I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Does

Can I call for the official banishment of the phrase quarter-life crisis?

There’s something about it that just rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe it’s hard for me to image that 25% of my life may very well be behind me.  Maybe it’s the fact that it seems to be a word people in the media use to create crappy filler segments in a 24 hour news cycle.  But mostly, I think it’s a misuse, or at the very least, overstatement of the word crisis.

Things that I believe legitimately constitute a crisis

  • The oil spill in the Gulf [and elsewhere]
  • The loss of a loved one
  • The national deficit
  • Hate, discrimination, and violence

Things which I believe are categorically not crisises

  • A bad hair day
  • World Cup matches
  • Someone drinking the last beer in the fridge and not replacing it
  • Feeling a sense of frustration, disenchantment, and/or being lost in your 20s

I think the second list is an example of things that happen in life that you have to deal with. Most of us have bad hair days; some of us have bad hair.  Sometimes a referee makes a bad call on a good goal.  On an occasion, I finish the house beer and wait awhile to get more.  And of course, most of us who are in the post-graduation haze live in shades of gray – it can be frustrating and disheartening but it can also be exhilarating and fulfilling.

Suggested changes to the term “quarter-life crisis”

  • Post-collegiate Party
  • Spontaneous Adulthood
  • Double Decade Disco
  • Being in your 20s and dealing with life

Truly, if you want to laugh at the ridiculousness that is attempting to jazz up dull age-related angst with fancy names, check out a great edition of The Hater at AV Club.

10 thoughts on “I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Does

  1. Quarterlife Crisis Definition: an emotional crisis in one’s twenties with anxiety and self-doubt after leaving academic life.

    Maybe your beef isn’t with the term “quarterlife crisis,” as much as it is with figures of speech, in general. When you hear “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “avoid it like the plague,” how does that make you feel? You know these are just cliches, and it’s not literally raining cats and dogs, right?

    Just some food for thought. Not literally “food,” though. They’re just ideas to consider.

    • I think my issue is with “labels”. I’m not really a labeler – ask any guy I’ve dated! I think we increasingly feel as a need, as a generation, to label everything. I imagine that for a good part of the 20th century, a lot of people in their twenties went through periods of anxiety and self-doubt once they left academic life. But the term “quarterlife crisis” is distinctly 21st century and I am definitely interested in people who use it as a self-identifier and people who, like myself, aren’t sure it’s necessary.

  2. Well, I was going to get you a label maker for your birthday, but I guess now I’ll have to come up with something else… I’m left wondering what you think about “mid-life crisis.” Is that a legitimate label? PS, I love your writing and I will definitely keep reading. And thanks for The Point – she’s a trip!

    • Ironically, I find a label maker very soothing. Perhaps I like labeling inanimate objects that won’t object to the specific labels that I choose.

      As AV Club so humorously points out, it’s not so much the single label as the ever increasing need to continue to sub-label and sub-label every life event until we’re compartmentalizing. I think it’s the same generational drive that makes us give into “instant nostalgia” – we’re a generation that went from “I Love the 80s” to “Best Week Ever” to “Best 5-Seconds Ago Ever” It’s a little overwhelming.

      I love your blog too! Perhaps you’d like to guest post sometime? Drop me an email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]!

  3. i’m a fan of spontaneous adulthood. makes me think of it as something that can happen suddenly…or not at all. inconsistent…unpredictable…niiice.

  4. Pingback: Join the Conversation! « Musings on Life After College

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