The Quarter Life Crisis—or Life after GC
Written by Meagan Gunn. Media by Denee Menghini.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I haven’t even been out of college for a year. Twelve months ago, I was stressing about ssays and balancing good grades, sleep, and a social life. Now, I feel as though all I do is sleep, work, stalk Facebook, and repeat. I think part of my frustration comes from the fact that I went through several huge life changes all at once, and now everyday life feels sort of—well, mundane and monotonous.
I graduated from Greenville College on May 26, 2013; four days later, I was on my first international flight bound for London, England. Over the course of ten days, I visited London, Paris, and Rome. I saw places I had only read about and met many fascinating people. After living my entire life in central Illinois, my world suddenly expanded for the first time. Two months after I returned from Europe, I packed up and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
I’m not sure what I expected from moving to a new city where I only knew a handful of people. But nothing prepared me for the reality of living on my own for the first time in a new city. There have been many days when I’ve wanted to pack up and go home—when loneliness almost overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t even sure about my identity anymore. I read recently that when we are away from community, we actually begin to lose our own identities. I’ve learned firsthand that this is true. There was no easy transition from the community of Greenville College to a brand new life alone in Nashville. I became depressed and began to regret my decision to move until recently when I made a list of what I’ve learned since moving in August.
The “real world” is an exciting and terrifying place. Nothing can actually prepare you for the massive life transition. I think that the “quarter life crisis” is a way to describe the confusing difficulty of figuring out how to become an adult. Nobody can tell you how to navigate this new phase of life; it’s something we all have to do on our own; but I think stories and advice from people who have experienced it can definitely help. I know it has helped me, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned so far:
1. I am braver and stronger than I ever thought. It’s amazing how much inner strength you can find when you’re forced to use it. One of my biggest—and strangest—fears was driving on multi-lane highways. In Nashville, I have to drive on a six-lane interstate every day to go to and from work. And I’m not nearly as afraid anymore.
2. Some people in life won’t like me, and that’s O.K. I’ve worked with some difficult people at my job. Sometimes after a long, difficult day at work I’ve broken down in tears. It’s completely acceptable to cry, but I’ve also learned that I can’t allow someone to make my life miserable. It’s also a challenge to keep a positive attitude in a not-so-positive environment.
3. Being alone can be extremely painful, but God really is always there (if I stop whining enough to notice)! It’s true. When I stopped complaining about how lonely I was, I realized that God was teaching me so much. My faith has gone through some crazy highs and lows in the past few months. I had to redefine and recommit my faith, my purpose, and my identity in Christ.
4. My family is my biggest blessing. There have been times when I could only see the negative aspects in my family relationships, but being away has shown me that I really am blessed by a wonderful, loving family.
5. Friendships will never be like they were in college. We’ve all read the articles about college friendships being different than other friendships throughout life. They are. For four years we live and learn with our best friends. I think college friendships formed and strengthened in four years are the equivalent to about ten year friendships outside of college. Making friends is hard work. It can be discouraging, but it just takes a lot more effort than it did in college. And it takes work and commitment to stay in touch with my college friends now too; we’re scattered all across the country and the world now. It will be worth it though. Good friendships are essential.
6. It isn’t healthy to spend too much time being nostalgic. I’m guilty of this. I’ve spent hours looking back through my college photo albums on Facebook and reliving “the good old days.” We’re too young to think like that! Our lives are full of the promise of many future adventures. Of course, good memories are wonderful to remember, but I have to remind myself not to dwell on them so much that I forget to look up and make beautiful new memories right now. This reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
7. Perspective is important. Another quote comes to mind, this time from Abraham Lincoln: “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” I’ve struggled to see the good many times; but if you look for it, you’ll see that it’s always there. Surround yourself with positive people, and it will be easier to see the good.
8. No job is a waste of time or credentials. It’s easy to feel entitled; we did after all just finish a long four years of schooling to have a degree that supposedly gives us the right to have a job in our field. I’m working as a restaurant hostess. This has absolutely nothing to do with English Language and Literature. A degree doesn’t guarantee a job in your field, and I’m still not quite sure what I “want to be when I grow up.” I think that one of the most important lessons I took away from college though is that I need to always be willing to learn. And I can do that no matter where I’m currently working.
9. Fill your free time with good things. Instead of spending hours on Facebook, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, etc.—which I have done many times—go explore somewhere you’ve never been, read a good book, volunteer, learn something new. I actually have more free time now than I did in college, and it has taken a while for me to figure out what to do with it.
10. And finally, don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of life’s changes. One Bible verse in particular has helped me recently: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This verse is repeated multiple times throughout the book of Joshua and elsewhere in the Bible. God understands our struggles, and there is absolutely nowhere we can go where He isn’t present.
Making this list helped me realize that my time in Nashville has not been wasted at all. In some ways I think I’ve learned more in the past few months than I learned in all my college classes. It’s a different type of learning—one I believe that we will use for the rest of our lives. For everyone from the freshmen adjusting to college life to the seniors who are overwhelmed with the prospects of job hunting and joining the “real world”— just relax. Breathe and know that life is a constant adventure, and we are never in it alone.