The Wonder Years

Growth, Is Hard.

And often we have to do it alone. To get to where we want to go personally—whether in our careers, academic endeavors, or both—usually requires dedication to independent self-development.

Growth is hard because we may not like ourselves in the process.

It’s Awkward.

The ideal “awkward-phase” we refer to in life is our very first—adolescence.

Braces. Glasses. Braces & Glasses. Our feet are too big for our body. Pimples. Peach fuzz. Hair grows where now?

When we say nostalgically and under our breath, “That was during my awkward phase,” people generally get the time period and excuse our former appearance or behavior. One person groans, “You couldn’t pay me to be that age again!”

But little do we want people to know, we continue to have “awkward phases” in our 20’s, midlife, and into old age. They only continue to happen on the inside, even after we’ve seemed to get the whole appearance thing down as an “adult.”

My 25th birthday is this Saturday. I’ve been told for years to watch out for the so-called, “quarter-life crises.” What the hell is it? I mean…I certainly I feel it.

After months of job searching I’ve begun to question the point of everything. Why apply to another job today? Why am I going to the gym again and listening to gangsta rap—to feather my ego? Why brush my teeth? It’s already noon and I’m still in my pajamas. I won’t see anyone except my roommate today. Everything. Pointless.

At 25 we’re all at the bar comparing ourselves to others, especially after contemplating the point of everything earlier that day.

  • Friend A has a loving relationship.
  • Friend B has a great job.
  • Friend C has wedding plans.
  • Friend D has her entire family visiting this weekend.
  • Friend E is financially independent.
  • Friend F has translucent Warby Parkers. You got yours first in blue. Can’t go back now.

At 25 we are seemingly at the cusp (or noticeably far away) from achieving one or all of these items. The reality is, that while everything appears pretty on the outside in “adulthood,” this is not the case. Awkward phases are continuing to happen—we just don’t see it staring back at us like a pimple on your sister’s face.

So what is the quarter life crisis?

It’s the sudden JOLT, and then acceptance of discomfort as we jungle-swing into adulthood. It’s realizing that the next couple of months are going to take courage and perseverance. It’s knowing that we can’t hold on to things like we did as children. We need to learn to let go: of relationships that would be unhealthy to squeeze another month out of (thanks Bon Iver), of calling only one particular place home, of being afraid of change and changing ourselves.

We need to be willing to jump the next hurdle of growth—alone. Despite what anyone else thinks or is doing.

Sure, it’s awkward as hell. Sure it’s uncertain. You’re mid-air, flying across the Grand Canyon praying to Mother Teresa you won’t swallow a family of gnats before you reach the other side…IF and when you land.

This is what growth feels like after we’re “fully grown.” How we manage our emotions and treat ourselves during these times of uncertainty, however, is evidence of our maturity.

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