Ross Griffith: The quarter-life crisis

I graduate in May. That’s about six weeks from now. I’ll have a degree in history, with a strong GPA and a few internships under my belt. In short: no real skills, no real experience, no real job prospects and some very real debt. And as trite as it is to say this, it must be said: The economy looks pretty bleak, especially for recent graduates.

I have spent the last few months in a state of low-grade panic. Jobs, apartments, graduate school – big choices have to be made, and they all seem to have to be made right now. If this sounds like you – and I am writing to my fellow seniors here – you are not alone.

It’s called the quarter-life crisis and just like a mid-life crisis defines a baby-boomer, the quarter-life crisis defines our generation as much as anything else (except for maybe the Internet). It references a series of anxieties about basically every aspect of our lives. From relationships to jobs, careers and even morals, the quarter-life crisis basically implies a real sense of insecurity about all aspects of your future life.

The term “quarter-life crisis” is broadly accepted among mental health experts, and is closely associated with the ideas of the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. At the same time, the quarter-life crisis is far more of an issue today for our generation then it was for earlier generations. Sure, our parents were anxious about graduating from college and of course they probably were not sure what they wanted to do with themselves for the rest of their lives.

But they did not face mounting college debt or an imploding global economy and their bachelor’s degrees were more meaningful, financially speaking. There is that catch-22 where every real job you want requires about five years of experience just to be considered. Even the nature of the word “career” has changed; we will probably never have one secure job for the rest of our lives.

So what is to be done? The truth is that the next decade will likely be the hardest of our lives as we slug our way into careers. We will have to learn new skills and spend our free time on the job search. But it will also be a vibrant and heady time, because we live at the intersection of personal and financial independence.

The quarter-life crisis is no joke, but it is also not as bad as it sounds. Everyone has gone through it, and people know your general experience and capabilities as a recent graduate. It’s uninspiring, but after graduation, most of us will have to work our way up from the bottom.

The writer, a senior majoring in history, is a Hatchet columnist.

Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this column.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.