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The following was written by Ariel Szuch and originally appeared on LDS.org.
The quarter-life crisis emerges in young adulthood when you take the first steps into “real life” and realize you have no idea what you’re doing.
When I graduated from college and went off to my first real job, I felt like I had ARRIVED. I had been on my own for several years, and I was sure I had this adult thing figured out. I could pay my own rent, cook for myself, manage my own time, and do decently well socially. Piece of cake, right?
Except it wasn’t.
The essence of the quarter-life crisis is standing on the edge of everything you have been with the future staring you in the face, wondering who you really are and what you want. You worry that you’re not doing the right thing with your life, but you don’t know what the right thing is. You start to think more about the future, to worry more about things like providing for a family and saving for retirement. The reality of new life stages, like marriage and children (or not being married or having children, in my case), starts to settle in. You get out of school and are happy not to have homework, but suddenly the structure and predictability that comes semester after semester is gone, and you have to figure out on your own what to do with your life. It’s exhilarating, but also terrifying.
So don’t worry—if you feel that way, you’re not alone.
I still feel like I’m in the middle of my own quarter-life crisis, but I’ve found a few things that have helped me weather the uncertainty of this stage of life.
- Read the Book of Mormon. A few months ago, in the week leading up to stake conference, I was feeling discouraged. My weaknesses and failures were weighing on me, and I doubted my ability to do the things God asked. I couldn’t see the next step to take in my life. I went to stake conference with a prayer in my heart to know what one thing I could do to move forward. The answer was simple, sweet, and clear: read the Book of Mormon. I was immediately filled with joy and gratitude. This was something I could do! I felt the Lord’s love and assurance that as I was diligent in reading His word, He would lead me along. Reading every day doesn’t fix all my problems, but it gives me the spiritual strength I need to face them.
- Go to institute. When I was first transitioning to this new stage a year ago, I felt like I couldn’t get a grip on my life. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I couldn’t seem to get my schedule under control, it seemed like nothing I was doing mattered to anyone, and I didn’t know how to fix it. Progress in general felt excruciatingly slow. The answer to that prayer was also simple: go to institute. In my first class, we talked about how “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6), and it was as if life snapped back into perspective. The great moments in life are culminations of many, many small ones, and I knew that by doing the small things, like reading my scriptures, praying, and going to institute, I would build a life worth living.
- Practice self-compassion. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m often hard on myself for not having life figured out. Over the past year I’ve become more conscious of the way I talk to myself and tried to counter my self-critical thoughts with cutting myself some slack and telling myself that no matter what I do or don’t do, I am worthy of love and belonging. God loves me not for my accomplishments but because I am His, and I can love myself because I am a child of God with infinite worth, even though I don’t have everything figured out.
- Remember that the wilderness days are part of the journey, and God is at the helm. Young adulthood is a transitory stage when it comes to relationships, career, physical location, and other aspects of life, and the future seems uncertain and the ground unsteady. Recently as I began the Book of Mormon again, I realized that Nephi was probably a lot more like me than I first thought. I think sometimes we put him on a pedestal as the faithful one who was always self-assured and always had perfect trust in God and always knew exactly what he was doing, but I don’t think that’s the case. There were times when he was uncertain, “not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6), and though he saw extraordinary miracles, there were many days in the wilderness that were downright awful or where nothing happened worth writing about. But every day in the wilderness was another step toward the promised land, and I can have confidence on my wilderness days that the Lord is leading me, like Nephi, to “a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45).
As I go through each day, sometimes feeling like I’m walking in the dark, I’m reminded of the last verse of my favorite hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light”:
So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
As I look back over my life, I can see how God has led me through the years. With that knowledge, I can turn my face forward, put my hand in His, and say, “Lead thou me on.” I don’t need to see my way in the dark because He knows the way. He is the Way, and with Him, even in the midst of my quarter-life crisis, I can have peace.