It's no secret: I don’t have a recipe book for self-discovery. I have never been in a quarter life crisis (QLC - because it sounds cooler) until now. I do my best with the tools I have, allowing them to guide me where I go to next, trying on faith for size, in spite of the fog ahead that keeps me from knowing my destination.
Ah, uncertainty, that constant in our lives that finds us flailing until we get better at accepting it. It’s hit a high point in my twenty-fifth year, testing my resolve and conviction on a near daily basis. Hopefully (fingers crossed) making me wiser.
I’ve got a few ingredients, some which have worked before, some which seemed logical to try, and most of which have (kind of) helped thus far. I can’t guarantee they will get me there, but they bring a little more peace of mind, and we all deserve that, don’t we?
1. I'm updating my resume
Part of my particular brand of QLC has been career-related. I completed tons of schooling to become something that I’m not so sure I want to be anymore. It hits pretty hard when you realize the path you’re on may not be the right one. So my first step in considering new paths was to look at my resume, update it with my current work history, and clean it up. It gives me a small sense of control, reminds me of my skills and experience, and feels like a practical step toward change. As in, it's actually on paper, while my thoughts are swirling around in the ether.
Action item: Dust of that resume and remind yourself of all you've accomplished. It's important.
2. I'm identifying my transferable skills
This is the part that has helped me feel gratitude rather than regret for my career choices thus far. Every field has transferable skills. These are the things you do or have done that you could adapt to fit into another career path. For example, in all my previous jobs, I’ve managed professional social media accounts. This skill fits well into other fields I’m interested in, like digital marketing. This can also be applied to strengths and resources that don't have to do with jobs.
Food for thought: Are there skills and tools you can identify inside that you have as a result of your life thus far? Are there things that can propel you forward to the next stage of _______________ (healing, your career, finding yourself, relationships, etc.)?
3. I'm blogging/writing
Writing has always been a constant in my life. I started a blog to commit to writing more consistently, but I also started it to work through my stuff. It gives me somewhere to rumble, and it allows me to use my creativity to manage a website, distribute a newsletter, etc. (transferable skills). If a blog isn’t for you, a journal or a Google Drive folder for reflection could do the trick. This is important to me because creativity is one of my core values.
Action item: Buy a journal or create a folder on your computer to start writing out some thoughts. We are usually pretty good about giving advice, and not so good about taking it. What advice would you give to a loved one struggling with the same things you are? Write it down.
4. I got an internship
Part of my QLC has been coming back to things that bring me the most joy, like cooking. I reached out to a restaurateur in my community and asked if I could cook in her kitchen one night a week, and landed myself an internship. It has gotten me out of my comfort zone and into a new environment, and I'm becoming a better cook as a result. Not to mention, cooking is a serious practice in mindfulness, especially in a fast-paced kitchen. The free meals don’t hurt, either.
I'm learning that it's always okay to ask. Some generous soul will eventually support you if you’re authentic and gracious.
Food for thought: What's that skill you've always wanted to hone a little bit more, and what is one step you can take to make space for it in your life? My examples: Joining a meditation group, starting a kickboxing class, doing freelance writing work, etc.
5. I'm looking at jobs outside "my field"
The job market can be pretty discouraging. For a while I was only looking at social work jobs, and it was (so) sad, which only made me feel more stuck. So I broadened my search to positions that tap into my core values and transferable skills. I'm starting to think about myself as a marketer, a writer, a program developer, a social media expert, etc. Careers aren't everything, but how we spend the majority of our time impacts us. To think about what I really want to do with my life that will bring me joy and/or leave more room to explore joy is both empowering and encouraging.
Food for thought: If you could be anything, what would you be?
6. I bought a plane ticket
For those of you who follow my Instagram, you know I bought a plane ticket and went to Italy. Not only was it my first trip abroad, but it was my first ever solo trip. The most valuable thing about it was that it forced me into stillness. Did I figure my life out? No. But I was out of my element and in my body for over two weeks. I came back knowing what it’s like to be truly grounded in myself. That’s the feeling I want to strive for every day.
Action item: Make a list or have a conversation about the places that make you feel most authentically connected to yourself. Take a solo trip out of town. Take a long walk in nature. Put yourself in those conditions and feel what it's like to exist in that space.
7. I (re)started therapy
I’m a firm believer that everyone should be in therapy, but I think this is especially true if you’re going “through it.” For me, therapy is time I’ve carved out for myself to do some healing, and it’s a place of extreme compassion. I’ve been lucky enough to have therapists in my life who have held such compassionate space that those feelings of urgency and shame and guilt etc. are things I can look at and dissect, rather than being consumed by them. If you're feeling the intensity of this time, safe people to talk to are a MUST.
Food for thought: Would this journey be easier with some additional support? Who are the safe people in your life to talk to?
8. I'm grieving
At any precipice of change, grief is inevitable. We grieve old versions of ourselves. We grieve the childhood we wish we had. We grieve lost friendships or failed relationships. If we can’t look at what is no more and truly feel the weight of it, we can’t fully own our power to transform into something new. There is immeasurable power in grieving, and it is a completely natural part of the cycle of change. Feel it. Be with it. Learn from it.
Action item: Tune in to your emotions. Grief is likely lingering in there. Honor it. When parts of us die (even parts that no longer serve us), it's only human to hurt for them.
9. I'm reading non-fiction
There’s something about a book that says what you’re feeling in a clear and kind way. I’m actually writing a piece about my favorite QLC/self-growth books, because there are a small handful that have helped me make better sense of myself. As a words-oriented person, they’ve done wonders for my internal process.
Action item: Find a book or another article about a topic you want support around.
10. I'm reading fiction
And then there are the books that tap into your imagination. I’m not an avid fiction reader, but when I pick up something just for the story, it gets me out of my head and into a new perspective. It also makes me a better writer, and gives me insights in to the human experience that non-fiction just can't provide.
Food for thought: When was the last time you picked up an actual book and read it?
11. I'm making playlists
If you’re like me, and music moves your soul, then this is a no-brainer. I am a sucker for songs about self-growth, and you best believe that I plug these playlists in when I need to tune in, in a new way.
Action item: Check out my Self-Actualizing for Twenty-Somethings playlist. It is my hub of self-growth, changing times, and compassion music when I need it most.
12. I'm consulting my mentors
I don’t know where I would be without the people in my life who are older, wiser, and model behavior that aligns with my values. My mentors are trusted beacons of wisdom. They affirm that what I’m going through is developmentally appropriate, and they share their own QLC stories with me. What's more, I know they want what's best for me, and that kinship builds resilience.
Food for thought: Is there an adult in your life that you look up to and can connect with about your life changes? What do you want to ask them?
13. I'm listening to joy
I’m a big fan of getting lost in joy, but I’ve been trying to balance that with a more cerebral approach. I’m paying attention to what exactly makes me feel that joy, and why. The more I do, the better I can identify what I need to create more space for in my life. Yes, get lost in the moment and be with it. But that heart song that plays when you feel it is trying to tell you something. Pay attention.
Action item: Make a list of things in your life that bring you true presence and joy. Do as many of them as you can this week, and see if your perspective shifts a bit.
14. I'm talking to the Universe
We’re getting into woo-woo town now. I am a spiritual person that doesn’t practice religion. I believe there’s something bigger than me that wants me to succeed in living my best life, and sometimes all I can do is take a deep breath and surrender with the words, “Okay, I trust you. Let’s do this.” The Universe (or whatever you believe in) has your back. Put your faith in it, let it know you're showing up for yourself, and beautiful things will begin happening. They might not feel amazing while they unfold, but they will get you where you so deeply want to go.
Action item: Come up with a "Universe" mantra that reminds you to have faith in the process. For me, it's, "Okay, do your work."
15. I'm cooking
I love cooking, so this was pretty automatic for me. But cooking my own meals helps me practice creativity, mindfulness, and wellness all in one. It's also an incredibly tangible way to "adult." When we create things and take care of ourselves, we experience more presence in our lives. Period.
Action item: Plan three meals this week. Cook them at home. Make it an experience. Extra points for doing it alone (as in, JUST FOR YOU).
16. I read my tarot cards
Oh no! The woo-woo-est of all the woo woos! Yes, I read my tarot cards. It feels way less about telling my future than setting an intention. It helps that my readings are often remarkably accurate, but for me it’s a place to do some sincere reflection about my life and my history.
17. I'm Following Astrolofy
WHEN WILL THE WOO WOO END!?
Never, deal with it.
I sometimes read my actual horoscope (die hard Leo in the house), but honestly, my favorite place to look at how the stars align is MysticMamma.com. Their Tuning In page takes into account how the cosmos interact with your life, and how you can work with them. Again, it’s a practice in intention more than anything. In other words, I personally believe in it, but you don't have to in order for it to make an impact. Also, astrology rocks.
Action item: Read the monthly theme from MysticMamma on this page, and try to tell me this stuff ain't helpful. Monthly theme articles always begin with "The theme for [MONTH, YEAR] is." Find the most current month and get all up in that astrology.
18. I'm applying to jobs I’m qualified-ish for
I used to derive self-worth from getting interviews, because I used to get an interview for every job I applied for. Lately, I’ve been putting in applications for jobs I’m not as confident in. The key here is that I’m reaching further and aiming higher than I have in the past, and relying on my skills and expertise to support me in that. It's about finding the connections from where you are to where you want to be. You might find that it's not all that far away.
Food for thought: What's that thing you've always wanted to try but never felt like you were quite "there" yet for? What would it take to get "there"?
19. I'm expressing gratitude
This is definitely not easy for me, as someone who can get all spinny and flaily and self-centered when things aren't going right. But the chaos helps me see who and what shows up for me, and when I take the time to express my appreciation for those things, it feels good (read: joy).
20. I'm moving, literally
I will admit right now that I don’t exercise as much as I want to, but one thing I do is move. I take a lot of walks. Sometimes I practice walking meditation, or plug in an audiobook, or walk and talk with a friend. I also started a kickboxing class that releases my frantic energy in an entirely new way. Incidentally, being physically mobile slows down my racing thoughts while also making me feel less stuck. I move, therefore I am in motion. If you can add nature into the mix like I do, I highly recommend this.
Action item: Take short breaks during your work or school day to walk. For one minute, five minutes, or during your lunch. Just get out and move.