Call us pedantic, but here at Clueless we’re a bunch of perfectionists. We like our beers cold and our Ginsters hot, our water parks big and our crazy-golf scores small. We also like to know why things are going wrong, and how we can stop them – which is why we got in touch with The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and quarter-life crisis expert Dr Oliver Robinson to see how modern day adulthood affects the QLC.
It turns out it all starts with life expectancy. Yep, living longer is actually a massive downer. The ONS gave us these stats:
As you can see, life has gotten a lot longer over the past 100 years. But how is that related to the QLC? Well, it all starts with the age adulthood begins. According to Dr Robinson, for most of the 20th century 21 was deemed the age adulthood started (so three extra years of sponging off your parents – nice). When combined with the average life expectancy of the period in question, it meant you started working and living independently later, and, as you were expected to die a lot earlier, you were working for a much shorter period of time (yay!).
Instead now we start adulthood at 18 (and some of us start our careers as early as 16, for example in apprenticeships) and work until around the age of 70 – that’s a lot more early mornings, traffic jams, and mind-numbing toil. Now consider the fact that most 18 year-olds don’t actually consider themselves adult until six or seven years later and you see the problem; being thrust into an uncomfortable position of independence at 18, a position which you don’t feel you’re ready for, and you’re likely to get stressed out – but looking ahead and seeing decades and decades of the same is just plain depressing.
And unfortunately, it isn’t going to get any better. With life expectancy in the UK rocketing, the forecast for future generations looks even bleaker – better keep a spare room in your future house, because there’s a fair chance that the kids will be moving back in…
If you fancy hearing more academic insights into your QLC then check out Dr Robinson’s Clueless guest post!
So you thought getting over your quarter-life crisis would be like ABC, easy as 123, as simple as do re mi?
Well unfortunately, you were wrong (again). Everybody’s different, which is why the good folks at Clueless have compiled the internet’s top 5 QLC sites (it’s actually only #2 to #6 – you already found #1), each focusing on different problems, tastes, and personalities. Take a wander and see which one suits you best…
1 – Kirk Akahoshi, life coach, quarter-life crisis expert
Kirk Akahoshi is the Mr Miyagi of life coaches. His approach to the QLC is very much ‘wax on, wax off’ – that is, getting in touch with your spiritual side before kicking your QLC in the crotch. His blog is all about pinpointing what’s wrong in your life, then making peace with it. It also features a ton of personal challenges which will help shape the way you handle things like finances and relationships – for example making a promise to yourself, like working out an extra couple of days a week, and then donating money to charity every time you break the rules. Bow to your Sensei.
Working Self is for QLCers worried about their career(less) life. Rebecca Fraser-Thill describes herself as a “free spirit who regularly turns down ‘prime’ opportunities in pursuit of work that fits my values, goals, and purpose”. As you can see, this blog is less about how to land fat dollar, and more about how to get happiness and meaning out of your work – as well as building your confidence along the way. Rebecca also likes data, as you’ll find in her blog, and is constantly drawing up stats and graphs providing tips like ‘why people who have mentors tend to get salary increases and promotions faster than workers who don’t have mentors’.
3 – My Name is Elizabeth, stories about identity, family, and culture
Deeply personal and spanning everything from growing up to religion, My Name is Elizabeth takes a serious look at some of our most private worries and inhibitions. Combining her cultural experiences with a fair bit of academic study (a PhD in clinical psychology. And a master’s in psychology. Oh, and another master’s in theology.) Elizabeth provides an incisive look into what makes you tick. You’ll be challenged by some of her writing, but probably reassured too. Definitely worth a look for those millenials feeling a bit emo.
4 – Stratejoy, You Want to Love Your Life
One for the ladies. Molly Mahar’s Stratejoy is a great place to figure out the coaching, courses, and community you need to get involved with to sidestep your QLC. With hundreds of contributions from women all over the world Stratejoy looks at QLC problems unique to women, whether it’s fighting your corner in a male-dominated workplace or even preparing to have a child. In the community section feel free to post your own questions – you’ll receive a dozen answers from women who’ve been there and done that.
5 – Elite Daily, The Voice of Generation-Y
Ah, the hipsters choice. Teeming with buzzfeed-style articles for quick relief from Microsoft Excel, Elite Daily is a playground for QLCers. Alongside the life, money, and dating pages you’d expect from a QLC site, it also has plenty on sports, music, and humour, among others. Particularly interesting are the travel posts, so those of you looking to “get away from it all” can follow a path well-trodden by QLCers past and present. It might not be an in-depth look into “where-you-went-wrong-and how-to-set-it-right”, but it provides light relief and laughs, and who can argue with that?
The Clueless team has only gone and snagged Dr Oliver Robinson for a bit of academic, incisive QLC discussion – lucky us! Doc Robinson is Programme Leader for the BSc Hons Psychology with Counselling degree at the University of Greenwich. He’s something of a QLC expert, and his research has been published in the New Scientist, The Guardian, BBC Radio 4, The Telegraph and The Times (Wow. We actually are lucky). Today he’s going to wax lyrical on the basics – what is a QLC, and where does it come from? This is the kind of guy who has many leather bound books and a Rolodex, so listen up people…
What is the quarter-life crisis? After all, traditionally the period of midlife has been most strongly associated with having a crisis in adulthood, but it is now widely accepted that they are just as likely in the first decade of adult life. A quarter-life crisis is a period of stress, instability and major life change that occurs when a person is either in their twenties or early thirties. Such a period typically occurs when a person has entered a job, relationship or marriage, or has developed an adult lifestyle, which they then realise they no longer want because it is causing them distress or preventing their personal growth. The crisis period acts as a turning point during which old commitments are ended, new ones are begun, and many strong emotions are experienced. Crisis episodes are often reflected on as developmental important periods, during which much personality development and emotional development occurs.
“A quarter-life crisis is a period of stress, instability and major life change that occurs when a person is either in their twenties or early thirties”
My research has investigated the quarter-life crisis using questionnaires and interviews, and I’ve found it is quite a common phenomenon – about one third of British adults aged 30 and over reflect on having a crisis in their twenties.
However, there are good arguments that the quarter-life crisis is more common now than in the past.
Firstly, adults in their twenties report higher levels of stress than any other adult age group. It is a time during which major decisions are made that shape the remaining decades of adult life – this is a source of pressure and anxiety and one that is increasingly complicated in the modern world as there are more kinds of job, more possible identities and a wider set of options for relationships.
An additional challenge for young adults is changing roles from being a dependent child who lives at home and is financially supported, to being an independent adult. This transition to adulthood can take many years to achieve in full due to longer periods studying and the high price of property.
While age 18 is the commencement of legal adulthood in the UK (and many other countries), most young adults do not actually think of themselves as adults for some years after that. This is referred to as the stage of ‘emerging adulthood’ – when a young adult is neither fully adolescent nor fully adult.
In the past, the start of adult commitments such as marriage, parenthood and career occurred earlier, so by the age of 25 a young person would quickly be embedded in adult society through entering these social roles. Now, in the UK, the average age for first marriage is approximately 30, and parenthood also starts at this age on average.
This delay of commitments means that a young person has more freedom to explore and be educated than ever before; it means that major life changes are more possible and manageable. For example, a career change is easier if the person does not have financial responsibilities towards children and so has the capacity to re-train for a period of their young adult life, while a relationship change is also easier if the relationship in non-marital and does not involve children. These are the kinds of changes that make quarter-life crisis a more common phenomenon than in the past.
A quarter-life crisis is an episode in life that typically lasts a year or two, and includes a number of recognisable features. All episodes start with Phase 1. This involves a life situation that is causing the person stress, dissatisfaction, a deep sense that their development is not progressing healthily and optimally, and feeling trapped in a set of commitments that have been made but are no longer wanted. This is often accompanied by not feeling in control– of being pushed around by circumstance and other people. The negative emotions that characterise Phase 1 are often held within, and not expressed outwardly.
Phase 2A brings with it a greater desire for change, and a belief that change can occur. During this phase, a person separates from a relationship, social group or job to search for a new path into adult life. This is a distressing period, for it brings a sense of loss, confusion and a sense of anxiety about the future.
“Rather than living with a routine and automatically, life in Phase 3 is experimental and spontaneous”
Phase 2B is a time of questioning and self-examination. One of our participants said of this period: ‘‘I had to reflect, I had to see about the past and what went wrong, why things went wrong”. This emphasises the nature of this period – a time to reflect on why their life had led to a crisis and how to move forward.
Rather than living with a routine and automatically, life in Phase 3 is experimental and spontaneous. New ideas, identities and commitments are then tried and a person looks at options available to them for the future. The aim of Phase 3 is to search for a career or relationship that is more closely aligned with their ‘core self’ – they values, aspirations and deep sense ‘who I am’ than before.
Phase 4 is termed the ‘rebuilding phase’ and it involves active steps towards building a new adult ‘life structure’ – an integrated set of commitments that can stand the test of time and act as the foundation for the decades of adult life to come.
To read more of Doc Robinson’s work on the QLC and coping with adulthood, check out his book Development through Adulthood: An Integrative Sourcebook. You can also catch excerpts of his keynote speech at Mind The Gap’s launch party in March on our liveblog coverage of the event.
Happen to miss out on last night’s Mind The Gap launch party liveblog, or wondering how Mind The Gap can help you get through your quarter-life crisis? Catch up here with Clueless’s breakdown to your soon-to-be favourite life coaches…
At a glance:
- New lifecoaching organisation, Mind The Gap, launches
- MTG aims to solve the problems of todays 20 and 30-somethings, like the QLC
- Renowned life coach and psychologist Dr Oliver Robinson talks about the reasons for the rise in QLC-ers
- “MTG is a genuine niche for QLC support and discussion”, says Doc Robinson
8.34pm: The chief culprits…
8.24pm: But after getting together with her friend Emily, they turned their hobby and passion – bringing music to life – into a business…
8.06pm: Check out the Mind The Gap team here
7.55pm: Really great speech by Dr Robinson. If you want to check out his research, start here. It’s all very sciency.
7.38pm: The unveiling of the MTG logo! MTG coach Alice Stapleton (who we interviewed here) says the logo “reflects the gaps we all stumble into in life – whether in relationships, careers, or finances – and is a warning for this generation. We’re here to guide you round them.”
In our crusade to find the best quarter-life crisis material and deliver it to you, the sufferers, Clueless has come across pages and pages of “Things to do before you’re 25”.
What exactly qualifies as one of those “things”, we don’t know. Why it matters that you do it before 25, we don’t care. But one entry in particular stood out to resident Tolkien-enthusiast Pete (partly because it was an easy way to get a video editing grade he needed, and partly because he likes Tolkien). He took up arms and set about building a fort…
Ever wondered how you ended up so clueless? Want to identify the point where it all fell apart?
Our quarter-life crisis timeline highlights the heady highs and downright lies that left you a shuddering and confused wreck. It might be a good idea to pass this on to younger siblings…