Inspiring Conversations

Welcome to your Quarterlife Crisis

  • SumoMe

A fellow twentysomething exploring the depths and dysfunction of a Quarterlife Crisis.

An article by Penny V

Quarterlife Crisis“I’m fat, I’m poor, I have no man and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life.” Welcome to the roaring twenties: good times and dysfunction, with a Quarterlife crisis just lurking in the shadows, waiting to spring on you when you least expect it.

Ruthless and insidious, it squirms its way under your skin and festers. For Van*, 26, it’s been festering away for almost 2 years. With a degree in Mathematics, she’s currently working as an executive in the Media industry. Surrounded by high-flying siblings and relatives that are all lawyers, doctors and civil servants, she feels like she doesn’t measure up.

To counter that, her credit card has taken some abuse with impulse buys from the likes of Massimo Dutti and Gucci. “How can you not feel great, when you look so good?”

Yes, how can you, when you realize you’re rolling in credit card debt that you can’t seem to pay off in time each month? Once she’s home, she goes online and stalks some of her ex-classmates from university and wonders how some of them have gotten so far in their careers when she’s still only an executive. Almost scornfully, she pegs it up to sleeping their way up and grabs some chocolate fudge before heading to bed.

David*, 28 works in the pharmaceutical industry dealing with regulations and works under a female boss that presumably spits fire. Instant messaging all day long and half-heartedly rushing through his reports before he leaves on the dot, he feels like he doesn’t know what he’s doing in his life, and is just floating by.

He doesn’t remember what became of his hopes and aspirations. So once Friday night hits, he drinks most of his salary away each weekend and doesn’t remember how he gets home most of the time, if he even reaches home that is. Once the weekend is over, it’s back to the same-old, same-old.

Sounds rather familiar to you? Well you, my friend might be going through or have gone through a Quarterlife Crisis.

Where do I go from here?

Where do I go from here?

Constantly unsure of the future, doing whatever you want, when you want because you finally can and supporting a lifestyle that has more cons than you expected.

That is just the beginning towards a very dark spiral.

First introduced to the public with the New York Times best seller Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, it discusses the running themes that occur during this phase.

The most common theme that runs through the course of a Quarterlife Crisis is the constant worry of how things are going to turn out. I’m not sure what I really want to do and if I do how do I get there?

Our parents never had that worry. They tended to just do what they had to during their era. In fact, at my age (which I won’t be disclosing, thank you very much), my mother was married and had a child tugging on her dress.

In her own words, “We didn’t have time to worry. We just did it, because we had to. We didn’t have that many options, like you do now. We got married, so we got a house; we had children, so we worked hard to take care of you – did we shove our dreams under the carpet, maybe, but you can make yourself some new dreams, can’t you?”

Easy to tell it like it is, but difficult to take it and swallow it, considering the amount of options, luxuries and financial opportunities that we can afford. Especially when we’ve been enriched with more classes than we can remember when we were younger and told that we could do absolutely anything we wanted.

All those posters of inspirational messages by Anthony Robbins really came to bite us in the arse.

And the spectrum with how numerous twentysomethings deal with their insecurities of the future, ranges from binging on shopping, eating and drinking to sleeping around and even doing drugs to ‘feel more in control’.

And that is just an evil and vicious cycle, which can only make you feel even more depressed, when you’re broke, over-weight and drunk so much you can’t even remember how you got into bed with the ugliest and stupidest person you’ve ever met.

How numerous twentysomethings seem to get to this abysmal junction of ‘this is life, deal with it’, is when they’re set to conquer the world straight after university, armed with a degree and suddenly realize that they can’t.

David wanted to be part of a prominent research lab when he graduated, but unfortunately, places were not forthcoming. Especially with the current economic downturn, their past internships at prestigious companies now mean absolutely nothing. What more, an older post-graduate student, who might have the theoretical competency but not the experience to bag the job?

A Ph.D and insecurity issues? That seems like a one-way trip to depression.

Another point that most twentysomethings face is that, this is it. After your twenties, you will have no choice but to settle down and what you can do now, can never be done later.

This is the time to experiment, explore and make as much merry as possible. It explains why I’ve spent some very drunken Friday nights in the past year. I’ll never be able to do this saddled with a child, will I?! Rationalising, unfortunately doesn’t make self-destructive behaviour any better.

Will I get to be all that I want to be, will I do what I’ve always wanted to do before I hit the big 3-0 (which actually spells another sort of crisis in the making)?

Van worries that she might not get married by that time. It was her life-long goal to get married by the time she was 30 so she could have some time with her husband before she pops out a baby.

Now, she’s wondering if she’s ever going to get married at all, especially when her confidence has been dropping and she’s been binging on food. With a slightly more prosperous figure, even though she practices Jujitsu, she doesn’t socialise as much as she used to and prefers to spend time with her credit card. Like I said earlier – vicious cycle.

So what can you do to get yourself out of this wishy-washy predicament that could lead to something even more painfully self-destructive?

I have to place a disclaimer here that I’m not a professional of any sort and that this is just a personal opinion based from experience.


  • I love a good beer or whiskey dry as much as the next person, but this is one of the biggest reasons why weight gain, suddenly seems so apparent. Too much alcohol can also age you rapidly. Besides that, being drunk on the sidewalk, with someone manhandling you in public is really NOT glamourous. I don’t think I need to prove it after all the videos of Lindsay/Britney/Paris floating around.
  • Yeah we know you’re old enough to not have a bedtime, but sleeping late actually makes you put on weight and you’re bound to feel hungry. So all those late suppers aren’t doing you any favours to fight the flab!
  • Grab yourself an exercise buddy. It’ll help you stay motivated to continue running/gymming and the like. Yoga or Pilates with a friend, is always fun.


I used to be perpetually broke until I gave myself a budget. I refuse to live on credit cards, because I am pretty sure I will rack up an immense debt that will take me years to pay off. You’ve already asserted your independence, why go back crying to mum and dad about needing a loan to pay back those high-end purchases you have never actually used.

Set aside what’s needed for payments that can’t be missed: Loans, Bills, Transport and the like.

The wants can come later like: Shopping, Clubbing, Eating out.

The hard and fast rule? Live by cash only!


It’s easy to fall off the deep end when you’re idle. I don’t mean hanging out with your friends for hours on end or clubbing till the wee hours of the night. I mean doing something meaningful to you that will focus your thoughts. Find something therapeutic so you can decompress and vent.

For myself, sometimes I bake and sometimes I take it out in ballet class. For my friend, an avid sportswoman-of-the-year type, goes dragon boating or punches it out in Muay Thai classes.


You know you want to do a million things before you hit your thirties. List them down and just delete half of it. Sometimes practicality does play a part, but if you want to live your dreams, trim them down to what’s do-able and don’t try and kill yourself over it. Only your passion and love for what you want to do can pull you through the tough times!


The simplest solution that you can take? Talking it out with someone. Share your fears and ideals, your dreams and nightmares with a friend, a mum, a distant relative, a colleague. They are bound to understand and they might have even been through something similar. When you don’t feel alone in a crowd, things don’t seem so bad after all.


*Names have been changed to protect the identities of my fellow twentysomethings.


  1. I can, unfortunately, stongly identify with this article. :(
    Thanks for the tips though. I might just get myself a running buddy.

  2. Uh-oh, seems like you are indeed going through the Quarterlife Crisis but don’t worry there’s hope yet!

    The running buddy system works well, trust us.

    Don’t sweat it, 3/4s of your life ahead of you – plenty of time.


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