quarter life crisis

Have you ever felt you were at the strangest, most uncomfortable stage of your life? I have. Not knowing exactly what you’re doing or what you want to do. Not knowing if you’ve outgrown your friends, career choice, or five-year plan. I call this a quarter life crisis. I wore glitter eye liner as eyeshadow for a whole year. I know what you’re going through.

I had always felt like I had my act together over the years, and whenever I was unhappy or unsure, it didn’t take me long to figure it out, but I have spent a good amount of time feeling stuck. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a teacher, a business owner, a freelance makeup artist, a freaking astrobiologist, or run away to Europe to scoop gelato. I didn’t expect to run into this at 26. I went to college when I was 19. I got an associates in Writing, something I did to hush the voices in my head, something to look good on paper, something to be my plan B in twenty years. I got my license in Esthetics when I was 20, something that was suppose to be fun and flexible, make a good living, and be “Plan A” until I was older. I wanted to give myself options and credentials. I began feeling burnt out sooner than expected and I wasn’t sure why. Did I make a mistake? Should I go back to school? Needing guidance, I went back to my college to talk with an advisor about what I could do. Are there any jobs that I could apply for with just an associate degree? Everything I had researched required a bachelors. Should I get a bachelors in writing or something else? Did I completely screw myself with what I did get an associates for? I need a mentor! A guiding light!

The guy was in his seventies and looked like he couldn’t be bothered with me. He looked me dead in the eye and said as if he had a thousand times, “No one will ever even look at you with an associates degree. You may get someone to publish an article you wrote once, but you will be quickly replaced with someone who has a masters. You’re not J.K. Rowling.” I stared at him long and hard. I wanted to draw a sword from my Marc bag and duel it out with him. There were so many things I wanted to say, “do you realize how much college costs, and there aren’t always jobs for people when they get out? Do you realize you work at a college that only offers associates cl degrees? Oh and please don’t drag J.K. Rowling into this. I smiled and said “thank very much for your help, have a nice day.” I could see the confusion and concern wash over him. He knew he was cold. He knew he just failed at his job that day. I hope he knew he should retire and make way for more positive advisors that could actually encourage their students and alumni. He scrabbled for a card to give me if I had other questions. I politely declined and walked out. I wanted to flick a cigarette behind me and mutter ‘f the school system’ as the building blew up, channeling Angela Basset in Waiting to Exhale. I don’t smoke though, so instead I cried in my car for an hour.

Discouraged and confused, the thoughts got stranger. Should I be a babysitter? A waitress? Should I open an Etsy shop? Should I open my own spa? Should I run a doggy refugee? Should I knit dog berets? How did this happen?! This was not the plan! I was suppose to like my job. I’m broke. I’m bored. I’m miserable. And I have no idea what to do. The plan. What is a plan anyway. I did what I always did in dooming times of life. I went to see my therapist. My intuitive life coach. My fairy godmother.

“You need to start writing.”

“Writing? I can’t do that… It’s so boring! And I won’t make any money! I was thinking more along the lines of quitting my job and working the front desk at a gym…”

“… You can’t quit your job. You should go back to school for your masters in English. And… You need to write. Go take another writing class.” She slammed down the gavel. Verdict served. Writer: 5 years to life. No parole. I would have been happier if she told me to run off to the circus to train gazelles. Writing and I are frenemies. I was born with the talent to do two things. 1) putting on fake eyelashes while driving and 2) to write. I won my first writing contest at age seven. Had poetry published at eleven. Had at least four teachers request I put them in my dedications of my first published book. The pressure was immense. I took writing in college just to appease my younger self and everyone’s watchful eye. I spent years writing a lot, every day even. I spent years writing barely anything at all. It sometimes felt like I was being strapped into a high chair with a gun to my head just to write a paragraph freely. But at the same time, I loved it, and I wasn’t lost while I did it.

“Don’t make plans, make goals.”

There were times in my life all I could do was write to survive. I kept a diary for a year straight during a devastating time. I also thought maybe I would use it someday in a blog, something I started but never finished, much like my other projects. I always had ideas but could never sit down to see them through. I originally wanted to be a beauty editor for a big magazine but I never had the guts, so I became an esthetician instead. It felt good enough at the time, but it didn’t anymore. I sought the advice of my Yorkshire terrier, a gentler judge.

“What should I do Daisy? What would mama be good at?”

“Being my personal shopper.”

“I already do that.”

“Well, you should write mom.”

You too huh? I thought, it shouldn’t be so hard. Especially when it comes naturally, but sometimes, the best, most rewarding things in life are that way. So I started to write, and my life began to move along.

What I know now is this; any crisis, big or small, doesn’t last forever. Things work themselves out. It’s okay to get stuck. It’s okay to not have it all figured out by a certain time. No matter how it looks on the outside, we all struggle internally at some point. We are human. What is important is to be your own boss. Stay driven and motivated. Even when you’re lost, being driven keeps you lost in the right direction. Don’t make plans, make goals. Goals can be achieved while plans have many variables that can affect them. Follow your dreams, exercise your talents, and listen to your calling. If it’s writing, then write. Write fiercely the story that belongs to only you. Do what doesn’t feel stuck to you. Take a break until your mid-life crisis


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More about Erika Lauren

Erika Lauren is a Boston born French girl spending her days as a workin girl and dog mom, and her nights as a nocturnal writer. She's a content creator for The Haute Mess, XOJane, and Narrative.ly. Email: ErikaLauren9@yahoo.com

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