Quarter-life Crisis or Crescendo?

Clearly, Americans in general resist aging. We do every thing from lie about our ages (turning 29 for the third year in a row) to shelling out beaucoup money on “age defying” cosmetics. In our culture, we admire youth. That’s why we have the age-old phenomenon of the mid-life crisis. We all know the archetypes: the fifty year old man buying a red sports car, the forty-year old woman dating the twenty year old guy. Well, there are actually some theories about our emotional reactions to aging.

According to an article on Cliffnotes.com, as people age they try to preserve their ego and avoid feelings of despair about running out of time or wasting the time they had. Basically, people have an age related crisis when they want to maintain the self-image of their youth or when they have lots of regrets. Older people, according to CN, spend more and more time reminiscing or agonizing over their past.

But it’s not just the 40+ crowd having these kinds of issues. Apparently, along with tons of other shifts in age related behavior and expectations, twenty-somethings are experiencing an age related crisis too. It’s officially deemed a quarter-life crisis.

I’m thinking about this because I’m a twenty-something who just had a birthday. (Doesn’t everyone get contemplative around their birthdays?) While I think I’ve had my own version of the quarter-life crisis recently, I’m feeling right at home in my new age of 27. Who new it would feel so good? My life might actually be building up to something, like a Crescendo! (Or a cliff, but I’ll stay positive.)

Since the QLC is a relatively new condition, I thought I’d look to our more experienced crisis survivors for a few life lessons. Going back to the CN article, regrets are often the catalyst for an age related crisis. This should teach younger people to do what they can now to avoid regrets later. I quote someone when I say, “We won’t regret the things we’ve done, only the things we have not done.” So, as soon as you finish reading my blog, get up and do something!

CN also says that old people spend lots of time thinking about their past and sharing it with everyone they meet. At twenty-something you may or may not have much of a past to dwell in, but you can certainly find an elderly person willing to share stories and wisdom from their life. Go forth and sit at their feet.

Now, since I’m not a total slacker, I’ve found another great source besides CN that describes 10 ways you can survive an age-related crisis. The Frisky article targets people in their twenties, but at S. L. Writes, I think it applies to any demographic.

Adapted from Christine Hassler as shared by Wendy Atterberry
  1. Live in the present moment.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to your peers.
  3. Don’t worry about what others think.
  4. Listen to your intuition.
  5. “Don’t’ wait for permission, approval, or validation.”
  6. Be decisive.
  7. Don’t fear mistakes.
  8. Do things alone.
  9. Surround yourself with good counsel.
  10. Serve others.

I add one more: Use what’s in your hand.

I realized I’ve been trying to live by these principles my entire life, but I think our social conditioning makes it difficult to really put these into practice. I think the key word is practice. It’s better than doing nothing. It’s better than letting fear of change, fear of failure, or fear of success keep us from our best lives. I suggest practicing one bit of advice at a time. Even the smallest change can make a big difference.

For more incredible readings on age related crises, check out the related articles below.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

26 and Oxidizing

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Today I hit Fe on the periodic table of elements. That’s iron, and I’m rusting as I write. You might ask, Why is she comparing herself to iron on her birthday? Iron, my friends, is known to be “soft, malleable, and strong.” Seems like a contradiction at first glance, but let’s put it under a microscope.

My 2011 New Years resolution was to be courageous. Still is. In my earlier post about Oprah, I talked about “the courage to unapologetically live as my authentic self.” At times, being myself is effortless: when I’m alone, for instance, or with my immediate family. But as I write, I think even that’s not true. I’m talking about more than the courage to shave my head and wear what I want, though that’s definitely part of the bigger picture. The real courage, at least for me, is in connecting with the rest of the world. In order to truly connect, even with family, I need the courage to get hurt without hurting back. Emotionally, that is. Most of us can’t even stand the risk of getting hurt, much less being hurt and not serving that eye-for-an-eye kind of justice. We see this in a remotely comedic form when kids get into arguments:

Vomit face!

I’m not a vomit face! You’re a vomit face!

At least I’m not a pig’s butt!

Who you calling a pig’s butt, sewage breath?

By the standards of society, failure to retaliate when we’ve been wronged means we’re weak. In our society, so called “weak” people are considered “lame,” “uncool,” “unattractive,” “unworthy,” etc. Because so many of us fear labels like these, so few of us possess genuine courage. Considering how much strength it takes to overcome fear of these labels, who’s stronger: those who run from them at all costs, or those who see them for the lies they are? Brene Brown, who’s spent over a decade studying this side of humanity, explains the hazards of being cool in her blog post “cool: the emotional straightjacket.” Most compellingly she says, “The greatest casualty of the endless pursuit of cool is connection. When we don’t let people see and know our true selves, we sacrifice connection. Without connection, we struggle for purpose and meaning.”

Iron rusts because it’s “connecting” with oxygen, a process called oxidation. The magnetism between iron and oxygen is a natural part of their molecular structures, and unlike humans, elements don’t arrest their own nature; they live up to it wholeheartedly. We too are coded with the need for connection. Unfortunately we’ve also acquired a coding of fear. We don’t want to genuinely connect. It’s not pretty and shiny. The process corrodes us and will continue to corrode us until we’re gone. What I’ve learned in 26 years is that I’ll die whether I connect with people or not, but if I make meaningful connections, I won’t have to die alone. Plus it makes the years of living much more enjoyable. So here’s to 26 and oxidizing!

Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand? How do you use it to connect?