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Emo moment: Quarter-Life Crisis!

26 January, 2007

Forget about midlife crisis; today’s 20-somethings have issues of their own
They were a group of friends who were all just about 25. After college they had moved to
Boston, the closest city to their respective universities, and were now experiencing what some have dubbed a quarter-life crisis.

So this past spring, they had a party. The invitation read:

“Are you between the ages of 22 and 29? Are you directionless, apathetic, or dissatisfied with your job? Do you even HAVE a job? Have you been in a state of `limbo’ since you graduated college while you start from scratch building a career and a life? If you have answered `yes’ to one or more of the preceding questions, you just might be dead inside.”

About 40 of them gathered in
Somerville. They made it a costume party, and guests worked out their quarter-life angst by dressing as what they hoped they’d be by their mid-20s — working professionals, artists, poets, and musicians.

A few guests dared to show up as themselves, claiming to be satisfied with life at 25.

“I almost kicked them out of the house,” said 25-year-old Alexandra Checka, one of the party’s hosts.

The concept of experiencing angst in one’s 20s is nothing new. It has been explored in movies spanning generations, from “The Graduate” to “Reality Bites” and the recently released “Garden
State.” Musician John Mayer, 26, who spent some pre-crisis years in
Boston, sang about it. He crooned about what “might be a quarter-life crisis or just the stirring in my soul” and asked, “Am I living it right?” in his song “Why Georgia.”But there is a new movement afoot of professionals studying today’s 20-somethings. They maintain that there’s a phase of life — quarter-life — which, like adolescence and midlife, has its own set of challenges and characteristics. People get married later and have more transient careers than before. They are in debt longer, sometimes in school longer. The early to late 20s represents a time of extreme instability, according to the experts.”The way I look at it is a transition to adulthood,” said Abby Wilner, a 28-year-old who is working on a second book about her peers. “It’s taking longer than ever today because of college loans, debt, competition for jobs, more and more people living at home with their parents, and people taking longer than ever to get married. This phase, this transition, is becoming a more tumultuous process.”In 2001, Wilner turned the new concept of this life phase into a nonfiction guide for those out of school. The book, “Quarterlife Crisis: the Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties” (written with Alexandra Robbins) quickly became a best-selling explanation of post-college angst.Twenty-somethings responded so enthusiastically to the quarter-life concept that Wilner created a website with message boards and information to set up regional support groups. People visit throughout the day disclosing their fears, questions, excitement, and misery. She now has about 10,000 registered users with 1.5 million hits per month. Postings and emails come from all over the United States as well as Australia and the Philippines. She said she aims for the organization to eventually serve as “the AARP for people in their 20s.”The posts on Wilner’s website tell a story of a purgatory experienced after college, before adulthood. Members write to one another about everything from their cars to their spouses. They talk about whether antidepressants will help. They wonder where their friends went. They can’t decide what to do next. Most, but not all, share a sense of humor about the confusion. One quarter-lifer recently posted his dilemma on the site: ” . . . basically been Quarter-Life Crisis-ing it for over a year now . . . graduated school, fell into corporate hole of boredom, watched bottom fall out of corporate hole of boredom during prime job market downturn, felt as though the world was full of opportunity, moved around a lot in search of happiness, lost a relationship, fell into deep depression, fought said depression . . . grappled daily with concept of happiness, success, and value of venture and pursuits, and now am here before you hoping that somehow writing this all down will precipitate a solution.”……

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