Tag Archives: Quarter Life Crisis

Proof of Relevance

27 May

This weekend I flew home for a memorial day wedding, one of the largest I’ve been to. The weekend festivities coincided with a strange time in my life. I have to make a decision in the next week on which team I’d like to rotate to next at my job. The last piece of advice I received before boarding my plane for the week home, was what I should do, depends on what I want.

What do I want?

Four simple words coming together to form a query so confounding that I found myself standing among a swarm of dancing, drinking, joyful individuals wondering why I was here. The groom is the son of a close family friends, but in truth I haven’t spoken to him in years and can’t recall us ever having a conversation of real substance. No fault of either of us, just a reality of our relationship. The bride I met the previous night for the first time in an event that had more than 800 attendees. She never got my name much less genealogical relationship to her to prove my relevance. And so there I was, standing in the middle of the dance floor, whose merriment just moments before I had been partaking in, when it occurred that if I wasn’t here, if I hadn’t attended, no one would have noticed.

Maybe it was because there were over 1100 attendees at the wedding. Maybe it was because I haven’t lived at home for seven years, of which the past two have been 2,000 plus miles away (previously I had been only a 3 1/2 hr drive for context). Maybe it’s because we’re all older, forming new friendships that have overlaid the old ones. Maybe it’s because I don’t call enough, e-mail enough, skype enough. Maybe it’s because I had seen my father, a key coordinator in the wedding planning, for a grand total of 45 minutes in the 36 hours since I had landed. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an i-phone and can’t Factime with the rest of my family. Whatever the reason I realized I wanted to feel special. And in that moment I felt utterly un-special, irrelevant and of no consequence.

I absolutely consent this is a fairly selfish thought to have at someone else’s wedding, “What about me!?” But the wedding simply exposed a feeling in me that has been lingering for sometime in the shadows. I want to feel like I matter to other people. I want to feel like I have an influence or impact on their life and my attendance is noticed. I want that feedback, want it to be incorporated into my day to day, my job. And I want to feel like my job enables me to create, whether it’s a physical object or an experience or information assembled in a new way– I want to create as a form of expression. And I want that too to be part of my job.

These two desires: influence & creation really reduce to the same existential notion of proof relevance.

I’d like to say that I have some deep incite to add, an epiphany on this subject. At the very least I’d like to say I didn’t let these big picture concerns prevent me from enjoying the moment. That I’d un-paralyzed myself and  rejoined the celebration around me and danced the night away. But I can’t.

As I drifted off to sleep once home, the last words I read were from author Cheryl Strayed in her book Tiny Beautiful Things:

“I’m not suggesting one deny negative emotions, but rather that you accept them and move through them by embracing the power we have to keep from wallowing in emotions that don’t serve us well.”

Those last few words “keep from wallowing in emotions that don’t serve us well” really resonate. I’m not sure where any of this leaves me. Probably a combination of adjusting expectations and desires along with making tangible changes to my career and lifestyle. I will probably still continue to attend the weddings of acquaintances (I hope with greater compassion and unconditional love). Ultimately I have to reconcile my desire for relevance with my belief that life does not have any knowable meaning beyond what we assign it.  But that will be a long journey. Last night I was a little blue, today I’m more optimistic. There will be many more nights and days like these in the future. Love, human connections and the multifaceted ways that these two elements are expressed, help substantially. That is all. Nothing novel or highly insightful but at least it all leaves me with a little bit of calm.

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Pausing to Wonder at the Fuzziness

27 Mar

In the past few months I’ve been concerned that I’ve changed drastically….beyond recognition. Specifically that I’d lost my carefree sense of awe and wonder. It used to be that life was bursting at the seams with new and fascinating things to see and ponder. But lately all I could focus on was the mundane and drab. Topics that used to send me on an investigative roller coaster barely made me pause.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”      — Albert Einstein

I came across this quote a couple weeks ago and it made me depressed to consider just how long it had been since the last time I’d experienced the mysterious. But over the course of the last week I’ve began to reconsider the conclusions that these data points always seemed to inevitably lead me to: I’ve changed. I’ve lost my curiosity. I’m not the same visionary person I used to be. My best friend and I were chatting and she said maybe I was simply being too harsh on myself. From her perspective I haven’t changed that much and I still do get extremely excited and curious about certain topics. Instead she proposed what I’m really experiencing is a change in the frequency of these moments caused by an environment that isn’t as stimulating rather than in some fundamental change in my capacity to wonder.

This simple alternative perspective doesn’t change the facts but completely shifts the response. Instead of feeling disappointed and disenfranchised, I now had some control. If my homogeneous, unexciting environment was at least partially to blame then logically all I had to do was alter my environment to create more stimulation. While it will take time and trial to figure out exactly what makes me tick, at least now I am not assigning the blame internally. And you know, this past week has been better.

I went running a few Fridays ago  for the first time in 7 months. At first a sprained ankle kept me off and then the weather coupled by sluggishness. But Friday was such an unexpectedly beautiful afternoon that I couldn’t resist. Being outside, enjoying the weather, pushing myself physically, and discovering some new sites in the city as I ran has put me on a high that I’m still coasting on.

It’s been a good week and my energy has sustained, making me feel like this might be that turning point. The hump that everyone told me you just have to endure until, whenever you move to a new city and start a new chapter.

Number 28 on Neil Pasricha’s 1000 Awesome Things (so close to #1) countdown was All The Thing You Learned in Third Grade: dinosaurs, types of rocks, oral hygiene! The last paragraphs of the blog seem to capture everything there is to say about the world and my place in it right now…

“Yes, the world sure was simpler back in third grade. We started learning hard facts and clear rules that gave our lives hard edges and then colored them in. Names of planets, types of triangles, and the boiling point of water all added certainty in a fuzzy world. Of course, fuzziness comes back later on…when we realize we don’t know what’s farther than far, why things are this way, or where we really are. That’s because when the world straightens itself out … it all gets crooked again. When our minds seem settled and still …”

The nostalgia of a time of certainty in the midst of so much uncertainty had me feeling inadequate (and still does at times). I looked around and saw people moving forward while I felt stuck in the mud. But I think my little jaunt around the lake helped jostle my dormant sense of adventure for hibernation. Fuzziness I’ve decided is simply the jumping ground to even more discoveries, at least that’s the only way to look at the world at not go cross-eyed!

Antidote to My Quarter Life Crisis

8 Mar

It’s been a rocking roller coaster of a year (well mostly six months…but it feels weird to say a rocking roller coaster of a half -year) . I packed up my belongings and moved across the country for the first time, to a city where I knew not a soul, and started my first full-time professional job ever. So basically I became an adult.

And boy has it been hard. About 33 times a week I find myself wondering, “What am I doing with my life? Is this really it, one desk job after another for the next fifty to seventy something years of my life? I mean ya I have the brains and skills to land a nice desk, the kind in the corner office with the plush chair, but it still means I’d just be another drone helping another company make more stuff or increase share prices. Where is the value?” At this point my inner dialogue starts to hone in on the central question– “If this isn’t what I want to be doing with my life, then what is? I mean what is the point of any of this?” and that’s where I draw a blank. Well not really because my brain basically never shuts up (hence this experiment with blogging) but my inability to answer this questions often leads to a depressive whimper and bleak outlook on my future.

Well things have been getting better. My job has picked up as I finally am starting to feel as if I’m in a position to make contributions and not just execute on other peoples’ brilliant or not so brilliant ideas. And I even have some vague plans about my future, which entail a move back to the mother country sometime next year. In the meantime I came across a brilliant little quote by a DJ Patil in the magazine Fast Company.

“At the end of the day, you have two things: your energy and your intellectual curiosity…If you’re willing to apply them, try to add value to the world, the possibilities are so endless.”

There is a level of undying optimism in this perspective that I love and generally have, but at some point in the last six months think I’ve misplaced. I think Patil’s quote coupled by the lyrics in David Myles’ song When It Comes My Turn is just the antidote I need to my own Quarter Life Crisis. 🙂

It’s Okay

7 Mar

This morning I found it a little difficult to get my day going. My mind was stuck in old memories, specifically the memories of my last relationship. We were together for about seven months but that doesn’t adequately describe the nature of our relationship. In fact, words often fail to describe what we meant to each other and how intricately woven,  complex and confusing our feelings were, are. It was mostly long distance. At first he wanted it more than me– I actually rejected him three times because I knew I was moving away and because I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. But then he won me over or maybe I caved. I won’t lie, I had half foot out the door most of the way through, I doubted myself, doubted us. Then something unexpected happened, his father passed away while he was visiting. We flew back together and I spent the week with him, consoling and assisting in all of the arrangements. We were a team, partners– our own duo drawing strength and love from each other.  It felt right. He has a little sister who I still care for deeply. Then I came back. I was busy at work with Christmas, and struggling to balance staying in touch with him and creating a life in my new home. All we wanted to do was spend more time together but it was hard. Even when we were together it was awkward, like we were trying so hard to make it perfect and easy, that it was unnatural and hard. So we stopped communicating. And then he did the unforgivable.

At the very beginning I had agreed to date on one condition: no matter what happens we stay friends. I thought I’d do the hurting, I never imagined it’d be the reverse. I’ve spend the last month playing reruns in my head, wondering where I went wrong, what I could have done differently. I couldn’t forget those moments where it felt right, we felt right. A sensation I’ve never before felt. And I find myself grieving, mourning the loss of what could have been. Wondering if it still could be, with the right effort and the right communication… But even before that fantasy gets off the ground I know it can’t. Not now at least. Not in our current state. Because if there is one thing all of this has uncovered it’s that we are not in a state to prioritize someone else right now. We are both confused, directionless and unsure of our own worth. And we need time to mend and heal.

So this is where I found myself this morning– replaying old memories, churning through old thoughts trying to logic myself out of my emotional maze to some state of calm and certainty. And I thought to myself, “I’m tired. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tried of the culmination of our story always reaching the same sad conclusion, when it is more than that!”

He sent me an email last week. A mutual friend of ours passed away recently and he has just attended the memorial event. He told me he misses me a lot. And seeing our friends was flooding his brain with all these memories. He said he truly hoped things are going well for me in ever aspect. I didn’t know how to respond, wasn’t even sure I wanted to. But then, this morning as I was struggling on yet another morning to get out of bed I wondered what the old me would do. With all the changes in my life and the emotional ups and downs I often can’t recognize myself anymore. So this morning I focused very hard on the person I was (the person I know I still am deep down but can’t seem to find) and thought– what would the old me do?

So I replied with a few simple lines:

“I know. I miss you too.

When we recall memories of us, maybe instead of focusing on the romance we could focus on the friendship and how we cared about each other. This doesn’t have to be a sad thing if we don’t want it to be. Our memories together don’t have to be a reminder of loss and mourning.”

I wrote that as much for him as I did for myself. And for the first time I found myself thinking, it’s okay. It’s okay that things didn’t work out. It’s even okay that there was hurt. It’s not good, it’s not bad– it is simply okay.

I came across this wonderful music video when perusing 1000AwesomeThings.com (one of my favorite blogs) and it filled me with a level of joy I haven’t had in some time. The kind that swells your belly and makes your eyes sparkle. And so long as there are enough moments like those, well it’s okay.