Quarterlife Crisis Hits Many in Late 20s

Sara Freedman has recently been dreaming of a life as a country club mom in the suburbs of Atlanta. After four years in the workplace, the thrill of buying "work" pants and standing in the Starbucks line is gone.

"I keep thinking I'm just in a rut and I'll grow out of it, but thinking about doing this the rest of my life … wow. Enter country club mom daydreams," the 26-year-old half-joked.

For millions of 20-somethings, Freedman's dilemma, commonly known as the Quarterlife Crisis, rings true. The spring, with its memories of high school and college graduations, is a natural time for reflection.

"This time of year is a yardstick," said Alexandra Robbins, author of "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived." "Not only do you have graduation as a trigger for current students, it's the anniversary of many of the most significant milestones for a 20-something."

While cutesy names have been suggested for these very real feelings, like the twixter (they're 'betwixt and between') or the adultolescent, scholars and sociologists recognize this period as a legitimate developmental stage.

"It's 'real' in the sense that many young Americans feel anxiety when faced with a wide range of opportunities in their 20s and are unsure of how to choose from among them," said Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, author of "Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through The Twenties." Arnett prefers to call these 20-somethings emerging adults.

"They have grown up as the most affluent generation in American [or world] history, so they have high expectations for life," Arnett said. "They all expect to find a job that not only pays well, but is enjoyable, and they all expect to find their 'soul mate.' "

The Search for Permanence

Once past the honeymoon period with their first real job, their minds often begin to wander. With the excuse of being a "recent graduate" no longer viable, the search for a more permanent career, relationship and place to live begins. Many are stuck in front of a computer screen for hours, often posting online to pass the time.

"What the hell do I do? Is there anyone else who can relate? What is my passion? Will I ever meet the One" are among the refrains on www.quarterlifecrisis.com. With 10,000 registered users and 1 million hits per month, it's a place to meet, gripe and help each other out.

"The transition to adulthood today is a much more complex, prolonged process than it was for our parents," said Abby Wilner, who runs the site and has a career advice manual coming out called "The Quarterlifer's Companion." "According to the many 20-somethings who visit my Web site, they want nothing more than to figure everything out, move up in the world and eventually settle down, but external circumstances do not allow that to happen, and they are not properly equipped with the skills and resources to make that happen."

The statistics seem to support Wilner's views.

      Half of all students graduate with college debt, which averages $12,000, according to the American Council of Education.

      Nearly two-thirds of young adults in their early 20s receive economic support from their parents, while 40 percent still receive assistance in their late 20s, according to the American Sociological Association.

      The average American aged 18-30 has held seven to eight different jobs, according to the U.S. Census.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The probable path of Hurricane Fred is seen in a graphic released by the NWS National Hurricane Center, Aug. 31, 2015.
NWS National Hurricane Center
PHOTO: Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images
PHOTO: Director Wes Craven attends the screening of Life Itself at the ArcLight Cinemas, June 26, 2014, in Hollywood, Calif.
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images