Quarter Life Crisis: “Young, Insecure, and Afraid”

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford


I guess it all hits us at some point in time. The question is more of when than how or why. In the past month or so, I have been feeling very different. I’ve started feeling old. Is this part of being a quarter century old? Or is it just me who is experiencing the pressure to do something with her life?

With this peculiar sensation of age goes along an envy for those who are only 2 or 3 years younger. Does it make sense? Not really. And yet, I feel that some trains have stopped and moved out of the main hub I call My Life. Now I am panicking to catch up with all the dreams I never really had to begin with that are all of a sudden starting to surround my life. What happened to the modeling idea I toyed with when I was 20? Or the urge to become famous through performance and singing ever since the new talent shows have been dominating German and American mainstream TV? Is 25 really too old to pursue a career in acting? Do I even want to pursue a career in acting and musicals?

I am panicking to a degree that does not make sense and it all revolves around the idea of looking young and staying young – eternally. When I see my face distorted by my expectations in the mirror, a young female stars back at me. But my emotional life and turmoil inside depict a very different age. Is it possible to feel almost 40 when one is 25? Are my thoughts too bitter, my feelings too negative for someone who should be happy to currently live in the city of cities?

And then this clamping fear, almost taking my breath away when I think about such trivial things as the future. The future has to be better. Somehow. But what if I will never improve my dancing, will never be good at speaking Spanish, will never be able to dip into another passion as I have with writing and photography. I’ve been constantly working on ballet and Zumba ever since I discovered the studio courses 2 years ago. But for some reason (being inconsistent probably did not help), I still feel at the very beginning. Would better training perfect those skills? How much of my time, money, and, most importantly, patience am I willing to spend, though? So I acknowledge that some things have to change. It’s merely a matter of what exactly.

And then I think back to my late teenage years when I had friends undergoing the exact same stage I am in right now. The 26-year-old who couldn’t rise out of bed on the weekends for WEEKS. Because he was too depressed to form a single, positive thought. He then started painting and I believe has taken this hobby to another level now – almost 6 years later. Or another “friend” who complained how old he felt at the exact same age – in his mid-twenties. “You just wait until you get there!” his threatening voice still rings in my ears. “A few wrinkles here and there, it’s really no fun.” Well, I am there. I can’t detect a wrinkle – yet. Physically, I feel as young as a sprout, ready to go ahead and climb Mount Everest.

We all age at different rates, I know that now. Not everyone is as lucky as I am and blessed with good genes which will hopefully keep me young-looking until ten years from now. But what the physical appearance is lacking is what my emotional experience is making up for. How can you feel so desperate after a quarter century of your life? How can you have the urge to change your entire life from one day to another? And what exactly has been the trigger to all of this…?

My frantic new hobby in looking up everyone who is big in the news now. Seeing how old they are now, when they started to become famous and what their life has been about (I thank wikipedia for countless hours of patience). Most people start “young” – when they are teenagers. Let’s disregard the child stars. But what if you never had the interest to start out as a singer when you were 17? Least to say the opportunity because you grew up in a small village and the big sparkling city was hours away?

And then the most nagging questions of all: Will I feel truly satisfied with what life has offered me and what I have made of it when I am old-er. Say 40? Or 60? How can I possibly feel better then when I don’t feel anywhere close to being happy with life’s circumstances now? I guess this all leads back to what I’ve written back in August: Living the best life. Not being sidetracked by every day’s monotony. Trying out something new every once so often. And immersing oneself into the pain a wrong step could bring but still holding on, clutching to the hope that one day it will all be right. It has to be.

Then I also remember a child’s story, swarming around in my head. About the passionate painter Vincent Van Gogh, who never picked up painting until his late 20ies. Despite the fact that he was also mentally ill, he never actually gained popularity until after his death. If the life of such a genius artist can be characterized by so much pain, so much self-doubt and so much criticism, why can’t the life of an average person from today be? And what is better: Being happy and less successful or fulfilling one’s dreams day by day? Why can’t both come in handy? Perhaps there is a middle way to it all. And through the glamour Hollywood brings its young aspiring actors and actresses, I also see the pain inflicted on their lives. From a young Macaulay Culkin who was drug-addicted as a teenager. And other failed “stars” who were rocking the scene as a child but were never seen after that.

And somehow, as I flick through old pictures and dwell in old memories, I realize something that has not seemed important to me until this date. In my teens I wanted to be something I could never be and ultimately what I wasn’t afraid of being. In my twenties, I started being someone I would have never dreamt of being. And while I thought I had potential to be someone back then, I now have more. I have passion. And I have my thoughts, which are starting to settle, nudging me to try out new things NOW.

If you have read Goethe, you are familiar with his concept of “Sturm und Drang” (also a literally movement during that time). It is particularly manifested in his master piece “The Sorrows of Young Werther” – a book most German high schools require their students to read. Roughly summarized it is about a young chap trying to fulfill his passion for poetry & romance and also the demands of everyday life, which are nowhere close to that passion. Of course it ends badly; he commits suicide, also because he is unlucky in love with a girl.

My point is that it is hard to grasp this movement when you are still a teenager. It is not until you are older, in your twenties, when you can shape your life the way you want. Fiscal means, energy, and simply the courage to do so don’t develop until well later. It takes a bit more of maturity and stupidity to finally break off from old ideas and try to go down a way that is meant for you. Not to forget the independent mindset to say: Let’s do it!

So many articles have been written on this, but I still think an unknown creation to be beautifully phrased.

You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough. – Mae West