Subtle Pressures and the Quarter Life Crisis

While biking across the United States this last Fall, I was largely out of contact with my friends and family. We had only sporadic internet access and even cell phone access was not always available. During this time, I noticed that my mind changed a great deal on what kind of job I’d be happy in. This is strange because I had all ready spent a decade trying to jettison the beliefs that had been drilled into me. Why?

Well, I wasn’t happy. Now I realize that a great part of that had nothing to do with the values I had been given. If my parents were open minded hippies who taught me that the universe is love, and that I should pursue my dreams and not worry about money, I’d probably still be very angry with them at this time. Nobody told me, but there’s actually a crisis that occurs around 25 though mine happened at 23. During this time, one will question one’s career and their meaning in life. This questioning is important for growth and development.

It’s also largely bullshit. This is because all careers can be questioned and doubted. For example, if I am making decent money as a nurse, I can question whether my life would be better had I taken up a field that allowed me to become more creative. Perhaps I should give up nursing and become a comedy writer. If I am writing for a comedy show, I could question whether my job is actually making an impact on bettering the world. Perhaps I should give up comedy and become a nurse. This questioning is endless, and leads no where.

I didn’t really understand this until I read some Zen and began meditating. I didn’t do this until I was about 30 which is 7 years after the crisis. See, I am still dealing with the aftermath of the crisis I had when I was 23! While in a mini-crisis, where I had a job that included changing animal cages, I began to study Zen and meditate. While meditating, I was able to stop feeling sorry for myself for a second or two. This is when I learned that my situation was not real, it was just a product of my mind. Had I a great joy for animal cage changing and experimenting on animals, I would have been very happy in this job.

The point is, when you are in a crisis, most of your decisions are going to be bullshit, and you shouldn’t make them at this time. It’s best to wait until you are more stable mentally no matter how long this takes. Just keep reassuring yourself that you agitation is just agitation. This is waaaay harder than it looks, but it can be done. This day and age, the biggest danger is actually not that one will change one’s job, but rather that one will ignore their agitation. This is really easy to do today because there are many ways to block out one’s pain like anti-depressants. While these are good for people who are suffering from depression, I feel that they can be misused to block important cues from one’s environment.

I didn’t know this until I read a book called Artificial Happiness. This book was great because it taught me although feeling anxious feel bad, it can actually be a good thing. It’s just like pain. If you are in pain, that teaches you that you did something wrong like stick your hand in a fire. You can learn from this pain.
Similarly, when I was anxious, I felt like I needed to change something in my life. This introspection could be good. It teaches you to not take life for granted and to grow. Unfortunately, one can not conduct this kind of introspection at the same time one is trying to swallow from the fire hose that is studying medicine. Add a wedding, and this just makes things worse.

At the time, I was very ashamed that I felt disoriented and confused. I was questioning my faith and everything else I had been taught. Someone who claimed to be my friend relentlessly questioned my religious faith. Although it may have been silly to him, it could have helped me a little. I don’t know. My faith was gone due to my belief I had to create an air tight argument to “justify” everything I believed. My belief in hard work was gone because I had worked so hard my whole life, and I was unhappy. I wanted to break up with my fiance, but I didn’t want to hurt her. Worse, my faith in my parents was gone because my mother was a crazy alcoholic, and my father turned my back on me. Looking back, I am actually amazed how well I held up. But back then, it was a big blow to my masculinity to feel so lonely, scared, sad, and lost.

Turning to professional help was just another mistake for me. (STUPID LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Your mileage may vary. I’m not dismissing professional help, just describing, honestly, what happened in _my_ experience.) Anyway, getting the help of a professional meant learning that not only did my friends and family not care enough to help me or even listen to me enough to know who I was, but I couldn’t even PAY someone to pretend to care. This just depressed me worse. I’m sure that if I had a different counselor, things could have been different. Alas, I’m sure this asshole is getting paid well to sit around not helping people.

In a way, this nightmare is long gone. In another, it never ended because I still owe money for an eduction I am not using. Worse is that my failure paralyzed me from making _any_ career moves because I was afraid that it would end in misery again. Add to this the humiliating experience that is a job hunt, and you get a person who is highly intelligent, kind, hard working, and imaginative who can’t find a decent paying job.

Living on the road allowed me to mentally break free of many of the imaginary fetters that I had. Now I am living in a new city where I don’t know anyone. I’m so glad I’m here. My only regret is that I didn’t move here 11 years ago, when I was 24. The reason I didn’t move was because I thought it would be another mistake. I’d fail to find a job and become homeless.

I’m not afraid to be homeless anymore because during my bike trip, I _was_ technically homeless. I’m not afraid that I won’t find a job because I have faith now. I don’t talk to my friend who mocked my faith anymore. I don’t talk to _anyone_ who doubted me or who put me down. With these subtle pressures gone, I can see that my only problem in my life, ever, was a lack of confidence. That’s it. Just know that gives me a lot of confidence. My future success will give me even more confidence.

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