What is a quarter-life crisis? An interview with life coach Alice Stapleton (part 1)

courtesy of alicestapleton.acom

Alice Stapleton, life/ career coach and QLC expert,
image courtesy of http://www.alicestapleton.com

Probation officer turned career coach, Alice Stapleton, has researched her way into being an expert on the QLC (not least because she had one herself).  Now she helps people clamber out of the hole of confusion some of generation Y has fallen into. So we went to talk to her, secretly hoping we might get a chance to talk about our very own QLCs  while, of course, sourcing material for this blog. You can find part 2 here.

First up, please reassure us that the QLC is actually ‘a thing’. Because a tiny part of our brain is telling us we’re being silly.

It’s funny, I look through Twitter to see what people are saying about QLCs and American bloggers are going, “Ahh I’m having a QLC” but the ones in England, in typical British fashion, say:  “Is the QLC an actual thing? Because I definitely think I’m experiencing it…”

And I’m like, “Yes, definitely!”

QLCs have been on the table for a few years but it’s been met with a lot of,  “ugh, its the young people moaning again.  What’s their problem? They’ve got it all”.

So what is this phenomenon people call the QLC? 

It’s a kind of identity crisis. You’re in your 20s or early 30s, asking the questions, ‘Who am I? What am I doing? Is this it? Is this what my life’s going to be like forever?”

Why are some of us asking such scary questions so young?

The working world is so competitive  that generation Y is being educated up to its eyeballs. So you finish education later than previous generations did.

The post- war generation baby boomers had a different job market, a better economy and a less competitive world.

But you’re not doing any of the things your parents were doing by your age, and you’re left thinking, “oh my god. I rent, I live with two strangers, I do a job I hate,  and I’m single. What am I doing?”

Being in your 20s used to mean being independent, but that’s hard when you’re financially reliant on your parents, and you have to move back home while you’re struggling to find a job.  There’s more choice career-wise, but it’s hard to take advantage of it all.

Is social media messing with our QLC-ridden minds?  

Facebook and Twitter make things worse because it encourages comparison. Some of your friends will have boyfriends, kids, a house, a great job or whatever you feel you don’t have.

You’re bombarded with updates about all of that, and start thinking there must be something wrong with you.

But  people don’t often update with bad or average news. It’s the great stuff we get on our feeds, so it’s not even an accurate portrayal of someone’s life.

Is the QLC a female thing?

I coach more women than men, but  I don’t think this is because fewer men are struggling, but because  women are happier to talk about it. The issues are the same, the male QLC is just under-reported.

Go on then, tell us about your QLC…

Well, lots of people ask me why I’ve gone into this niche. I always knew I wanted to work one-on-one with people. But also,  I identified with this area of life coaching after I had my QLC.

I was in a state when I left university. I sat at the computer basically crying for three months thinking “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Having experienced that relatively mild QLC and seeing some of my friends have a worse time, I thought, god there are people who this is really serious for.

I love my job and I really think there needs to be more support for people struggling with this period of their lives.

Thank you to Alice for chatting to us– great to have an expert debunk some QLC myths. Read part 2 of the interview here.

If you want more QLC wisdom, have a look at Alice’s new project, Mind The Gap . It’s  a community (online and real-world) for people in their 20s and early 30s who would like some support in their post-uni/ adult life confusion.  The coaches are almost all quarter-lifers themselves, so they’ll get what you’re talking about.

Courtesy of Mind The Gap

Courtesy of Mind The Gap



Q&A: Ben’s Quarter-Life Crisis

Ben is a 22-year-old PPI claim investigator working in London. I sat down with him to talk about childhood, working life and the quarter-life crisis.

Things got a bit depressing…


Q. Do you feel that you have experienced anything resembling a quarter life crisis?

A. I’ve heard of this being a thing and I know people who have definitely gone through a crisis at our age but I can honestly say I haven’t. This might be because I don’t spend a lot of time analysing my life or maybe I’m just lucky.

Q. Do you feel that your best years are behind you?

A. Wow, are you trying to make me have a crisis? No I don’t, I’m in my first stable relationship and have only just properly flown the nest. It’s hard work being an adult but the rewards are much richer.

Q. Now that you’re a certified adult do you have any fixed long term goals?

A.This is a bit cliché and could be construed as avoiding the question but I just want to live a life which I can look back on and be satisfied with. I suppose that’s everyone’s goal really but it makes sense doesn’t it? People can strive all their lives to achieve things and be miserable. People can accomplish amazing things and still be miserable!

Q. Do you believe hard work is the key to success?

A. My dad always said “with hard work you can achieve anything” but I think we all know that’s bullshit. Returning to the previous question my goal is essentially reached through doing as little hard work as possible. No one looks back fondly on a life toiling away at a computer screen. It’s what I do out of work that will enrich my life.

Q. Does the prospect of settling down into a job for life appeal to you?

A. Aspects of that life certainly appeal to me but at this point in time I’d rather not think about it. I’d much rather go with the flow and see what life throws at me.

“People can strive all their lives to achieve things and be miserable.

People can accomplish amazing things and still be miserable!”


Q. Do you feel you have been deceived about the possibilities available to you in adult life?

A. Not necessarily deceived but life choices that satisfy the soul and provide long-term financial stability are, for the most part, unrealistic.

Q. Do you feel that our generation has been mollycoddled?

A. On the one hand we have been more so than any previous generation. On the other hand, support and freedom from parents are vital to developing well-rounded and mentally stable children. I can’t imagine anyone believing that this generation of parents had anything other than the best intentions.

Q. Do you feel that there is a lot of pressure on people to be successful at an early age?

A. Yes. As an 11 year old, you see career guidance councillors in school. We are pressured at 14 years old to condense our options, then again at 16.

By the age of 18 we are told to choose one subject and to exclusively study that for 3 years. This itself drastically reduces our options when seeking employment.

How many people actually know what they want to do in life, especially at such a young age?

“life choices that satisfy the soul and provide long-term financial stability are, for the most part, unrealistic.”


Q. Do you think social media contributes to people feeling a sense of inadequacy?

A. Yes, but arguably the types of people who frequent social media do so to deal with latent feelings of inadequacy anyway. It’s a vicious circle.

I think that the wider media, in particular celebrity culture and advertising, have a bigger effect than social media on feelings of inadequacy. Both superficially and in terms of comparing our achievements to others.

This is especially relevant when considering the idolisation of money, footballers pop-stars and the rest of it.

Q. Do you think media representations of adolescence/young adulthood have positively influenced your life and aspirations?

A. Justin Bieber has, most definitely. Love that guy.  In all seriousness I can’t think of anyone who stands out in my mind as being a role model for me when I was younger. It’s hard to imagine your lives without a reflection of it in film and TV though so it’s a tough question that I can’t adequately answer.

“…people who frequent social media do so to deal with latent feelings of inadequacy”


Q. Do you think the amount of options available to people makes it more difficult for people to feel more comfortable in their lives?

A. I think so. When you ask most people what their dream job would be it’s usually in a creative field or playing a role in changing the world. People want to improve human existence and have their name secured in history. Yet we all end up in jobs in banks, retail outlets and beauty shops.

If we see these aspirations as being basic impulses drilled into us from childhood then 99.999 per cent of people never get to fulfil their desires. To make things worse we get forced into jobs which we sometimes see as actively making the world a worse place. Of course, I’m not suggesting that children should be told to expect a mundane life and not to aspire to things. That would be awful.

Q. Do you think that generations before us had simpler lives in any sense of the word?

A. The easy answer is yes. But our grandparents, and great-grand parents were killed in the wars. Meanwhile we live comfortably in our homes, 5000 miles away from the bombs. We moan about the complication of life, when in reality, we have abundant food, entertainment and resources. Going to Asda is easier than farming.

I think our naivety makes us believe our lives are complicated, but who’s to say every generation hasn’t felt that way. We can speak to people on the other side of the world, on Skype, live. It’s not that complicated.

“99.999 per cent of people never get to fulfil their desires.”

And on that happy note we finished our interview.

Q&A: Sarah’s Quarter-Life Crisis

We’ve all heard it before, “enjoy your life while you’re young”. It’s a phrase that everyone knows and everyone acknowledges, but it seems like it’s becoming easier said than done.

With the recent recession and Britain’s cities fast becoming overpopulated it seems that ‘real life’ is being thrust upon people earlier and earlier nowadays. After graduating University (or perhaps not even going at all) life can get a little bit hectic. You instantly have to start thinking about all sorts of tax, applying for jobs, finding a home and a partner. All of which are normal day-to-day worries for people in the ‘real world’, but due to the pressures put upon the younger generation by their parents it seems like these worries can quickly become amplified.

Sarah Coffey, a 23-year-old graduate from Liverpool feels exactly this way. Sarah was a classmate of mine at University and upon being asked how things had been going since University she quickly replied:

“Terribly. I wanted to go and do a Masters course, and I actually got onto one in Germany but I just couldn’t afford the tuition fees so I am currently working in a call centre and living with my parents in the hope that I can save some money up before re-applying for Uni next year.”

Sarah (right) in happier times.

Sarah (right) in happier times.

When I asked Sarah why she felt so bad about living at home and working in order to save money up for a Masters she told me:

“Well I just feel embarrassed about living at home. A lot of my friends have moved away or are living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and I’m stuck at home with my mum and dad.

My parents are pretty happy to support me in whatever I do, but I do feel that they kind of wish I had moved away or was living by myself. It’s most likely down to the fact that after my sister graduated she moved to Ireland and started up her own company and is now living with her boyfriend. But then again, she is now engaged to a footballer.”

John Dillon (Sarah's sister's boyfriend) playing for Dundalk United.  Image courtesy of Dundalk United

John Dillon (Sarah’s sister’s boyfriend) playing for Dundalk United.
Image courtesy of Dundalk United

After asking Sarah as to whether she had heard about the idea of ‘quarter life crisis’ she fell silent before carefully replying

“No, but I can guess what it is. I’m not too sure if I am having one to be honest. A lot of people don’t know what to do after Uni and I’m still deciding, but I’m sure once I start my Masters course I will have more of an idea… Hopefully.”