Sara Pauff: Quarter-life crisis symptoms

Are you feeling indecisive? Worrying about the future? Feeling pressure to settle down? Longing for your carefree college days?

If you’re in your twenties or early thirties, you may be suffering through a “quarter-life crisis.”

You might have heard this term before. It pops up in psychology -- developmental psychologist Erik Erikson first proposed the idea a twenties life crisis -- old movies (The Graduate), new movies (500 days of Summer) and the odd John Mayer lyric. Every now and then, researchers do studies on quarter-life crises, just to confirm they exist.

I found an article published in The Guardian earlier this summer about one survey that determined 86 percent of quarter-lifers admit to feeling angst over their relationships, finances and jobs. They worry about earning enough money, think about changing careers and feel pressure to marry and have kids by the time they hit 30.

According to the article, most adults experience this crisis between 25 and 35, with many hitting a breaking point around 30.

Great. I’m only 26, so I’ve got so much to look forward to.

And guess what? There are phases, from feeling locked in to going through a period of change to finding new interests. It’s not like you experience one major catastrophe and then you’re done. Sigh. I thought the one good thing about putting 25 behind me was that I’d gotten my quarter-life crisis over with. Now I’m having a quarter-life crisis about my upcoming quarter-life crisis.

I already identify with some of the common crisis symptoms.

I always miss my college town in the fall. I read my college newspaper online and become envious of every fun status update my college-age younger sister posts on Facebook. She went shopping and ate cupcakes while I sat at work? Life is so much cooler in college. Why didn’t I appreciate it more while I was there?

Another thing that sends me into a panic is thinking about the future. You know that question employers ask you in job interviews -- “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I hate that question. I didn’t have a good answer when I was looking for jobs after college, and when I ask myself that question now, I still don’t have a good answer. Five years? I’m trying to get through the next five days.

I don’t feel any pressure yet to get married or have kids soon, but I’ve heard other twenty-somethings talk about setting deadlines for such things -- married by 27, kids by 30, etc. I could never do this. Deadlines make me nervous. I always worry I’m going to miss them.

Is there a cure for the quarter-life crisis? I don’t know, but I’ve heard making a decision, small or large, about your life can help. And don’t panic. Eventually, you hit your 40s and the crisis ends -- or so I’m told.