My head feels like it’s going to explode. It’s like a bucket about to flood. Tiny drops have been filling it for an extended period of time and all of a sudden it’s a done deal; the flooding commences and cannot be stopped.
They call it a Quarter Life Crisis. Quite a fancy word for something that’s not fancy at all, if you ask me. One way of describing this great period in one’s twenties is ‘a time during which one starts to feel doubtful about his or her life’. I think it’s more like playing a game of dominoes. Just as you’re about to complete your masterpiece, every colorful stone thoughtfully placed in the right position, a breeze causes the first stone to tumble over and, as you’re sitting there, the whole thing just collapses. Nothing you can do about it, it just happens.
So I started playing this game of dominoes a long time ago. However, I was never any good at it. I didn’t really know what color dominoes I liked, nor where I wanted my masterpiece to end. I started off with a degree in European Studies, combining both my interest in history and languages. Then I decided to build on this language interest and added a year of studying Spanish. All of this was of great value when my backpack and I traveled through Spain, but it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue a career in. So, I found a new path, namely International Development Studies. This decision was somewhat more fruitful than the previous, but lacked a challenge. I therefore decided to pack my bags and move to Scotland, in order to combine this interest with yet another subject: the environment. Now, I learned a lot, and as a result of my new knowledge, found my boyfriend. However, I was looking for a career, not a love. I moreover discovered that there were tons and tons of people who were a lot more enthusiastic about the environment. Some of my peers tried to find ways to eliminate the plastic soup, others invested all their time in supporting the recycle movement. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a passion for plastics, nor was I ever very excited about creating a more sustainable world. So, due to my wandering, switching from one interest to another, I gained some knowledge about a lot of subjects, but never a lot of knowledge about just one subject. So here I was, four years later, still not capable of making proper decisions.
One question that all kids answer once or twice during their childhood, is the following: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Now, I believe this question is crucial. Not so much for a kid, but as a grown-up that finds him or herself in a maze of possibilities, the answer to this question may just be that one piece of the puzzle you’ve been looking for.
Not long ago I read a book by psychologist Meg Jay. She’s specialized in twentysomethings and knows all about Quarter Life Crises. I found her work by Googling what the heck was wrong with me (What to do when I feel like I got hit by a zeppelin), and finished her book within a few hours. Every single chapter, in which she discusses real life people with real life issues like mine, is worth reading, but there was one line that really got me: ‘What did you want to do as a kid?’ And there it was, the essence of my problem.
After finishing high school, I got distracted by my hunger for knowledge. I wanted to dream big, and my dream as a kid didn’t seem big enough. I wanted to find a grown-up job, a job that would take me places, and let me discover the world. What I didn’t realize, though, is that I needed to follow my passion rather than my wish to learn. Actually, learn isn’t the right word here, as I want to continue learning new things till I forget that’s something I wanted all my life. Or maybe I didn’t even realize it was my passion. Maybe I didn’t realize it until I forced myself to properly think about what I wanted to do, really do. So this book by Meg Jay was somewhat of an eye-opener in the sense that it challenged me to think about the things that made me doubt myself.
Hence, here I am. I have somewhat of a clue as to what I’m passionate about. And I guess (or at least hope) that there are plenty of other passions I will discover in the future. I’ve also learned that being passionate about something makes you want to invest in that something. It makes you glow. It gives you the energy to deepen your current passion, or the strength to find a new passion of a completely different nature.
All of this doesn’t, however, mean that the feared Quarter Life Crisis is over yet. I’m afraid it will linger and jump on me when I least expect it. It will hunt me for at least a few more years. And I’m happy it will; it keeps me sharp and forces me to think, think about what I really want to do in life, rather than what I think I should do. So, please, come and get me, Mr. Quarter Life Crisis.