Option Paralysis: The Quarterlife Crisis

Kate Carraway sums up that modern existential angst experienced by countless twentysomethings: The Quarterlife Crisis, a somewhat disabling mix of akrasia, apathy and ennui brought on by a number of realisations.

This phenomenon, known as the “Quarterlife Crisis,” is as ubiquitous as it is intangible. Unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.

Somewhat in the midst of such a twentysomething void myself (or at least I can sense its advance), am I alone in not resigning myself to this ‘crisis’? This article seems to suggest so, and I doubt this.

As Michael Kimmel is quoted as saying:

The Quarterlife Crisis is a kind of anticipatory crisis: ‘How is my life going to turn out? I don’t have a clue; I don’t have a map; I don’t have a vision for it.’

To simply just accept this situation seems almost insulting.

Update: Ben Casnocha has also written about The Quarterlife Crisis, linking to some of his other great articles that cover similar ground.



2 responses to “Option Paralysis: The Quarterlife Crisis”

  1. I appreciate your blog post on the Quarterlife Crisis…Not only did I experience my own when I was 25-27, but also work with many clients going through this. It’s a tender and confusing time, but not necessarily necessary. You don’t have to resign yourself to this experience. Many find the resilience to roll with the adventure of not knowing. And I do find that most people who are awake and alive do come upon a time of important reflection — whether at 30, 45, 49 or 55. There is always growth and it’s usually uncomfortable. And then, enlivening.

  2. Frutiger

    Can’t help but feel like this has something to do with that article kottke posted the other day.


    Specifically the part about defense mechanisms, or lack thereof.