People and Places
At an ugly Christmas sweater party earlier this year, I was able to reconnect with some friends from high school. Some I had kept in close contact with and others I hadn’t seen since we walked across the stage to retrieve our diplomas.
Although we are about the same age, all of us are in wildly different stages of our life — some about to earn master’s degrees, some newly married or about to be married, and I just bought a house.
Still, I noticed a common theme in everyone’s updates — uncertainty. Am I in the right job? Am I hanging out with my friends enough? Am I doing the right things? Am I too stagnant? Why do I feel unfulfilled?
One friend pointed out we had been moving toward a goal our entire lives. We were all honors students, working towards high school graduation and college acceptance, then college graduation, then breaking into the workforce within our field. We made it.
Each accomplishment only took a few years to reach with a clear plan in front of you, outlining exactly how to get there. Now, three years out of college and seven years out of high school, the next step isn’t quite as explicit.
As we each approach our 25th birthdays next year, I can’t help but think our quarter-life crises came early and are lingering longer than we’d like. I guess 25 is the new 50. But, don’t worry, I won’t be purchasing a motorcycle anytime soon.
The idea of the quarter-life crisis is not a new one, explored in popular media for the past half-century — “The Graduate,” “(500) Days of Summer,” “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, and any sitcom TV show from the ’90s into the early aughts.
My favorite interpretation, however, is Taylor Tomlinson’s aptly named Netflix comedy special, “Quarter-Life Crisis.”
“I’m so sick of my 20s, I’m so sick of people telling me to enjoy them. They are not fun, they are 10 years of asking yourself, ‘Will I outgrow this, or is this a problem?’” she laments to a giggling crowd.
Since it premiered in 2020, I have watched the special maybe a dozen times and found a new comment to connect with her on every single watch. But still, none of these revelations are new by any means.
In the first season of “Friends,” which premiered nearly 30 years ago in 1994, all of the characters were in their mid 20s, with Monica and Rachel about 24 years old and Phoebe, Chandler and Ross on the older side at 26.
The “How I Met Your Mother” characters were even a bit older during their first season, with most around 27 years old.
During the many seasons of both shows, the 20-something New York residents are very much still figuring out life through romantic relationships, jobs, friendships, marriages, children, etc. This is comforting in its own idealistic, weird, parasocial way.
I haven’t quite figured out my direction in life yet. I don’t know where the wind will blow next or what my next calling will be. I just have to remember, I’m still in season one.
I can’t guarantee the next seasons will be better than the first, but we’ll leave that to the writers.