"We grew up with the myth of a steady job, career, success… that's why we always feel poor and inadequate. We are running away because they didn't give us the proper weapons to fight back, and when we find out that the home-team we love doesn’t have our back, that our “friend,” the bank, remembers us only when we go broke, that our life's work takes everything... we feel defeated! We should have been ok with having just enough –– with accomplishing our goals, meeting our ambitions – not meeting with multinational corporations in board rooms. We have to learn how to close our fists again, like newborns, and hold on tightly to the life we have.”
The final scene of the movie "Noi è la Giulia" (“ We are Giulia”) has been on my mind for years. At the moment I heard these words, I was fully aware that they had captured something that I had been feeling for a long time, and to which I could not give a name: a feeling of inexplicable uncertainty, combined with the desire to make it.
We all have dreams, especially as children, but when you suddenly become an adult you realize that it's not as easy as it seemed, and there you begin to come to terms with uncertainty. I found that the feeling I had was a kind of "Quarter Life Crisis" (QLC) – a kind of early midlife crisis. I have come to know that the phenomenon had a name and that a lot of research has been done about it. And it is such research that shows that the majority of young people born between 1986 and 1996 suffer from an anxious and depressive state over a period of time ranging from around 25 to 35 years.
Many refer to this crisis as if it were a specific reality of the modern world. This is partly true, especially if we think of the many challenges facing us today: the fluidity of relationships, the speed of technology, the economic crisis, and the uncertainty of the labor market. Surely the socio-economic environment influences and exacerbates this situation of malaise, but in reality the "quarter life crisis" is a critical moment that those between 25 and 35 experience, as they leave the "safety zone" and begin to follow unfamiliar paths.
At 24/25 years old (in most countries) university ends and the graduates must begin their first professional experiences, while at the same time making “adult decisions,” causing them to reflect on choices made up to that point. These are the years in which the individual discovers himself, his possibilities, the world around him, and conquers his adult identity, taking a small stock of his present and projecting himself into the future, of which there is no answer.
Why is this happening?
We live in an era in which it is very simple to "change": there are no distances or barriers ––everything is fast. This ease of access, which presents itself as an opportunity, could actually be one of the triggers of this state of anxiety. Precisely because everything is so easily changeable, you no longer have something fixed to cling to, to hold on to and breathe calmly for a moment. Clearing your head and trying to arise becomes difficult, especially if you are sailing through a sea of minds, where everyone is on a frantic search for the best way to get back afloat and not drown.
At the age of 25, you lose the carefree spirit typical of adolescence, and you enter adulthood with a wealth of questions to which, until the day before, you thought you had an answer. This situation of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, combined with the high expectations of the family and society, sends young people into a tailspin, turning this fear into a new pathology, the Quarter Life Crisis, characterized by performance anxiety (professional), a sense of suffocation (whether in regard to a job or a marriage) and, in the most serious cases, depression.
How to overcome this crisis?
Today's world pushes everyone to walk fast, to homologate and adapt in their individuality: you have to know English, have a degree, a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree; you must have at least one experience abroad... then you have to pay your dues, enter the world of work and again, take out a mortgage, buy a house, start a family, maybe have a child... and all this before the age of 30!
What needs to be understood is that everyone has the right to slow down, stop, and breathe.
There’s no winning recipe or a univocal answer valid for everyone, which helps to deal with this state of anxiety. Surely, if it leads to a state of depression, it is good to ask for help and get support from experts. In any case, we must not forget that the maturation of the personality necessarily goes through moments of uncertainty and risk – of small or great suffering. There is a very wise Italian saying: not every evil comes to cause harm. The preparation of freedom comes in new forms, at any age, and always involves effort.
Young people must make choices their own, through their own ideas and following their own will, with the awareness that nothing is irremediably decided and that it is never too late to make a change. We just have to “We have to learn how to close our fists again, like newborns, and hold on tightly to the life we have.”