You’re 25 years old—halfway to 50, caught between the seriousness of your thirties and the carefree fun of your twenties. If you find yourself a few years out of college, drowning in anxiety and wondering, "What should I do with my life?" it can be hard to figure out what steps to take.
With all of the different directions and pressures—both professional and personal—facing you in your mid-twenties, it’s natural to want to bury your head in the sand. But with a little focus and some easy planning you can not only survive your quarter-life crisis, you can dominate it.
Adulting is hard, and the biggest hang up at age 25 is that you’re out of college, but like most other young people, you haven’t quite settled into a career. Maybe you’re still living with your parents, maybe you have a revolving door of roommates.
The point is, you're bound to feel a lot of unrest. You are expected to figure out what you want to do and what career path to pursue, but still feel too young to make that huge decision. Overwhelmed yet? Good. That’s completely natural. You're in the company of tons of other young adults (AKA millennials, whether or not you like that term) — and as daunting as everything sounds you are actually very much in control of your own destiny (until you reach your mid-life crisis!...just kidding. Kinda). It just takes some planning.
When I turned 25, I had moved to a new place, been dumped by the man I thought I was going to marry, started a new job, and began night classes for graduate school. My life was chaotic and my very calculated five-year plan had been upended. I panicked and sat in my new studio apartment in my new city and cried every night for two months straight. It got me nowhere.
Sure, feeling your feelings is great—for a time. At some point, you have to get serious and move forward. After some not-so-gentle suggesting from my mother (who no doubt recognized that I was in the midst of a quarter life crisis), I started figuring out what I wanted for myself. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. There’s no way to know if you’re moving forward without having a goal.
Get a notebook and write down goals that you want to achieve. It doesn’t have to be a huge “where I see myself in 45 years” list. Just some simple, actionable goals that you want to achieve by a set time. It can be as small as setting a certain amount you want to have saved by your birthday or getting a full-time job within the next six months. It’ll let you start gaining control over certain parts of your life and help you move forward.
Whether you love it or hate it, networking is part of your professional life, and it can begin to pull you out of a quarter-life crisis. It doesn’t have to be large events where you awkwardly stand in front of the snack table and wait for someone to talk to you. You just need to find that one person — whether a young adult or someone a bit older — who you look up to professionally and who can give you some advice while you are starting out in your career.
Your mentor can be an old boss, maybe a friend’s parents—just anyone who is in your chosen field that you feel comfortable asking questions. If you don’t know anyone in the same career that you would like to move forward in, you can try sending out “informational interview requests.” Usually, these involve casual coffee “interviews” where you schedule a time and get to ask them a lot of questions about the industry, their jobs, and how you can be successful. It’s a low-pressure situation where you get to learn a lot and make valuable connections that hopefully turn into lasting relationships.
Volunteering is kind of a win-win-win. You give back (win), you feel good (win), and from a professional standpoint—it’s a really great way to add to your resume (win). I’m not suggesting that you volunteer just to gain an edge on the career front. If you do, you’ll just burn out and be less likely to commit. Also, you’ll probably feel pretty gross.
Instead, you should find something you are really passionate about. By getting out there, you will meet like-minded people, maybe make some friends, and possibly make a connection that can lead to something years down the road. Plus, you’re being proactive and making a difference. It’s a great morale booster at the very least.
At 25, you’re especially vulnerable to the success of your friends, and your frenemies. With the constant updating of who’s doing this and who’s accomplishing that, it’s hard to stay focused on what you want and how you’re doing.
Instead of turning to Instagram like most millennials and stalking other people's lives (including your high school ex-boyfriend's new fiance) for your daily relaxation, turn inward. As cheesy as it sounds, sitting with yourself for ten minutes a day and contemplating what you’ve achieved that day and being thankful for what you have will set you up for further successes and give you a more positive outlook on life—which is what you want to cultivate where you’re going through your quarter-life crisis.
Like how my plan didn’t go accordingly, yours may not either. That’s fine. It’s always possible to pivot from a dead-end job or rethink your five-year plan and revise as you grow and discover more about yourself. This is not a mid-life crisis — you’re only 25! You have an entire lifetime to figure it out. Just try to do something little every day that feels like progress. You’ve got this.
Alexandra Deabler is a writer and editor. She has published articles about California history, travel, lifestyle, personal essays, and short fiction. She lives in New York City and can be reached through her website: alexandradeabler.com.
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