A Quarter-Life Crisis
Last summer, my 21-year-old daughter, Jessica, was going through what some Millennial research experts and demographers have dubbed a “quarter-life crisis”—the oh-my-gosh-where-did-the last three-years-of-college-go-?-I-still-don’t-know-what-I-want-to-be-when-I- grow-up-and-there’s-only-one-year-left-of-college-until-the-real-world-hits-me-upside-the- head and-my-parents-declare-my- financial-emancipation!
It isn’t easy living in the in-between. Jessica is not alone. There about 30 million young Millenials in the U.S looking for jobs, anticipating student loan payments, saving for their future, creating new relationships and worrying. They ask: Where will I live? Where will I work? Who and when will I marry? Unfortunately, there are many young people who make hasty decisions to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty.
My high school students share their greatest fear is making a mistake in their career choice. They believe if they don’t pick the perfect career, they will be miserable for 30 or 40 years working a job they do not like. They feel the weight of a lifetime decision rather than a decision that will lead to a fork in the road where, eventually, they will make their next decision. Life is full of forks in the road and sometimes a few detours.
There is a lot of pressure, real or perceived, from parents, teachers, colleges and friends for young people to make career decisions, perhaps earlier than some are able to. “What are you majoring in?” and “Where are you going to college?” are the most common questions asked of high school seniors. And college seniors get “So what are you doing after graduation? Do you have a job yet? And do you have a boyfriend?” They want to be able to answer those questions, and answer them quickly and perfectly. There is little patience for the unfolding of what is to come.
During this time of in-between, the summer of her quarter-life crisis, I created a SoulCollage® card for Jessica’s 21st birthday that represented my advice/prayer for her.
I remember the carefree little-girl-Jessica who ran and played and laughed and didn’t worry about a darn thing. Just a sketch of yourself then. Happy, yes, but not fully who you are to become. Within you is that little girl you have always been and always will be— the spirit of Jessica, Jessica Becoming. Stay connected to those little voices and playful characters, the pondering and contemplating spirits, the fairy spirits within you.
Listen carefully. Put your ear to the ground. Put your ear to the seashell. Do you hear the ocean? Just listen. Listen to the sound of your environment, amplified. Listen to the ground of Being from which you come. Listen to the people and experiences that God places in your life. This is the Universe speaking to you. Listen and learn.
Listen to that still, small voice inside. It is God speaking to you. You are a woman now, not just a little girl. As you strive for adult things—relationships, jobs, experiences— don’t forget who you are. You are that little girl with no worries. Work hard, set goals, make plans, challenge yourself. Keep becoming more of you. Be enthusiastic, not hasty. Be active and receptive. Be silent, humble, meek and patient. You don’t need to be all-knowing…the road you take will always lead back to you. There is no hurry. Just be you.
Pray, listen and surrender. There is not just one right choice for you. Life is full of decisions and most of them are not mistakes; you are simply choosing a path at the fork in the road. One decision will lead to the next fork. You will have ample opportunity to readjust your direction. Trust the journey.
And even if you make a “mistake,” you will find your way back to the path. You will continue to learn, grow and self-correct when things aren’t feeling quite right. Remember nothing is set in stone. Just follow your path, trusting it will lead you right where you need to be. Cultivate your intuition; trust yourself; trust God. Surrender to Surprise. Just Listen.
Surrender to Uncertainty
“To be uncomfortable with uncertainty requires courage…we must try and make space for ambiguity.” –Esther de Waal
It isn’t just high school and college students that are uncomfortable with uncertainty. It’s challenging at any age. It’s challenging for me, despite lots of practice. Embracing the unknown is a way to enter into trust. It is surrendering to surprise and standing witness to the unfolding of a Divine Plan.
God has many backup plans for us; we don’t need to have a perfect vision of what is to come. So much of our disappointment in ourselves is wrapped up in our own expectations. By surrendering to surprise, by surrendering an idealized version of our life, we create an opening for God to work in mysterious and more perfect ways than we could have envisioned. We all fall short of the glory of God; our pursuit of perfection is illusory and can never meet our expectations.
Jess had a little dose of “adulting” when she worked a one-semester internship in
Washington DC. She cooked, cleaned, went grocery shopping, budgeted her money, traveled alone. Dipping her toe into the river of the working world has given her confidence that all will be well. She knows she is so fortunate to have a home, food, clothes, a desire for meaningful work and a resume brimming with education, experience, skills and connections that will help her make the first steps to being a gainfully employed college graduate in….OMG…in 8 WEEKS!
There is so only so much a parent can do for their child, a teacher for her student. There comes a time of letting go, of trusting they have learned (some of) who they are and who they are becoming. For Jessica, and my students, I pray for their peace, not to be worried or fearful; to find a vocation they are passionate about that gives them purpose, meaning and contributes positively to the world. I want them to know “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” -Julian of Norwich
And for my child (as written in Jessica Becoming): “I journey with Jessica in her becoming. As she grows, I grow; I re-center, re-set and adjust to our new way of relating. I am learning and re-creating the role of mother as Jessica is becoming. We are both becoming.” This mothering, this adulting, these quarter-life and mid-life crises….they are part of the journey.
I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
~Colton Dixon, Through All of It
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