I never though quarter (or mid) life crises were real. I understand the anxieties about getting older and I understood crises all too well. But I always attributed quarter life crises to the ennui of youth, the low wages and high anxiety lifestyle of millennials and societal norms shifting. For mid life crises I thought they were either a symptom of wounded masculinity or menopause in most cases.
But now, 4 weeks away from my 23rd birthday I suspect I might be having something of a quarter life crisis. After making the decision to not attend law school next fall (or possibly ever), I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Law school had felt like a dream turned nightmare, literally, because I would wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about failing out, or not getting into a good one, or not being able to pay my student back afterwards. Putting that dream on pause has at given me (marginally) better sleep.
Right now, my only goal in life is to be great at my job. That’s it. No homework, no exams, no extracurriculars, no applications to fill out or cover letters to write. I feel free. But also trapped. As Sartre would say, I am condemned to be free. Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.
What I’m feeling is not unusual or special. But this is my blog and I very stupidly skipped therapy this week so I’m going to write about it!
So…what exactly is the point of all this? Do I just meal prep and listen to podcasts and watch Netflix and go out to bars and work and do laundry until I die? I’m not seeking a purpose, but rather a significance. Even if I fulfill my purpose to the best of my ability, does it matter?
18 years of Catholic teaching made me want to think about it from a religious perspective at first. As far as I understand it, I’m supposed to follow God’s laws and be a good person and then when I die I will be rewarded by going to heaven. I do consider myself a pretty decent human being but I’m also pretty sure St. Peter won’t think I’m up to scratch at the Pearly Gates. I also don’t like the concept of being a good person for a reward, don’t think confession fixes wrongdoings, and think religion and morality are often two very different things.
So maybe Nietzsche was right. Maybe he was onto something with the whole nihilism deal. I’ve always thought of there being 2 types of nihilism: positive and negative. Negative in the sense that nothing matters, so why even try? Positive in the sense that nothing matters, so might as well have the most fun and do what you want. Obviously, work and human adult responsibilities occur separately from this. I like my job! I like doing groceries. So maybe selective nihilism. Go to brunch every weekend! Drunk text that guy! Cut all your hair off! Get that tattoo! Essentially, positive nihilism is just Hedonism: reloaded. Maybe that’s the meaning of life. To have 70 – 80 years of riotous, unapologetic, unfiltered joy. As my soccer coach would say in 3rd grade: what’s important is that we do our best and have fun.
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of never leaving a mark on this world. I think my fear is that I somehow always feel a step behind. To figure out what I should have done, to realize what I really wanted, to understand the significance of a decision. As an overthinker, overworrier, indecisive person, I sometimes feel so caught up in thinking the “right” way that I just go through these phases of ascribing to different philosophies without ever moving forward. Whether it’s existential philosophy, astrology, fantasy novels, even going to church again, I feel I’ve been waiting for the right view of the world. It’s like when you go to the eye doctor and they flip back and forth between different prescriptions asking you which one is better – one or two or terrible but the rest all kind of look the same so you eventually panic and just pick one. I also think about the Plath fig tree analogy on a daily basis, and now that I am smack dab in what is supposed to be the beginning of my real life, I can feel myself at the fork of that tree, panicked and starting at all the different branches laid out before me.
But are these fears even real? Am I just an oversensitive, anxious wreck who prefers to fret over the options rather than deal with the consequences of a decision? Wow, that was a good self-drag. I was telling one of my roommates about a personal problem I was mystified by, and suggested that maybe, *I* was the problem. I don’t think that I am the problem, but I do think I’ve created it, at least partially. Which is ironically kind of a comfort, because I’m the source of the problem, I’m also the person best equipped to solve it.