Living the quarter-life crisis

There is an almost palpable vibe of panic in the air amongst fourth-year students these days. As we inch closer and closer towards the intimidating void of post-university life, everyone seems to be asking the same terrifying question: “What on earth am I going to do with my life?” The concept of leaving the undergraduate lifestyle behind can produce a state of existential crisis in even the most level-headed young adults. This pressure can lead to bouts of choking insecurity and stress, which are especially unwelcome for already-harried fourth-year students. Although there are many ways to describe this dilemma, it is most commonly referred to as “the quarter-life crisis.” As a graduating student in the throes of my very own quarter-life crisis, I decided to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. I began my search by flipping through my trusty Oxford Canadian Dictionary, but as I rifled through the Qs, I was disappointed to learn that the phrase “quarter-life crisis” was nowhere to be found—not even in the “New Words” appendix. However, the up-to-the-minute dictionary.com provided me with the following definition: “an emotional crisis in one’s twenties with anxiety and self-doubt after leaving academic life.” Intrigued, I decided to further my research with a quick look on chapters.indigo.ca. A search for “quarter-life crisis” garnered titles such as What to Do When You’re Twenty-Two: A Survival Guide for the Quarter-Life Crisis; 20-Something, 20-Everything: A Girl’s Guide to Balance, Direction, and Contentment During Her Quarter-Life Crisis; and Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. After I recovered from the overabundance of colon-saturated titles, I realized the earliest publication date for any book dealing with quarter-life crises was 2002.

After this exhaustive research, I realized that although the quarter-life crisis phenomenon is a well-known aspect of student life, it has only become prevalent amongst non-student types within the past few years.

My research also left me with one pressing question: why has it suddenly become so horrifying for young adults to enter the working world?

These days, a bachelor’s degree is simply a means to an end. The value of an undergraduate degree has greatly diminished within the past few years, and as a result, very few people graduating with arts or science degrees begin their careers directly after university. I myself have yet to find an English factory desperate to employ me upon my graduation.

Finishing a university degree is also accompanied by some frightening implications. I feel more like a scared kid than a confident twenty-something graduating from university, which is often seen as synonymous with entering adulthood. It’s as though we must suddenly become financially independent, fully functional “grown-ups,” though most of us are barely 23 years old and up to thousands of dollars in debt.

Graduating students know that come April, we must leave the comforting womb of studenthood and be cruelly forced into the “real world,” armed only with our feeble bachelor’s degrees. Like so many others, I am standing on the precipice of adulthood, ready to face the intimidating leap into the future. I can only hope that my experiences will balloon out behind me and ease my descent into post-university life.

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