Dear Future Me:
Nine months can be a magical time. It’s about the length of the first year of college, or the time needed to bring a child to life. Well I’ve already graduated and a ways away from becoming a mother, but right now this time seems significant because there are nine months until my 25th birthday. Thinking back, I’ve sort of been preparing for 25 and a potential quarterlife ‘crisis’ for half a decade. At twenty, I read an article about how to “welcome” a quarterlife crisis* and I thought it was great. As a wide-eyed young thing wondering how to balance my double major let alone navigate the real world, I saw its depictions of aimless, confused twentysomethings as great role guides for how not to live life. I began to devour all the quarterlife crisis articles I could get my hands on, convinced that with enough research and planning I could avoid such trauma. “Who had crises anyway?” I thought. Not the organized.
Fast-forward half a decade, and life has opened my eyes to the realities of being twentysomething. I’m so close to 25, and despite my carefully curated life plans, my life is better than I anticipated yet I’m closer to a quarterlife crisis than I ever thought possible. Funnily, I hadn’t realized then that the world would change faster than I could keep up with it. Now after a few years navigating the ‘sky’s the limit’ post-college world, a constantly growing pile of questions has become my constant companion.
But you know what? I have accepted this as perfectly fine. I’m learning to embrace the chaos and believe that unanswered questions are natural parts of the career and life ultra-marathons I—and other twentysomethings—are running. Different legs of the race will produce additional insights, but for now, I hope writing down a few lessons learned will allow you, future self, to remember what your life was like nearing 25 and how far you’ve been able to grow.
1. Respect your elders
Your work life, home life, and even social life contain those who are older than you. Strive not to see them as out-of-sync, but as valuable human beings who have much to share. They may not always be your ideal versions of role models or mentors, but remember that every person has something to offer the world. Show every person you work with respect and your life (and hopefully theirs) will be richer for it.
2. Work at relationships
As an introvert, you have long known that you need pockets of ‘alone time’ to recharge. Watch that this doesn’t morph only being social when you feel like it. Remember that relationships are two-way streets and that it is OK to allow people to need you and yourself to need them. Nurture these relationships. Go out when the people you care about call even if nothing sounds better than a night reading in bed. Show support when they need you. Work to give more than you take.
3. Be friendly, always
In the daily grind, there will always be openings for feelings of annoyance to rise. Don’t let them! Try not to let slow walkers, bad drivers, or terrible service annoy you. Every person is trying to live his or her best life, and every person can have off days. Practice patience and understanding. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It will serve you well, and set you up for success in your personal and professional lives.
4. Stay prepared
Life is unpredictable and you never know when a new opportunity will arise. Keep up on developments in your field of interest so that you can answer ad hoc questions and have something to contribute when you find yourself in a higher-than-your-pay-grade conversation at work. Work hard to show others that you can be taken seriously. You never know who is watching or when a great opportunity will arise.
5. Keep reflecting
You’ve been a chronic journal keeper since primary school and have long found it to be a great way for ironing out your thoughts. Keep at it. It will allow you to keep track of your changing feelings and shed insight into your development when memories fade. Reflect for your personal development, but also reflect so you can remember and share. There is no proven guidebook for how to succeed in life, but perhaps the insights you gain and the productive habits you instill will also help others. Be open to being vulnerable and developing community with other (potentially confused) women nearing 25 and beyond.
*The original article, “Welcome to Your Quarter Life Crisis” by Kate Carraway was published in the now-defunct Eye Weekly. The full article can no longer be found online.