I recently broke up with someone who I thought I was going to marry. Well, she broke up with me. The fact that we both loved each other and still ended up apart is a reminder of the nature of this crisis. Were there any signs that it would end? Not really. Aside from the recurring dreams of me being pursued by other women, none at all. And yes, you read that correctly. I was in pursuit, not the one pursuing!
We broke up because I’m not a Christian anymore. She flipped, but not as much as my parents did. I live in a house full of Christian literature and they give me books I’ve seen for as long as I can remember to read. This too is a recent development, but has its roots from about age 4. To give up my belief in the Christian version of God is a big deal and wasn’t done flippantly. After all, if I’m wrong that’s gonna be a bummer. So in this arena of life, I could very well be a failure and end up dead and/or burning forever.
But since I don’t accept that future as possible I focus on another aspect of fear. I lost the love of my life because I changed. Could I lose my friends, my family, future lovers because they refused to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever? My future, again, is in doubt.
When I graduated university, I received a job that paid better than most graduates would enjoy. Although my cheque never came on time, I got a tidy sum and was being paid almost as much as people around me who had a Masters degree while I only had a Bachelors.
However, I felt like an ATM sometimes. My friends, family, sometimes strangers needed money, so I loaned it. Sometimes I simply let them have it because I know it would be hell for them to pay me back. Some of these people have laid-off spouses, insurance, car payments, repairs, children, not to mention food, rent and debt. And of course, I had expenses of my own. I used to find it almost unthinkable that someone could be so young and already so in debt. That is, until the summer I turned 21 and I realized that the unthinkable was happening to me. I was in debt from before I had gotten a stable job. Fresh out of college, with little to no savings and already in debt.
I shudder to think that there are people twice my age who just as deeply in debt as I am.
I am seemingly a different person every fortnight. My values change like my heartbeat, because life has a funny way of going through a deep lull and then pushing you out of a moving car. Things that seem peripheral and can wait, suddenly turn into important and urgent.
I laugh myself silly to think I could raise children at this juncture of life. And what about marriage? Is the next “love of my life” going to have a problem if I change? Am I going to have problems with her if she changes? And will my change of religion cost me more relationships in the present and the future?
I and my fellow quarter-life brethren have inherited a world gone awry. Will my generation be responsible for growth, or further destruction? It’s an enormous burden and sometimes you may think you have to do it all yourself (as if you alone has noticed the planet’s problems). Can I play my part in the welfare of the human race?
It is believed that this stage—or crisis—in a young man’s life aids in defining his future manhood. So when exactly does one achieve that manhood? I don’t believe the possession of things makes one a man. Having a good job, a family or retirement plan doesn’t make me a man. Additionally, being trustworthy, loyal, and having other positive attributes doesn’t make me a man either.
I believe each man decides what it means to be a man. For me, “man” is simply a phenotype and an age. If there’s an immature man, man must be a look, not a state-of-mind. If there are homeless 45-year-olds, man must be an age, not what one possesses. Just because you ignore your children, belittle your wife and make bad business deals doesn’t mean you’re not a man. You’re just not a good man.
I think I’m all right, but I make mistakes too.
It seems to me that if you can navigate through this quarter-life crisis you will manage in the long run. Mid-life turns out to be optional. The quarter-life, on the other hand, is integral and a bit more unavoidable: more like the crisis of adolescence.
Mid-life crises occur because we do not embrace that we are approaching death, even though that’s what we’ve been doing since birth! The quarter-life crisis occurs because we strive for identity, sometimes a brand-new one because the adolescent one doesn’t fit anymore. Simply put, we grew up. Finances, family, friendships, values, love and the like: we decide on these existentially. We live and we make up our minds about these things based on what we deem as rational, at the time. In fact, this is what we’ve been doing all along.
Be it through denial, acceptance, faith or death, the quarter-life and indeed any life crises will end when the fear of the unknown is no more. How do we end this fear? There are four options:
1. We can accept whatever is happening and say, “This is my lot in life,”
2. We can deny whatever is happening and not deal with the festering sores in our lives. And when they rear their ugly heads again and again, we will continue to ignore them,
3. We can take the easy way out, or
4. We can move forth in faith that life will proceed very well regardless of what is happening now and that we will find what we truly value, and that all will be fine. Truthfully, I can see no other way to live.
Image of close up of an isolated injection courtesy of Shutterstock