Monday, July 25, 2011

The Quarter-Life Crisis

~ Prologue ~

       Mid-life crisis: A period of personal emotional turmoil and coping challenges that some people encounter when they reach middle age, accompanied by a desire for change in their lives, brought on by fears and anxieties about growing older.
       The phrase mid-life crisis was introduced in 1965 by the psychoanalyst and social scientist Elliot Jaques in a study of creative geniuses. (Wikipedia)

Along with the above definition, Wikipedia was kind enough to include a photographic example:

Actual caption: some people will purchase both a motorcycle
and an expensive car during their mid life crisis.
~ End Prologue ~

Since I am looking to potentially move to the DC area, I figured it would be a good idea to go there and check the city out.  I had been there twice in high school, but that was 5 years ago – I needed to see how I currently felt about the area and if I could see myself living there.  (And I wanted to try and line up a job.  Yeah, I needed one of those.)

So a friend and I made plans to visit the city during our Spring Break.  We did the typical touristy things (museums, monuments, memorials) and congratulated ourselves on being “so not like typical tourists.”  Having both studied abroad, we were each familiar with the typical touristy tropes: fanny-packs, excessive pointing, visible cameras, lingering as if lost.

We did none of these things.  (When we ended up somewhere we hadn’t exactly planned on going to, that was not us getting lost. That was us purposefully exploring the city.) We found offbeat, out-of-the-way restaurants and enjoyed lots of walking.  We meandered at will, and it was lovely.

Throughout all of this, I felt myself thinking, Gee, this city doesn’t feel overwhelming at all.  Actually, it feels kinda small…I could definitely handle it.

For about a day I floated on a happy zephyr of sparkles and dreams, imagining myself a working girl in DC.

Then I spoke with another friend.

It started innocently enough; I asked him what he wanted to do after graduation.  He mentioned a few vague ideas, but was insistent that he wanted to go West, experience smaller-town living and be among the great outdoors.

I paused.  Right there, standing next to one of the clear fountains of the WWII Memorial, I had my quarter-life crisis.

 Quarter-Life Crisis: A period of emotional and sometimes financial turmoil experienced by people as they reach their early to mid-twenties, brought on by looming and completely justified fears related to careers, re-location, and the knowledge that they are now "an adult."
     The phrase "quarter-life crisis" was introduced by the soon-to-be-grad and procrastination expert Aftan in a random identity crisis. [Although apparently some other guy wrote a book about it before I published this....darn]

Actual caption: Some students will try to hide
under the covers during their quarter-life crisis.
"What? I'm...I'm not doing anything!"

Wait a second, some part of me wondered, dazedly following my companions around the National Mall.  Aftan, you’re from Montana. Hiking, nature, the outdoors – that’s a huge part of your identity. How can you even think about living in a city?

Another part of me reasoned, Look, you simply cannot live in a small Western town and do the kind of work you want to do.  Rural Montana – surprise! – doesn’t exactly have tons of connections to international diplomacy or journalism.

Silently I argued with myself, all the way up a bunch of clean white steps.  Finally I looked up and realized I was standing before the giant statue of Lincoln. I stared at his wise, gentle and troubled face and mentally begged him to give me answers, or at least solace.

Funny thing about statues: they never really talk back.

I was pretty quiet the rest of the day, wrestling with myself and with God and with my own ideas about dreams and home and what I truly want out of life. In many ways I’m still wrestling. God and I, we’ve come to a few conclusions, I think. Maybe. At the very least I’m not still in that paralyzed, scared place of a few weeks ago.

If you’re in that place, trust me, I know – it sucks.  But you won’t be there forever. I promise.

And sometimes, hiding under the covers (for a little while) really does help.

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