Quarter life crisis? Me?
Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to change every single little thing about your life? Or one of those months or those years for that matter? You are not alone. More and more frequently I am hearing about people in their mid to late twenties who decide, rather suddenly in many cases, to completely transform their lives. Leaving partners, totally changing careers, starting businesses, dying/cutting their hair, moving to the other side of the world – nearly everyone I know has done at least one of these things in an effort to seek refreshed happiness.
What is it about those post university, early career years that make us fundamentally question who we are and what direction we are going in? All these questions and challenges we pose ourselves about who we want our grown-up selves to be, along with stressing about what haven’t we done yet and what do we need to achieve before we feel ready to settle down? There is something about the path we lay for ourselves in our early 20s that by the time we hit 24 we all seem to be saying a similar thing. “It’s what I thought I wanted – but I just wasn’t happy.”
But, does change make us happy?
So, if we are not happy with the path we had, is the secret to happiness through a trial and error combination path of changes until we hit the winning route? The chart above was sent to me from a good friend of mine. It really got me thinking about my own situation. My very own Quarter Life Crisis (QLC).
When I hit 25 I woke up on my birthday and literally decided right at that moment it was time to change everything and, I did. Long term Boyfriend (who was actually lovely), flat (that I owned in London), job (in Marketing for a very big bank in the UK) and I kept on doing it. Jump to 3 years later and I am sitting on a plane to Sydney partied out, single, broke and miserable. None of my changes had worked long term. Change that was all self inflicted, change that involved me ending relationships, changing careers, moving house 5 times, jumping around several social groups and seriously straining some amazing friendships. It was clear whatever change I made next had to be a big one. A moving to the other side of the world kind of change.
What I have learnt from 5 years of change. (Including one very big Australian adventure)
I’m writing this from the airport, heading home after my first 18 months in Australia. This milestone of my first trip home is a pretty big deal for me, particularly in the context of my QLC, and thinking on reflection of my decision to move here. With time to kill in the airport, I started thinking about my Gran. I’ve always been very close to my Gran. She’s the one to blame for my passion for Doris Day movies and habit of singing musical songs in the shower. She’s pretty deaf now, so we communicate mostly through letters and cards, hand written of course. It is very sweet. When I left the UK for Australia my Gran wrote me a card with some pearls of Dundonian wisdom to take with me to the other side of the world. It said…
“Don’t go near spiders, don’t go swimming because of the sharks, don’t work as hard as you did in London and I hope you find the happiness you’re looking for overseas.”
I was moving to a strange foreign country. Things would be different. Things that no-one in my family could help me prepare for. She understood completely why I was doing it, but it scared her. And that is the thing about change, it is actually pretty scary.
I will never forget the night I left the UK. It hadn’t really sunk in the majorness of this change I had organised myself into until I got onto the plane alone and headed for Sydney. Just me, 26KGs of stuff and a large Scooby Doo teddy bear I’ve had since I was 15, who would act as a pillow and chief comforter. I was flying away from my family, my friends, my career and everything I had pretty much ever had. Including people I thought would be a part of my everyday life forever. Flying into a complete unknown and a whole new life, based on a hunch that I would love Australia. I was fucking terrified and cried uncontrollably for the first 5 hours of the flight.
So in the “Quest for Happiness”, is change the answer?
For me, even though it has been scary and tough, it was the right change moving here. The right change that eventually came at the end of a chain of others. So, yes – if you aren’t happy, there is something wrong and yes, in order to resolve that change could be the answer. But, here are some thoughts to consider if you think you may be going through a QLC.
- Before you make any big change know you are doing it for the right reasons, and as much as you can, think about what consequences you might face as a result. Recognise what you have that is valuable to you. Don’t sacrifice it for something you just think you might want now.
- Old habits die hard. No matter what you change about your environment, there are some things inherent to you as a person that will never change. So be comfortable being yourself. You can’t change into someone you are not. It sounds like bullshit sometimes, but relaxing and just being yourself is when you shine.
- It’s great to start afresh. But make sure you aren’t just running away. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you won’t bring those inner gremlins with you. They will eventually get fed after midnight and start to trouble you once more.
- If you do decide to make the change, don’t be too tough on yourself. Change is hard. Take each day as it comes and remember, its OK to feel a bit overwhelmed and frightened sometimes – if it is the right choice, it’ll worth keeping going.
The best thing about change
Be excited about the possibilities of your change. The most exciting thing about change is the unknown. Be ready to grab any opportunity that comes your way. All the unexpected adventures and experiences. Ones you may not have ever had the opportunity to live should you have kept everything the same.
As a celebration of my decision to make the change to move here are some random memories of some unanticipated experiences and adventures that I have had in my first chapter in Australia. They are what I will go home today to tell my Gran and they will be the experiences that will shape where I go next. I hope you enjoy them.
Australia: Chapter 1′s random adventures
I lived in Campbeltown for two weeks. Then I moved to Coogee. I saw Vanilla Ice play live. I met a bunch of new friends. I worked at Jack Watts Currie for a little while, they were all lovely, it was very pretty and they had a ping pong table and an agency dog. I joined Twitter, went along to a thing called Coffee Mornings, got drunk at SHTBOX and met some interesting people at both who would become good friends. I went to Randwick Races and didn’t win any money, ended up going out in Manly and pretending to be Kate Winslet in Titanic on the Ferry ride home. I ran a half marathon. I got addicted to Underbelly. I went to see a Clairvoyant, who told me good things I hope come true one day. I went to see a good old friend in Wellington, the city with the best coffee in the world. I saw Sydney turn red with dust. I learnt how to Scuba Dive. I went to Jervis Bay, went scuba diving with seals and saw a Humpback whale. It was amazing. I changed jobs. I went to work at McCann. I worked hard, and learnt a great deal from some true mentors like Chris Johnston, Mark Pollard, Vince McSweeney and Marie Claire Jenkins, as well a whole bunch of other awesome people there. I went to back to New Zealand to shoot ads for work and ran around the lake in Queenstown. It was beautiful. I went to Melbourne. And had to learn how to live it – fast. I met an old soul I connected with. I ran City 2 Surf. I went to the Blue Mountains and ate liqororise and talked about life at the back of the bus like old ladies with my old boss from London. I ran another half marathon, was late and got to run across a deserted Sydney Harbour Bridge. I sang Karaoke. I saw Robbie Williams play live and the 13 year old me died of happiness. I swung on a hammock in the Australian countryside at a little magical music festival. I rediscovered the fun of pretending to be a pirate. I tried to re-learn how to drive a car, then drove a van 40kms across Sydney from Coogee to Castle Hill, to this day is my scariest day and my biggest achievement.
I went on a great big road trip adventure across Australia. It was eye opening and amazing, I didn’t drive. Here are a random selection of photos.
Trip highlights for me – I saw lots of wild Kangaroos that excited my inner tourist. I went to The McLaren Vale, which I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world and tasted the most amazing red wine there. I climbed Mount Wudinna and saw the sunset over it. I saw the Nullarbor Plain and the road through it, it was intense. I spent my first New Years here in a dried out swamp playing Uno and drinking port. I saw the Indian Ocean for the first time and I saw the sunset over it too.
Back in Sydney I saw a blue moon and it gave me an idea for my future. I took up Body Jam and realised I love hip hop dancing, even though I am very bad at it. I did a creative writing course and played with some ideas. I saw Salt n’Pepa play live. I danced. I started a blog. I learnt what the Semantic web was all about, kinda… I did my first Tri-athon and swam next to the Opera House. I did some dancing Yoga. I watched a lot of Rugby. I started a group about Community, because it fascinated me. I ran another half marathon. I went surfing and realised I haven’t done that enough. I jumped around in a mask on the pitch in the ANZ stadium shouting and screaming and felt like a nutter in order to learn how to present better. I went back to New Zealand and helped make an ad with the All Blacks. And I and got to be the person holding the t-shirts while Richie McCaw changed his top. I had a day at work where I spoke to people in New York, LA, Singapore, China and London in one day – and thought that was kinda cool, if a little stressful. I got my palm read. I got drunk with advertising veterans and listened to some great stories. I discovered a group of Secret Foodies and got up to some good old fashioned mischief. I watched the moon rise over the ocean turning into a lunar eclipse. It was really beautiful and it made me think.
Overall, I have had 18 months of amazing, mostly completely unexpected experiences and adventures. Thank you all for making it so great. And even though this change was a good one and I am hoping my QLC might calm down a little now I am still ready for all the randomness and exploring in Chapter 2 when I get back in a few weeks time. :)