Shortly after I graduated from college in December of 2012, I found myself smack dab in the middle of my very own quarter-life crisis (henceforth referred to as QLC). As an English major, I thought I understood how challenging it would be when I graduated. I quickly discovered I had no idea.
Living in small-town Missouri certainly didn’t help. Our biggest claim to fame here in Cape Girardeau is playing host to the filming of Gone Girl and some Civil War battle that I don’t really know the details of. Not exactly an ideal place to try to find work with a degree in writing. After pushing myself for four years to work, intern, and graduate with honors, the massive amount of free time I suddenly had made me feel weird and stagnant.
So, naturally, I freaked out.
It seems somewhat juvenile to me now, but it was very real and really awful. No matter how many times my friends, family, and boyfriend told me to “give it time,” I still felt like a giant bummer for not having a good job or landing any work even remotely related to my field of study. It got so bad that I didn’t even want to run into people I knew in town because I was embarrassed of myself. But it passed. I'm not saying I never ever doubt myself anymore, but I do it much, much less. I have a great job, two freelance writing gigs, and I really like who I’m becoming.
If you’re smack dab in the middle of your own QLC here are 11 ways you can make the journey a little less terrible. I hope they help you as much as they helped me.
1. Surround Yourself With People Who Love You
One of the biggest things that helped me get through my QLC was spending time with my family, and my friends who felt like family. Everyone knows family is important, but it reaches a whole new level of meaning when you’re going through a difficult time. No matter how much I felt like a loser for borrowing money from my parents, or how hopeless I felt when I couldn’t find a job that didn’t require me to wear non-slip shoes, my family and friends were always there to love me and lift me up. Every time I burst into tears or straight up panic attacked about my situation, they always listened. It’s harder to be negative and miserable when you surround yourself with all those good vibes.
2. Take Care Of Yourself
This one is huge. If you’re taking responsibility for your health and your body that’s one thing you can always feel good about, even if you don’t feel good about much else. Flossing may be a pain in the ass sometimes, but gingivitis isn’t going to make you feel any better. Deep conditioned hair and exfoliated skin won’t hurt your mood either.
3. Stay Active
Exercise. I know working out is basically just forcing yourself to be in sweaty clothes and pain for at least half an hour straight, but it’s so good for your mind, body, and spirit. There were days during my QLC when the only thing I felt proud of was my fitness level. Sounds kind of pathetic, I know, but no matter how low I got, I never regretted going to the gym. I felt good knowing I was taking responsibility for my health and building a stronger body.
Learn everything you can about your chosen field and those who have been successful in it. Study the moves they made to get where they wanted to be and adjust them to work for you. After I got a personal essay published on one of my favorite websites — HelloGiggles — I read bio after bio of the site’s regular contributors to see where else they’d been published. And I’m so glad I did, because that’s how I discovered Bustle and eventually found the gumption to pitch my work.
5. Laugh As Much As Possible
It's super comforting to know that no matter how weird life gets, there’s always something that will make you laugh. This is why I'm a comedy nerd, and I’m truly grateful to comedians everywhere. If it hadn’t been for Louis CK and the cast of New Girl I don't know how I would've gotten through my QLC.
6. Find Little Ways To Feel Good
Light a candle, bake something, be creative, binge-watch Game of Thrones, keep your apartment clean, nurture an indoor plant, take baths with lavender, indulge in guilty pleasure magazines, cuddle your pet. If there's anything you can do to make yourself feel better, you need to do it. I know time and money can be an issue, but you absolutely have to take the time to do what you enjoy and you can do so affordably. Especially when circumstance forces you to spend the bulk of your time working a job you hate or wishing you had any job at all.
7. Talk It Out
It can be really hard to be honest with people you want to impress, especially if you’re already having trouble being honest with yourself. But you need to voice your thoughts. Because chances are they’re not great, and they’ll poison you if you let them. If it’s too hard to open up to loved ones, lots of communities have counseling centers. And if you’re religious, then you can always try talking to your spiritual leader.
8. Be Flexible
Pursue your passion and be willing to work really hard to get where you want, but also know when the path you’re on isn’t going to get you where you want to go. I’ve always loved writing nonfiction, but I had it in my mind that I needed to publish fiction. So, I spent a lot of time trying to make that happen. And you know what? It wasn’t very fun. I got lots of rejection letters and I got really discouraged. But when I finally played to my strengths and submitted nonfiction, I got published.
9. Keep Trying
No matter how hard it gets to stay positive, stay positive. And don’t give up. Digging yourself out of a rough season of life isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be quick, but it will happen for you if you work for it. That may mean you’ll need to work a job you don’t love for a while, but the experience and funds can only help you. Wherever you work, work hard. Don’t lose hope, and try not to be so tough on yourself.
10. Take Advantage Of Your Connections
If you have any connections — or you’re close to someone with connections — use that to your advantage. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for introductions or references that could help you get out of your funk. No one ever really does anything alone. Don’t think you’ll be the first person in history to change that fact.
11. Believe Things Will Get Better
If you can change your perspective even a little bit, you will start to change your life. Don't stop visualizing what you want your life to look like, but don't stop enjoying it while you're working to change it either. As long as there is coffee and Netflix and cute animal videos, there will be something for you to enjoy in life. Nothing lasts forever, and if you really commit to believing that it’ll make the whole experience a little more bearable.
Good luck! And remember, everyone's been there. Even John Mayer.
Images: Giphy (11)