Too young to look back, too old to be carefree; quarter life crises upon us

I think I’m officially in my quarter-life crisis.

Akin to the well-known mid-life crises, quarter-lifers are similar in certain aspects. However, instead of buying boats, cheating on my wife with barely-legal supermodels and joining several gentlemen’s clubs, I act out by calling and crying to my mom about my future every two days, buying items I don’t need ($20 vest? Yes, please) and trying not to think about the future in general.

Also, mid-life crises stem from looking back in one’s life and evaluating the life choices and decisions made. With a quarter-life crisis, however, I can’t look back and declare, “Holy macaroni, where have I taken myself?” Because, unfortunately, I haven’t taken myself very far at all.

I realized that last weekend, when I attended a Harry S. Truman Scholarship information session Friday. It wasn’t even the fact that all the kids in the room were fantastic people who worked in shelters and cured cancer and saved puppies on a constant basis (while I’m awesome, I am in no ways that awesome). It was the fact that every one of them knew exactly what they wanted to do. They had “The Plan” all set up.

And to top it all off, when my friend’s mom came to visit, she asked me what I want to do after graduation. She didn’t mean it a way to push my buttons — I think she genuinely wants me to not live in a box — but nonetheless, it put my anxiety level to a 15 on the 10-point scale.

See, my problem isn’t that I don’t know what I want to do. My problem is that I want to do too many things. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none, and I don’t know all the steps I need to take or which road I like better. I think this is karma’s way of getting back at me: In high school, I knew for sure that I wanted to be a journalist in a major publication. Now I’m here, five years later, and I don’t know whether I want to be a magazine editor, a lawyer, a marketing communications director or a reality TV star.

As a junior, I’ve been told this is a slight issue.

However, a wise girl once told me that it’s not uncommon to be uncharted, and we should just take life with gusto. (The girl, by the way, is Sara Bareilles. And by “told me,” I mean that I listened to her song 50 times alone this weekend.) Yes, it’s true that we may not have “The Plan” planned, but that’s not the end of the world.

First, you have to realize that you’re not alone. For every kid who knows his Plan, there’s also the kid that isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his major or is thinking of going in a different direction. This isn’t a sign that all of us are going to end up living in a cardboard box in Chicago. This is a sign that we’re 20. At this age, it’s still normal to question what we want to do.

Second, somehow, someday, the crises will end. My friend, who is one whole year older than me, informed me this past weekend that he’s getting out of his crisis. He just finally pinpointed what he wanted to do and is seizing the opportunity to pursue it in whatever way he can.

A load of baloney? Maybe. But even if he’s in denial about it being over, at least he’s acquired the optimism to believe that he’s out of the dark. And that’s the optimism that we should all take. Life sometimes is unknown, but we should never stop trying to get ahead. One day, we’ll find that by taking in all life has to offer, the path will come to us.

We’ll soon graduate from the quarter phase, and we’ll find our niche before we know it.