The Quarter-life crisis in words

QLC word cloud

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go

What does this guy know anyway? Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What does this guy know anyway? Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Well hold on there F. Scott Fitzgerald (#namedrop), you haven’t even seen what we’re going to do with them yet! Jeez, this guy.

In a previous post, we looked at how the quarter-life crisis was represented in news media, and now we’ve gone back to the features, news stories and guides to the quarter-life crisis to look at the words it’s couched in.

For our purposes, these word clouds pull out the most frequently used terms – the bigger the word, the more times it was used in the original articles. In this first overall word cloud (above), there’s a lot of peripheral information to sift through, particularly irrelevant numbering.

The themes that pop out (aside from obvious terms like ‘crisis’) aren’t that surprising; ‘work’ and ‘jobs’ were used frequently enough to correlate them with QLCs. However, some are more interesting. ‘Parents’ would seem to reflect on both a comparison with previous generations and a need to live at home for financial reasons.

If we break it down further, we can see trends more clearly. For example, if we focus only on the long-form news feature articles and raise the bar for times a word is used, a slightly clearer picture emerges. We combined this guardian article, this telegraph article and this msn article to create this:

QLC feature word cloud

Again, we see ‘parents’, ‘jobs’ and ‘career’  are frequently used, but so are more personal terms: ‘trapped’, ‘depressed’, ‘feeling(s)’ , fear, ‘age’, ’25’ (a key age as opposed to the spectrum of numbers in the first word cloud), ‘want’, ‘phase’ and many others that display the universal feelings of distress that people can feel in these situations (incidentally Damian Barr, previously interviewed on this blog, also pops up a few times).

Blimey, this is getting a bit depressing; are all QLC articles this gloomy? Well, no; as any of our regular readers can attest, the rib-tickling levels of fun and hilarity that can be squeezed from the QLC knows no bounds; but what do these funnier articles on the topic from Metro, Buzzfeed and our very own Alex Horne (in this post) tell us?

QLC funny

Well, possibly slightly less. Although things are a bit less doom and gloom in these articles (as you might imagine), they also tend to gloss over key parts of the QLC experience (except the one from us, of course. We’re amazing). There are still trends that emerge, however; education, careers and emotional themes keep rising to the fore.

But perhaps you want something a little more helpful, and so for this last word cloud we’ve drawn together some articles which offer practical advice:

QLC helpful articles

It’s essentially what you’d expect. Keep your ‘faith’; one ‘stage’ at a time. ‘QLCs’ can make your ‘twenties’ intolerable, but ‘even’ during them, you must know they’re ‘just’ a ‘stage’.

That might seem pat and cheap, but it’s true. The language of the QLC is as universal as the experience – but also as the simple techniques to get past it are. So that’s what the investigations, the lists and the advice tell you.

As the last word cloud says: Your Move.

(Well, technically it says ‘youre’ and ‘MOVE’ separately, but it’s close enough. Ssh. And Robinson.)

With thanks to for the word cloud programme.

Full list of articles:

The quarterlife crisis: young, insecure and depressed (The Guardian)

Quarter-life crisis: Find me a twentysomething who isn’t having one (The Telegraph)

20-something and stressed? How the quarter-life crisis got worse (MSN News)

Feeling depressed? It may be your quarter-life crisis (New Scientist)

‘Quarter-life’ crisis hits three in four of those aged 26 to 30 (Daily Mail)

10 Signs You’re Having Your Quarter-Life Crisis (Buzzfeed)

6 signs you’re suffering from a quarter-life crisis (Metro)

How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis (Self)

7 Cures for Your Quarter-life Crisis (Relevant magazine)

My 20s Weren’t Supposed to Be Like This: Getting Through the Quarter-Life Crisis (The Huffington Post)

Are You Having a Mid-twenties Crisis? (The Huffington Post)



Has Disney ruined your life?

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that the heart-warming films of Walt Disney have pervaded every aspect of every single human being on the planet’s childhood.

The entire male population of Asia has, at some point or another, aspired to ride a magic rug and trap a parrot in a gravy boat. Every self-respecting Englishman has dreamed of possessing the style and wit of cheeky chimneysweep Dick Van Dyke.  All Y-chromosome deficient homo sapiens spend their lives counting the days until a coiffured nobleman carries them off into the hills.

But have timeless classics like The Emperor’s New Groove and Jungle Book 2 had another, more insidious, influence on our lives? Could Disney be responsible for the inadequacy, isolation and dissatisfaction we feel as we emerge, like Alice from the rabbit hole, into the adult world?

Below is a selection of some of the most egregious lies peddled to us by The Walt Disney Company while we were at our most vulnerable and impressionable.


#1. If you want something enough it will be yours.


When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

The idea that the world is governed by a benevolent force who rewards those who “wish” hard enough is a central tenet of the Disney ideology (among others). The concept, however, doesn’t quite hold water in a world of unpaid internships, nepotism and starving artists.

#2. All friendships last forever.


I wanna call your name, forever
And you will always answer, forever
And both of us will be
Forever you and me
Forever and ever

Yes, in the Disney universe even a friendship forged with an inanimate object is a source of endless laughter and boundless fun. In reality, however, your connection to your childhood friends is limited to scrolling through pictures of them having the time of their lives on Facebook. You, on the other hand, spend your Friday nights in the local with “the guys from work”, taking pictures of yourself pretending to have the time of your life.

#3. All work can be made joyful if you know how.


In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game

Although whistling while you work may make your desk jockeying days more bearable, you’re likely to receive a pencil in the eye courtesy of a colleague (and you would deserve it). Eating spoonfuls of sugar as you cold-call people would have similar negative effects on your health. In short, lots of areas of work are as joyless as that scene in Bambi and no amount of sing song or tomfoolery is going to change that.

#4. The partner of you dreams is out there somewhere.


I know you
I walked with you once upon a dream.
I know you
The gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
Yes, I know it’s true
that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
the way you did once upon a dream

Tinder, Grindr and Plenty of Fish have made it easier than ever to meet a sleazy cretin for a romantic pint but they have also made it much more apparent that human beings are terrible and that the idea of “everlasting love” is a hollow sham.

#5. Everything ends happily ever after™.


We are home
We are where we shall be forever
Trust in me
For you know I wont run away
From today
This is all that I need
And all that I need to say is…
Don’t you know how you’ve changed me


Perhaps the most pernicious of all Disneyisms is that everything always turns out great for the good guys. What a terrible thing to tell children who will grow up in a world of existential despair and Piers Morgan. No Disney princess becomes terminally ill and no handsome prince develops PTSD. Instead, the Dalmatians and the Aristocats come home, Simba becomes king, Sleeping Beauty stops sleeping, the little mermaid stops being a mermaid and the Hunchback of Notre Dame…actually, forget him.

#6. You Can Fly


You can do what the birdies can
At least it’s worth a try
You can fly! You can fly!
You can fly! You can fly!

You can’t fly.


Any thoughts on Disney’s lies? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @QLClueless.