There was a Monday in August where I sobbed on the way home from work.
Let me rephrase that.
On the ride home from work, I had to pull off into a KFC/Shell Station combination rest stop and park in a corner away from the glaring eyes of strangers, where I folded myself in half like a cheap napkin and scream-sobbed as “Africa” by Toto played far too loudly from the speakers of my little Volkswagen Bug.
I folded myself in half so my tears would fall directly from my eye balls into my cupped hands in my lap so my makeup wouldn’t get streaky and I could walk inside my house, say my contacts were bothering me (hence the red eyes), and the pollen count is high (hence the sniffles) and bury my complex emotions deep, deep inside myself where they will fester and ultimately poison me to death.
Why was I crying? Sorry, scream-sobbing?
Well, it all started when the subtle drums of “Africa” began playing through my speakers. The song (one of my favorites) reminded me of the weekend before when one of my best friends, Kate, got married and I had a few too many G&T’s and gave my EVERYTHING on the dance floor to this song – blessing the hell out of the rains down in Africa to anyone who would see.
As the song started on this particular day, I thought to myself. I was so hyped up that night.
I thought, When was the last time I felt that passionate about anything? And I couldn’t think of anything.
I realized that every day I would lay in bed and try and hype myself up to get out of bed. When I got out of bed, I would sit on the toilet and endlessly scroll through Instagram until my legs fell asleep as I’d hype myself up to just take a shower.
Then I’d hype myself up to just wash my face…
Hype myself up to just dry my hair…
Hype myself up to have a real breakfast, to do my job, to just get through the day so I could go home…
And when I finally got back home after all the hyping, I’d park myself on the couch, and fall asleep by seven thirty.
I had become a miserable fucking bore.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my job. I work with nice people, have great benefits, have schedule flexibility and can take real vacations without the guilt.
But I’m not fired up about it. I used to walk with confidence, begging someone to ask me what I did and now, I sort of shrug it to myself and say “I do social media.”
I’m not passionate.
Realizing this was like I had crossed over into the upside down on Stranger Things. Everything looked the same, but it was different. It wasn’t bright and shiny or exciting, and I wondered how long it had looked like that to me.
Then I wondered, if I could make everything shiny and bright again. I started trying to do whatever I could to get myself out of this funk. This would mark the start to the end of my quarter-life crisis.
I read self-help books and blogs about going after your dreams! Reaching for the stars! Finding your why! But everything I found was geared to women who already HAD dreams and whys and things they wanted in life. There was nothing for women like me who don’t know what they’re passionate about.
I spent the month of August trying everything I could to find out what I have passion for. It’s a journey that’s been as frustrating as it’s been exciting.
Digging yourself out of a quarter-life crisis is not easy. For every new thing about myself I’ve learned, I’ve discovered four more questions about the decisions I’ve made in my life. I start moving down a path and spiral down into moments of anxiety where I’m crying to Toto again.
If you’re relating to this at all, you know the feeling.
Here are a few things that have helped me work through this quarter life crisis that didn’t involve me drinking myself to death.
Write a bucket list.
If another human being asks me what my five-year plan is I am going to puke.
Right this very second, a woman is sitting in an interview chair thinking about her answer and wanting to die. If she’s like me, the second she faces this in an interview, she’ll probably start grinding her teeth with a fake thinking face on as she anxiously wonders “Should my answer be more family-oriented? Am I too intimidating if my answer is career-based?”
A five-year plan sounds daunting because it is. Five years feels like both a ton of time and no time at all. This month, I decided I would never again make a five-year plan. Instead, I decided to sit down and made my bucket list.
I listed places I wanted to travel to – Europe, Asia, Alaska. I wrote BIG dreams, like getting an MBA and writing a book.
Do this yourself. Ask yourself, what are all the things I want to do before I die? What are my hopes, dreams, aspirations?
Write it down. Now read it back.
Does your bucket list look like this?
Married by 25
Buy House by 27
Pregnant by 29
Baby by 30
SCRATCH. THOSE. OFF.
Don’t work off a checklist of milestones you’re supposed to hit. I’m a firm believer that the minute you set yourself to dates and times for the moments in your life, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
“Buy a House.” “Find someone I can share my life with” “Have children”. Those are bucket list items. THOSE are things you can work for without making yourself feel like crap if they take a little longer than expected.
Read through your list again. What really stands out? What makes your stomach clench because it feels the most impossible? What was your “write off” because you’re already on your way, or you’re about to check it off?
Those are opportunities to explore further.
Did you add “run a marathon” because you’re registered to do one next month? Good, that means you’ve invested time, energy and effort into training and preparing for something that you are actually going to make happen. That, sister, is called PASSION.
Are you sick at the thought of never being able to own a house? That’s something that you want more than anything. Ask yourself, Why do I want this?
Does owning a house for you mean setting up shop for your family? Invest time in your relationships.
Does it mean you’re financially stable? Research ways to pay off your debt faster, set savings goals.
Does it mean you have a space to truly make your own? Look into interior design, read a Joanna Gaines publication, upcycle a piece of furniture for your rental.
The things that seem the hardest are the things we want the most. Unpack the reasons why you really want them because then you can break those reasons down into smaller digestible steps to find your passion.
Now that you’ve got your bucket list, how do you go about actually achieving those goals? I highly recommend committing those steps to writing. You could jot them down in a notebook or invest in goal setting worksheets. I personally love PowerSheets from the Cultivate What Matters shop.
I LOVE and invest in PowerSheets every year because they help me actually plan my goals out, keep track of habits I want to commit to, write success plans for larger goals and—above anything else—help me understand that the things I want in life take TIME.
When I set the goal of getting my MBA, I honest-to-blog wrote the following steps:
- Find Program
- Take GRE
- Apply To Program
- Start MBA
I was being waaaaayyyy too broad. The biggest problem with this, is that I am setting myself up for failure because it may take me 6 months to complete my first task.
For this and for other really, really big goals, I took the time to break out each “big step” into their individual sets of steps so I can organize myself by all the little, manageable tasks that need to get done first and this is where my PowerSheets are perfect.
After working through my goals, my checklist looked more like this:
#1: Find Program
- Research UCF, UofF, Rollins
- Determine program preferences at each school
- Attend information sessions for each MBA program
- Request financial information/cost for each program
- What does each university cover?
- Look into FAFSA
- What kind of Student Loans am I eligible for?
- Understand application requirements
#2: Take GRE
- Purchase study book off Amazon
- Work through 1 section a week
- Find testing schedule and locations
- Take two sample tests
- Sign up for GRE
- (You get the picture)
Maybe this year, I get three things done that I want to do on my quest to obtain my MBA. Maybe those three things are buy a GRE book, attend an online info session and price out programs I’m interested in. Maybe that’s it. But maybe next year, I apply, get references, and start my first term of classes.
It doesn’t matter how big or little the steps are, or how quickly or not-so-quickly you check them off. The only thing that matters is that you continue pushing forward, and having a literal roadmap makes sure you’re spending your time in the best way.
Write a want-ad
I had to examine the areas of my life where I’m missing my passion. I feel like my relationships with my husband and children were strong, our finances were in order; I was missing the passion I had for work.
I decided to sit down and write all the things I wanted from my job, my non-negotiables. And I committed myself to ask for these things if I didn’t already have them or, seek them out where I could.
Write your own want-ad. Write one for work, the ideal spouse, your ideal self.
If you don’t want to be micromanaged, ask your interviewer what their leadership style is. Pose a hypothetical situation and see how they would handle it. We are made to believe that interviews are one sided, but you’re also interviewing your potential employers. If you ask a question about a priority of your want ad and the answer you get is not good enough, ask more questions.
And girlfriend, if you find a job that doesn’t meet all these things you want, don’t take it.
This doesn’t have to mean formal education. This could mean jumping into that dance class you’ve always wanted to try, taking an out-there elective, or finding a new podcast.
Seek out opportunities to learn something new. You may find something you’re really passionate about.
Here are some opportunities for education I’ve explored:
Read Girl, Wash Your Face.
This was the best book I’ve read in a while. Truthfully, it’s the reason I’m blogging more again.
The most important message of this book is that YOU have the power to change your life. And YOU are in control of making your dreams come true. Reading this was the kick in the pants I needed to get searching for my “what’s next”.
I recommend this book to everyone and it’s the ideal place to start on your quarter life crisis journey.
Listen to Podcasts
It’s the thing everyone you know is talking about!
Despite the fact that your cousin Jeffery is begging you to listen to his “Pod” about the connections between the Illuminati and gardening at night, you should seriously consider Podcasts!
I have a lengthy commute and think Podcasts are a great opportunity to learn new things I otherwise wouldn’t have explored. They provide you with new, fresh perspectives while opening you up to communities of people with similar interests.
Some of my favorites include:
- Rise Podcast – By Rachel Hollis, the writer of Girl, Watch Your Face (and PSST. Her podcast has a few sample chapters of Girl, Wash Your Face on them. Get to it, ladies.)
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations – Whenever I’m feeling down, I listen to the two-part conversation with Maya Angelou.
- My Favorite Murder – A true crime podcast that tells the stories in the most relatable and cathartically comedic way.
- Throwing Shade – Another comedy podcast that covers LGBTQ+ and Women’s issues each episode
- Pod Save America – A liberal-leaning political podcast
- How Did This Get Made? – Three hilarious comedians review some of the worst movies ever made. I got Justin hooked on this one
- This Podcast Will Kill You – A really informative discussion on some of history’s worst infectious diseases.
- S-Town – A story about one man’s relationship with an eccentric antiquarian horologist
Audio books are another great option too!
Take personality quizzes
Find out more about YOU and YOUR personality. I found that part of the reason I was having a quarter life crisis is because I didn’t know who I really was. As a people pleaser to a fault, I tend to chameleon my way through professional relationships and mirror other people’s behaviors.
What did I really want? I couldn’t remember anymore.
I took SEVERAL different tests:
- Myers/Briggs – This is the most common personality test. If you’ve ever saw four letters together and wondered if they were the four digit combination to enter an illusive bar – that’s this test. I am an ENFP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Prospecting), also known as a Campaigner. My strengths include being curious, observant, an excellent communicator, and energetic and enthusiastic. My weaknesses – I find it difficult to focus, I overthink things and I’m HIGHLY EMOTIONAL. My guiding star (AKA someone who has the same personality type) is MICHAEL GARY SCOTT. Seemed like an A++ perfect match up to me.
- Clarity on Fire – I have taken this test thrice and I have gotten both a Tribe Member and a Triver, which basically told me what I already knew. I love connecting with new people and working in groups but you BETTER GIVE ME CREDIT FOR THE WORK I DO annndddddd own your shit so I don’t have to take care of it. #controlfreak
- Enneagram Test – I’m a mix of The Helper and The Achiever. My sweet friend, Jennifer, shared this one with me and I’m so glad she did. (Also not listed in this monster of a blog post – find friends who are also having similar feelings of “What the hell am I passionate about.)
- Pottermore Quizzes – I KNOW. I’m a nerd, and FRANKLY I didn’t even need to take these quizzes because I ALREADY KNEW I WAS A BADASS RAVENCLAW (CAW CAW BITCHES). But this is a good one to through towards your friends and coworkers too. As a leader, I knew how to manage my Slytherins through development and projects that had them work with people who could get them where they wanted to go next. With my Hufflepuffs – positive reinforcement and so. many. hugs. It’s all about understanding yourself and the people you interact most with in a way that makes the most sense for you. Maybe that’s HP related. Do your thing, you beautiful wizardly goddess, you.
Asking myself these seven questions:
Take one question each day of a week and really think about it. In the quiet as you wait for another meeting, on the toilet, before you go to bed – noodle on each of these questions for 24 hours and write your thoughts down.
- What did I love doing as a child?
- What would I do for five years straight without getting paid?
- What subject could I read 500 books about without getting bored?
- What would I spend my time doing if I had complete financial abundance to do anything?
- What do I hate doing?
- What am I “just okay” at?
- What am I passionate about?
Chances are, you’ll stumble across a few reoccurring themes. Mine? Writing.
After all of these steps, all this research, exploring, learning, where do you think I am? Out of my quarter life crisis and loving the hell out of my life???
Not even close.
I may have bitten through the third mouth guard in a month because of my anxious teeth gnashing, but I’ve accepted that this is a journey that I’m VERY excited to see the end of.
I don’t like the end of the tunnel analogy, so I’ll say I feel like I’m at a very long buffet with the world’s largest collection of cheese at the end. I just need to make my way down the line, pretending to be interested in a bunch of wilty-ass salads. Maybe I’ll stumble across raw oysters, or candied bacon as I make my way forward. Maybe the line will stop dead as someone ahead of me dips their fried chicken into the chocolate fountain. But all I want is cheese and the goddamn mother-load is just a bit further down the line.
Accept this journey you’re on as a season you’re living through and recognize there will be other, more challenging seasons ahead of you. Seasons where your buffet is full of room temperature cold cuts and soggy bread pudding.
The only way you’re going to work through those days of wanting to just leaving the buffet altogether is to keep looking.
In other words, the only thing keeping you from crying in your car to “Africa” by Toto and busting out the freshest dance moves the Indianapolis Public Library has ever seen to “Africa” by Toto is the PASSION you commit to the moment you’re in.
Your passions are out there, you just need to start looking.
Hurry, girl. It’s waiting there for you.
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