You! It's you that makes you happy or sad. It's you that makes you smart or stupid. It's you that eats right or not. It's you that chooses to exercise or to sit on your ass. It's you who puts the cigarette in your mouth. It's you that yells at your 3 year old daughter. It's you that doesn't have patience when you need it. Your parents created you, but it's you that decides to make something of yourself. Point the finger in the mirror because that image before you is the only creature on earth that can guarantee happiness, fitness, health, love, joy, purpose and a state of well being. Hoping and wishing that everyone and everything else is going to bring you a better life is a farce and a fantasy.

When you learn how to rely on yourself, you discover that it's not really about you anyway. When you finally stop relying on others for your happiness and blaming them when it doesn't happen you'll see life for what it really is. A community where we help each other. The transition from "me and my problems" to "how can I help." is easier for some than others, but it needs to happen if you want a full and happy life. You have to get your act together because important people in your life need you. They need you to be thoughtful and trustworthy. They want you to listen and NOT give advice unless they ask. They hope you'll be patient, caring and understanding. If you pull this off you'll also learn than perfect strangers are willing to listen to you, because you'll have something they want. You'll have the formula for a good life. A happy life. A healthy life. You will no longer need to rely on others for your happiness because your happiness will come from helping others.

At 7/8/09 10:58, Blogger Donte said...

If you are 25 with a college degree, a job, an urban apartment, and you occasionally travel to Europe—consider yourself blessed! I’m sorry, but I am having a hard time being sympathetic. I am happy the author noted that this is largely a middle class, ‘stuff white people like’ crisis. I don’t want to trivialize this, but seriously….with all of the atrocities around the world, we think this is a crisis? If I were a 12 year old girl in India being forced into prostitution, I would consider my life to be in a state crisis. If I were a 14 year old boy in the Congo running from rebels seeking to rape me, I would consider my life to be in a state crisis. If I were and an eight year old working at a sweat shop in China, I would consider my life to be in a crisis. If I were 16, walking home from school on the streets of Newark fending off drug pushers, pimps and gang bangers, I would consider my life to be in a state of crisis. But 25, with employment, safe housing, occasional pleasure and leisure...sorry no sympathy. I will not repeat the last sentence of the article exactly as the writer stated, but I think she’s right that “it might just be time to grow up.”

At 8/8/09 10:33, Blogger Welcome to my blog. said...

Hi Richard: Love this topic. I'm a 24-year-old female frustrated to be cast-typed of directionless, frustrated, and in crisis.

I started to write a comment and realized I had A LOT to say on the topic. I've taken your lead and started a dialogue on my blog. Please join if you're interested!

Meguire Heston


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