Before the ink on my college diploma was dry, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of working in the entertainment industry. By twenty-five, I ended up as a television literary agent at one of the most prestigious entertainment companies in Los Angeles. I had an office with a view, an assistant who answered my phone, an expense account, a real salary, power lunches, industry screenings, clients, and business cards. I dated and attended industry events. From the outside, my life looked great. I appeared successful and well on my way to “having it all.” There was just one problem: I was absolutely miserable.

I tried to talk myself into liking my job on a daily basis. I felt obligated to stay because this was what I thought I wanted and worked so hard for, but the fact that I hated what I did every day made me sick. I had migraines at least twice a week, the stress threw my hormones completely out of whack, and I was becoming someone I did not like. In order to save myself from a total meltdown, I quit.

Leaving my prestigious career changed my external circumstances; however I still found myself miserable. Completely burned out and craving a total change of direction, I became a personal trainer, thinking I would love a career in the health business — I thought that it might be my “passion.” Wrong again. I had nine different jobs in three months and I was looking for something that would make me feel good about myself.  Since the career obviously wasn’t doing it, I looked to a relationship.  I fell in love, moved in with him and got engaged. And then six months before my wedding he called it off.  So there I was at 28: heartbroken, in debt, physically sick, at odds with my family, and lacking direction in my career.  I was having a quarterlife crisis.

There was one significant moment on my bathroom floor when I realized I had two choices: I could throw in the towel, move home, and try to forget about the life I had failed at; or I could dig in, look at my life, and try to figure out who I really was, what I really wanted, and how I was going to get it.  I finally started to understand that I was working so hard to compensate for my insecurities by chasing achievement and external validation.  I opened my mind to the possibility that somewhere in the midst of this drama, there could be a blessing.

Now you may already know if you are in the midst of a quarterlife crisis or you may be wondering if you are having one. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • You feel like you are in a funk; nothing is terribly wrong, but nothing seems right, either.
  • You feel a lot of pressure and expectations to do, have or be something.
  • You often feel unmotivated, directionless or passionless.
  • You don’t know what you want to do with your life or you know what you want to do, but can’t seem to make a living at it.
  • You feel pressure to get your adult life in order and plan your future.
  • You feel entitled to or long for a life much grander than the one you are living.
  • You are stressed out by choices that will seemingly affect the rest of your life.
  • You are dealing with disappointment or confusion because something did not turn out like you thought it would.
  • A breakup, romantic relationship, or lack of one is causing suffering.
  • You are living at home with mom and dad.
  • You compare yourself to other people your age and feel like you don’t measure up.
  • You feel financially unstable.
  • Your self-esteem could use an upgrade.
  • You constantly think about the future resulting in anxiety.
  • Your life is not at all turning out like you planned.

If you are having a quarterlife crisis, this is not bad news! You may have bought into some misunderstanding that by your twenties you are supposed to have your entire life figured out. This is 100% false.  You are actually going through a very normal rite of passage that no one may have warned you about.  And if you are aware you are going through it and willing to do something about it, that is more good news because it means you are AWAKE. It means that you are not satisfied with a life that follows a certain formula. I certainly understand that can feel quite daunting at times.  What I have learned from my own quarterlife crisis and from stewarding hundreds of twenty-somethings through theirs is this:  it is happening to give you an opportunity for transformation!

You see, we often do life a little backwards. We go after external things we want like a career or relationship before we truly investigate who we are.  In your twenties, you are just beginning to get to know yourself independent of your family and college environment.  A quarterlife crisis is often the Universe’s way of getting your attention because when life is not turning out like we planned or desired, we are often motivated to start looking within. Your quarterlife crisis is the doorway to your spiritual path and knowing who you TRULY are independent of a job, person or money. You have to believe in and truly get to know yourself in order to have clarity about your dreams and goals as well as insights about how to reach them. But that is no easy task, especially in a society that is so externally focused and driven by expectations.

Once you remove this intense pressure to do, be, and have so much on the outside, and shift your focus inside, you will begin to experience relief.  Today, I invite you to begin this shift by exploring the question, “Who Am I?” utilizing this three-part exercise:

  1. Write the question “who am I” in your journal.  Answer it with whatever comes to mind, do not edit yourself or try to get it “right.”  Trust what comes forward because trusting your own answers is an important part of attuning to your own inner voice.
  2. Write down all the things you really like about yourself, things you may call your strengths.
  3. Write down all the things that you really don’t like or judge about yourself, things you may call your weaknesses.

Next week I’ll check back in with you and offer you ways to gather insight from what you answered. In the meantime, I want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you if you feel like you are in the midst of a quartelife crisis.  Up until now, your entire life may have been well scripted and now you are at a point in your life where you have to answer your own questions. You are the expert, you have the answers, and you will be your own greatest motivator. Trust me. Or better yet, trust yourself.

Now for those of you who are thinking you do not have time for self-discovery or believe that continuing to chase after those external things will make you feel better, I strongly encourage you to reconsider. If you do not take time to do internal investigation you will most likely continue making choices based on your past, fears, limiting beliefs, other people’s advice, expectations, or societal pressures. And there is nothing wrong with that if you are prepared to have a mid-life crisis as well!

Until next week…

With love and encouragement from your quarterlife coach,

Christine Hassler supports individuals in discovering the answers to the questions: “Who Am I, What do I want, and How do I get it?”  She is a Life Coach with a counseling emphasis specializing in relationships, career, finances, self-identity, personal and spiritual growth. Her expertise is centered on the twenty and early thirty something years of life.

Christine has authored two books:  Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction and The Twenty-Something Manifesto.  As a professional speaker, Christine leads seminars and workshops to audiences around the country. She has spoken to over 10,000 college students as well as to conferences and corporations about generational diversity.  Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, as well as various local television and radio shows, speaking about life issues and “Expectation Hangovers®” – a phenomenon she identified and trademarked.

Christine is the spokesperson for Zync from American Express and the key resource for their Quarterlife Program, which empowers young people to take control of their finances. She also created a life balance curriculum for the Leadership Institute and is a member of Northwestern University’s Council of 100.   Beginning this fall, Christine will serve on the faculty of the University of Santa Monica.

Christine grew up in Dallas, graduated cum laude from Northwestern University and received her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

You can connect with Christine on Facebook, through Twitter or at her website.