Sometimes a minor quarter-life crisis can come from your lack of one. Sound confusing? Anwen Hayward of lacreativitea.wordpress.com explains.
Historically speaking, my family have always been good at quarter life crises. My mother got married to a man with ringlets. My great-grandfather joined the Australian navy and got so many tattoos that he made his wife cry.
There’s even a rumour that a great-great-uncle developed a sudden lifelong whim to be a horse and cart driver, spending his family’s life savings on a cart pony and old wagon before falling into destitute alcoholism. I don’t know what happened to the horse.
So, with that information to hand, I rather expected that my own quarter life crisis would be the thing of legend. I was almost looking forward to it. I wondered what I’d do when I hit the sensible wall of my 20s and dived into the uncharted waters of quarter life rebellion.
Would I spend all my savings on designer clothing and taxidermied fish? Perhaps I’d develop a glamorous cocaine habit and start frequenting soho bars, or run off to Cambodia with a younger gentleman (although not too much younger, of course; I’d be a rebel, not a monster).
I had no idea what I’d do when the big 2-0 hit, but I knew it would be phenomenal. They’d commemorate my story to myth, write odes and ballads about me and get funny men in tights to sing them with lyre accompaniments. They would. I knew it.
“I rather expected that my own quarter life crisis would be the thing of legend”
Only it didn’t quite happen like that.
Last week, I reached the grand old age of 22, and to date the most rebellious thing I’ve ever done is dine and dash in a cafe in Paris, swindling the owner of a massive 1.50€. I lost sleep for days over that, before rationalising that the pubic hair I’d found in my pain au chocolat would cost me far more than 1.50€ in therapy in the years to come. Since then, I’d never had any desire to do anything more avant-garde than that. Not once in the 700 days since I’d hit 20 had I had any desire to change my life on a whim, or reevaluate my life goals on a gondola in Vienna.
In 365 days, at the age of 23, my mother would have been married to a man with ringlets. 365 days ago, at the age of 21, my great-grandfather would have got a tattoo of a mermaid with phenomenally large breasts on his bicep. 365 days ago, I was sitting in my office, typing away contendedly at a petty cash spreadsheet and daydreaming about books I’d never write. I fully expected to be doing the same thing in 365 days’ time. Hardly the stuff of legend.
“To date the most rebellious thing I’ve ever done is dine and dash in a cafe in Paris”
On the morning of my 22nd birthday, I sat in my bedroom in my parents’ house and ruminated about the crisis that I hadn’t had. Where was my revelation? What had happened to my epiphany? I was 22, for God’s sake. I was supposed to have realised that my life was fruitless and heading in an undesirable direction, catapulting me fast into the void of vain attempts at changing the pattern of my existence. I was supposed to have had some sort of realisation, some sort of sudden and undeniable proof that I should be angry with the way my life was going, and yet I hadn’t. I’d just sort of plodded along, completely content with the fact that I had an English degree and yet I’d been an assistant accountant for the past seven years.
At first, I wondered if perhaps I’d been brainwashed by the patriarchy. Perhaps I’d just been gradually pushed into not questioning my admittedly boring life. Perhaps my total and peaceful acceptance of my lot was not just my natural optimism, but a symptom of a systematic and total brainwashing by the system into deciding not to protest my ill luck.
“Where was my revelation? What had happened to my epiphany?”
And then I had an epiphany. In an ideal world, I would have had this revelation against the backdrop of a red-raw sunset over an African plain, but in reality, I was eating lunch at my office desk (the same lunch I have every day, packed in a pink lunchbox and devoured at the chime of 1pm). The revelation? That I was content. I just was. I hadn’t had a crisis because I didn’t need one. My brain wasn’t addled by a totalitarian state. It was just happy. I was just happy.
The revelation was a mildly shocking one. As a more creative person, I’d always expected to rue the monotony of working life. I knew that I was supposed to loathe the grind of the 9-5 workday. I was supposed to be young and angry with the system that forced me out of bed at 7.30 on weekdays. Yet, for now, I wasn’t. I quite enjoyed getting the same bus every day, learning about the lives and idiosyncracies of my fellow commuters. I even looked forward to the client review meetings on Friday afternoons.
I’m still not sure what my crisis will be, if it ever happens. Perhaps in 3 years’ time I’ll have a sudden desire to drop everything and become a graphic designer in Norway, or I’ll hit 26 and realise that my lifelong goal was always to become a Conservative politician, but for now, my only revelation to date has been that I don’t need a crisis or a turning point to bring my life into focus. All I need is some feeling of contentment, something to look forward to and a reason to be happy, and that as long as I have that, I’m quite happy to live in the moment and put the crisis off. At least until I’m 40, anyway.