I had my first ageing-related crisis when I was nine. This was because I believed in animal reincarnation right up until my mum hit me with the hard facts, shortly after my ninth birthday (she was as shocked as I was–we are not religious, and definitely not Hindus). Some people say they lost their childhood innocence when they found out that Santa Claus was their parents. I lost mine learning that I wasn’t coming back in the next life as a pony.
Admittedly, I was a miserable little wretch, with diaries full of cheerless musings about playground crushes. As a morbid child, I transitioned seamlessly into the most tragic sort of teen. But thankfully, I came out the other side relatively well adjusted, and embarked on my early twenties with a spring in my step.
Then I turned 25.
Instantly I was booted out of the 18-24 demographic and severed from the final vestiges of my parental support. People suddenly stopped saying “Oh, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” and replaced it with “Why don’t you have a driver’s licence/full-time job/husband?” It seemed to happen overnight.
But rather than deal with my quarter-life crisis head on, I developed some coping mechanisms. Turns out you don’t actually need to get that driver’s licence/full-time job/husband, nor traverse the globe to ‘find yourself,’ to keep those inner demons at bay.
So here’s my list of half-serious suggestions to help you fend off your own quarter-life crisis that are less Eat, Pray, Love and more ‘stick your head in the sand until your feelings go away.’
Don’t talk about it
My friends and I have put a blanket ban on complaining about ageing. This includes commentary about wrinkling, sagging, and heaven forbid, those first few alarming grey hair some people start getting. I also don’t want to know how bad your hangovers are now, nor how extra weight no longer just “falls off.” Omit “God, we’re getting old” from your vocabulary altogether.
Ignore sensible advice
This applies to advice from anyone older or wiser. My 30-something cousin advised me recently to stop “pissing your twenties up against a wall” and how if she had her time again she’d have started saving for a house deposit at my age.
Now, this is sound advice–nay, fantastic advice. But it’s also no fun. At the risk of opening myself up to backlash re: the great ‘millenials-can’t-afford-to-buy-a-house-because-we-eat-smashed-avocado-on-toast’ debate, I say keep eating those avocados. At least for the time being. Take “Your twenties are for learning, your thirties are for earning” as gospel, and use it to justify all your bad decisions from here on out.
Hang out with people younger than you
There’s something to be said for prolonging your heyday, and nothing will help you retain your youthful vigour like surrounding yourself with actual youths. This way, you’ll keep up with all the hip slang and soak up their energy by osmosis. Negative three-to-five years should do it, and hint: it’s best not to disclose your age (see below).
Poke fun at people older than you
I’m guessing these things work in five year cycles. As in, just when you’ve accepted your late twenties, you turn thirty. Just when you’ve come to grips with your early thirties, your late thirties are upon you. So rather than wallow in the fact that you have to endure a gut-churning existential crisis at five year intervals, be heartened knowing that there will always be people more tragic than you. Find them, befriend them, and stick it to them for their relative age.
If nothing else helps you past this tough milestone in your life, some self-affirming ribbing should certainly do the trick.
Don’t compare yourself to overachievers
Everywhere you look, there seems to be self-made millionaires, 17-year-old Instagram stars, and child geniuses inventing solutions to world problems. It’s important to remember that these people are freaks, or superbly lucky, and comparing yourself to them is nonsensical. Be reassured knowing that their rush to the top means they’ve peaked early, and all that they’re racing towards is the bitter disappointment of premature success and early onset middle age. Instead, take your time on the way up. At least you’ll be able to stop and smell the roses on the way.
Words by Poppy Johnston
Feature image: Life & Style