The term quarter-life crisis (QLC) has been coined to describe the specific anxiety of growing up. Typically the time period starts in the late teens and ranges up to the mid-thirties and even to the early forties. According to LinkedIn research, 72 percent of young professionals have experienced some form of the crisis. Though it ebbs and flows, QLC peaks at around 26 years and nine months and lasts about 11 months. It consists of lacking a sense of direction, quality of life, and purpose. The person has a general anxiety over finances, relationships, and career. While some have attributed QLC specifically to the millennial generation (a demographic defined as those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s), a variety of the features can be found in every generation and are specifically manifested in the years as a young adult.
What characterizes this crisis is the fear of making major decisions in life. Some questions spark QLC immediately. What am I going to major in? What should I do for my career? How will I pay my loans? Who will I marry? Should I marry at all? Should I rent or get a mortgage? Where should I live? What about retirement? How many kids? Why kids at all? Should I get a graduate degree? Why and where from? What about my parents? Why should I worry about my parents? Why haven’t I figured out these things yet? (Apologies if you are experiencing an anxiety attack now.) And these are just the basic life-decision questions. A plethora of other decisions need to be made on a daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonable basis.
What also characterizes QLC is anxiety regarding relationships. German psychologist Erik. H. Erikson proposed eight existential crises in which the young adult conflict entailed the struggle between intimacy and isolation. “Finding one’s self” was followed by finding intense relationships, whether platonic or romantic. Not only do decisions about life need to be made but social decisions affecting the lives of others are also pending. Our technology-saturated society imposes social media, while an unpredictable globalized economy pushes financial uncertainties into the frenetic decision-making mind, resulting in QLC carnage and splatter everywhere. As novel technology and real-time finances affect relationships, the social decisions that need to be made get more and more complex, and yesterday’s experience and precedent become less and less relevant (or do they?).
Lastly, the decisions made in our twenties affect the quality (and even quantity) of the rest of our lives. In other words, the effects of the decisions made during the quarter-life period compound into our senior years. They are not isolated to one stage of life. Rather, they reverberate through the decades, with some coming to full fruition years later, when they can only be objectively evaluated.
While contemporary culture espouses the memes of “life hacking,” “YOLO” (“you only live once”) and “no regrets,” good and fulfilled living is nothing new. Jonathan Edwards wrote in his journal Resolution #52 on July 8, 1723: “I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.” Looking further back than that, the apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” in 2 Timothy 4:7. Living the best life possible is nothing new, for there is nothing new under the sun, as Solomon echoes (over and over and over again . . . ).
Living life without regrets is a noble virtue. But how to live without regrets or, in other words, how to make the best decisions is another story. In living the fullest moment, people often forget about living the fullest lifetime. Living only once can also be translated as dying only once. You want to be saying “no regrets” in your twenties as well as in your nineties. How can you live this life? How can you avoid the pitfalls of QLC? How do you live at all?
This is where the God of the Bible reveals the best light on life. Transcending the questions and laws of religion, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures present united and consistent principles on making the best decisions. From marriage to money and purpose to passion, the Bible addresses life’s greatest questions, regardless of generation and regardful of the human condition. May the Lord bless as you study, contemplate, apply, and live the principles of knowing God’s will.
“Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience, for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised.” (The Desire of Ages, 668)