The Power of the Quarter-Life Crisis: One Writer’s Letter to Herself about Freedom and Career Choices

girl in window

I’m sitting on my couch as I write this, and the usual sense of dread is falling over me. This happens every Sunday evening as I get ready to start my work week. I had an epiphany recently—maybe the hype about the quarter-life crisis is true. I realized that I hate my job. I know, I know—hate is a strong word. I don’t hate the job itself. I hate what it has turned me into, and the mindset it has put me in. I wake up every morning just thinking about the fact that the only reason I go to this place Monday through Friday is to pay my bills. I get no actual enjoyment out of the monotonous office work that I do (who’d have thought!). Sometimes, I feel as if my brain is melting through my ears, and I’m just wasting my precious time and my limited days on Earth. Dramatic though it may be, (an adjective that has been used to describe me before), it feels true nonetheless.

Growing up, I never expected myself to be in this situation. I was going to be a famous author, or at least editing someone else’s famous works—whichever came first. I loved reading, which turned into a love of writing. I would write just to write, describing anything that came to mind. I had journals filled with random thoughts, poetry about all of my teenage angst (of which there was much), and even short stories I crammed into the black-and-white marble composition notebooks that lined my shelves. I loved writing, and I still do.

However, I grew up in a very “practical” household. Work wasn’t supposed to be fun. It was expected that I would hate my job just like everyone else did. If it didn’t result in a vacation package and a deep sense of loathing (so basically if it wasn’t a typical nine-to-five job with a pension), then it was merely a hobby. In my parent’s opinion, those hours could be better spent working overtime. That philosophy has never reflected my view of the world. Practicality doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. However, I also realized that without any practicality, I wouldn’t survive. That’s how I landed myself in my current position. The question that still haunts me is how much practicality is too much? The amount of practicality that I was subjected to growing up had stifled me as a kid—and continued to do so for 25 years. I don’t want to wake up every morning to go to a job that I can’t stand just to pay the bills. Unfortunately, that is and will remain the reality of life for so many of us. I’m starting to think that I don’t have to succumb to that. Even if I do land in a cubicle eventually, I can at least try other alternatives first.

quarter life smile

The trouble is, every time I think about doing something new, I can hear my parent’s voices in the back of my mind. “I think I’d like to major in English,” I’d say. The response would be, “Well, that’s a waste of time—you won’t make any money with that.” I’d say, “I really like to cook. Maybe I could try taking some cooking classes.” That would get a reply of, “What—you want to slave away in a kitchen for the rest of your life, working nights and weekends?” Just to be clear, this isn’t a pity party. I don’t stay awake at night cursing my parents. I accept that I put myself in my situation—I’m responsible for my choices, and so on and so forth. They only want what’s best for me. They want me to have a good life. Anyone who cares about you (and who isn’t a jerk), should want that.

We all need to try new things, to put ourselves out there. At some point we must choose whether or not we will face our fear of rejection, and just live. I do not want to look back when I’m in my 40s and only think about the missed opportunities or chances I didn’t take so that I could play it safe. I want to be able to say that I really lived, and that I really tried. There is no age limit to that desire, whether we’re in our early 20s or our late 60s. We have our own lives to live, and we should take advantage of that. Of course, the practical world still exists. We have bills, and obligations, we still need to support ourselves and loved ones. But there’s no crime in taking time out of our day to do what we love, and hope that it turns into something lucrative.

At some point we must choose whether or not we will face our fear of rejection, and just live.

I’m lucky enough now to have someone in my life who really encourages me to do what I want. I’m also lucky enough to have had my father come around (at least in part), to my way of thinking. He realizes my career choices are my decisions to make, and I realize everything he does is out of love. So, I’ll continue to go to this job that I don’t really care for, because I need a place to live and food and Internet access. But when I have time to myself, I’ll continue to do what I love: writing (and maybe occasionally scrolling through Instagram on my phone). We should all have the right to do what we enjoy—and if that something is office work, so be it! But if we’re not where we want to be, it’s up to us to build the strength to do what’s best for ourselves, regardless of what anyone else may say.

Ariel Bethencourt

Ariel Bethencourt is a writer with a flare for the dramatic and a love of sarcasm, preferably in large doses. She lives and work in Albany, New York, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science at the State University of New York. She enjoys reading, video games, and a good beer, and is currently teaching herself how to play piano. You can contact her at ariel.bethencourt@yahoo.com.

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