The 5 Essays I Read When I Feel Like I'm Having A Quarter-Life Crisis

Mauro Grigollo/Stocksy
By Kerri Jarema

Listen, if you're in your mid-twenties already, you don't need me to tell you that this decade is a roller coaster of emotions. The quarter-life crisis has is a thing for a reason, and for those in their 20s, the crisis often manifests in heightened feelings of confusion, stagnation and major fears that you will never live up to all of the high-pressure expectations placed upon you — both by yourself and the people around you.

A night out with friends usually helps me feel better about my place in the world, but if I'm feeling especially introverted, a night in with a great book also works. And for me, nothing says "let's overcome my existential dread!" quite like an essay collection. Below are five essays that I have read and re-read countless times. They inspire, motivate, and support me whenever I feel like what I'm doing just isn't enough. Whether you're 25 or 29 — no matter if you're worried about starting over, getting older, or just figuring out what you actually want to do with your life —there is a definitely a piece here that will speak to your conflicted millennial heart.

"Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young" from 'Wear Sunscreen' by Mary Schmich

"Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."

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"The Opposite of Loneliness" from 'The Opposite of Loneliness' by Marina Keegan

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating from college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”

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"The Future Has An Ancient Heart" from 'Tiny Beautiful Things' by Cheryl Strayed

"And it was true. I always would have guessed it, even all the time that I feared it would never happen. Being there that night was the meaning of my life. Getting there had been my every intention. When I say you don't have to know what to do with your life, I'm not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I'm suggesting you apply yourself in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I'm talking about work. And love."

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"New York" from 'Places I Stopped On The Way Home' by Meg Fee

"Sometimes I think of how I will describe New York to my children. I will tell them the smell of Magnolia Bakery was that of loneliness. That I spent too many mornings getting off the D train at 50th en route to a job that was never — not once — good. I will say I used to cover my nose as I left the station just to avoid the scent of the bakery above; it felt out of place for the hour and I felt out of place in my life. But I will tell them that it was my becoming."

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"Frogging, Or How To Start Over" from 'The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater' by Alanna Okun

"One day things are different. Like after a breakup, that first morning when you wake up and realize you've forgotten to miss the person. Maybe you want the yarn for some new endeavor. Maybe you've decided that having nothing is better than having something that just isn't working. And so you do the one thing knitters are taught never to do: you slide the stitches off the needle."

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