Quarter-life Crisis, Third-life Crisis, Mid-life Crisis

Haleakala sunset

Andre: OK. Yes, we are bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no?
From My Dinner With Andre.

Unless I die young, I haven’t quite made it to my midlife crisis yet. But it does seem to me that I’ve heard more and more about people experiencing their “quarter-life” crises. Is this something new? Or have people always had so many of these doubting periods? Or maybe we’re at a time where so many of us have the freedom and luxury to even contemplate such a thing, a freedom that leads to our own detriment.

I’m admittedly not great at math, but it does seem to me these quarter-life crises should occur in someone’s early 20’s. Is that crisis somehow supposed to eventually pass, or just it just get quietly ignored while we distract ourselves with other concerns? Then we learn to get comfortably numb and sleepy and learn to accept life for how mundane it really is? Can a midlife crisis still re-emerge later on in life, after a person wakes up again?

I’m fairly certain I’ve been asleep these past few years. I wouldn’t be surprised, since I do like to sleep (I sometimes waste entire weekends on the couch or in bed, but that’s another story).

I’m too old for these childish quarter-life crises. The only explanation for this current one is that I must’ve graduated to the rarely-if-ever-mentioned third-life crisis. A relevant question to ask myself here: just how many damn life crises is it normal for someone to have, and do they ever stop?

In my 20’s I graduated college, had a choice of career paths and started to float and drift a bit, getting a job testing cellphone games. There I made some friends, but it didn’t really advance my career or my personal life outside of that.

I got older, I worked more, I got a job at a big corporate job, doing what I thought was a decent career. But I learned that big corporate jobs are soul-numbing. I quit my big corporate job and did the inevitable clichéd trip to Asia. Particularly in my field, folks seem to get the same idea. (Not unlike other things I suppose: Everyone wants to travel to Asia, everyone wants to move to Portland or Austin, everyone wants to save up for a house, everyone wants a Tesla).

That experience traveling helped me grow as a person more than any job ever did, but apparently I didn’t grow or learn enough, because I found myself falling into the same pattern as before. Get the comfortable corporate job, dance like a monkey if I wanted to advance and get promoted, then try to save up for a house like everyone else.

The idiotic Silicon Valley version: save up for a down payment on a ridiculously overpriced house that’s in the bad part of town and also falling apart (because that’s the only one you can afford making comparative chump change to everyone else). Maybe also save up for a Tesla, so at the very least you can brag to your coworkers that you bought a Tesla. Because Tesla.

Then you get a job at what’s supposed to be the Best Place To Work In The Universe, according to a survey of all known workers in the universe. You find that it’s not too much different than your previous Big Corporate Job. Is this really all there is to look forward to? So I can buy a house and a Tesla? What next after that even? Work the rest of the best years of my life paying off the house?

What if I don’t want a house (though not sharing walls would be nice)? What if I don’t want a Tesla? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think all those folks who quit their jobs to travel the world likely have the same feelings. They’re trying to escape from something. Their inner selves seem to have woken up from a nightmare in the night, and are restlessly awake, pacing back and forth. Except they’re pacing through the world, not just their bedrooms.

Some of these folks even get the idea that the ideal lifestyle is being a traveling nomad, hopping from country to country, somehow earning enough money to get by. If they can make it work, I think they do tend to be happier, or at least more alive and more childlike and inquisitive. Is it just the permanent change in scenery? I’m not sure I’d be comfortable in that sort of lifestyle myself. It is always nice to come back home eventually, and to spend time with familiar friends and family, and familiar things in general. Sometimes it’s nice to be a little hobbit-like.

Is all this travelling and escaping just a delaying of inevitable adulthood? What if I’m already an adult - does it mean I’m just deceiving myself? Am I running away from myself? Is adulthood really just the acceptance that you’re not special, that this really is the only thing life is about? That your life is the thing that happens for a few brief hours after work, and entire weekends that you may end up wasting on stupid pursuits?

As much as philosophy has helped me, in cases like this I think it’s kind of made me dissatisfied with everything.

Maybe I can still somehow play and enjoy the game of life, even if I realize it’s only some silly game we’ve concocted to keep ourselves busy?